You know those people that are obsessed with lemon bars? I know many of them and they are constantly asking me to make them. In fact, one of my friends “subtly” hints that she is ready for a batch by anonymously gifting several lemons on my desk at work. Yeah, you know who you are!
Don’t get me wrong, lemon bars are fine; even good depending on the recipe you find. Many I have done have been sooooo sweet though. Like I want to rip my teeth out sweet. Not fun. I have tried numerous different recipes over the years and I got very meticulous with the amount of sugar. Thankfully this one only calls for ¾ of a cup which is pretty much perfect, but I saw one that called for 3 CUPS for the same amount of bars. Oh my gosh! I like dessert but I don’t want diabetes after one bar.
I figured blood orange bars would be cool, maybe a dark purple color. Well, as I forgot that when you mix dark colors with light colors – like egg yolks and butter, it gets lighter. So, the color is a bit odd. It’s pretty, but odd. I’ll call it ‘vintage rose’. I know, weird for a dessert bar – great for a paint color. But I promise they taste amazing. They are more exotic and mild in flavor then I thought they would be. The shortbread on the bottom of course is firm and flaky which makes a perfect carrier for the custard part. The only part I was missing was the topping, traditionally powdered sugar but I was trying to do something other than sweet upon sweet.
I eventually decided on a flavored salt on top. You know that salted caramel phase everyone is going through? Well this is kind of the same concept – salty and sweet. So I zested a few blood oranges into a bowl and added a equal amount of salt. The night I made this Chamdra was over hanging out. All of my friends and family have learned that if I’m cooking for the blog, they need patience for cooking and patience for pictures. That’s just how it goes. That night, she swears she was there to help me, so what was I to do? I handed her hat bowl and said ‘mix this!’ She mixed it for at least ten minutes. A little overkill I think but apparently it was “entertaining her as it combined together”…
Yes my friends are odd, I won’t deny that. It does keep life entertaining. Of course after Chandra’s spectacular mixing skills (mixing citrus salt, not mixing music just to be clear) she had to leave before the bars were cooked and cooled. So even though I know she’s reading this, I hope she’s not so she has no idea how yummy those bars were with her well mixed salt.
- 6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg yolk
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ⅔ cup fresh blood orange juice
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¾ cup granulated sugar, divided
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1 large egg
- ½ cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 1 teaspoon blood orange zest
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Preheat oven to 350°. Using an electric mixer on low speed, beat butter, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl until butter is almost completely smooth, about 2 minutes. Increase speed to medium and beat until butter is creamy, about 2 minutes more. Mix in egg yolk and vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add flour and poppy seeds, if using, and mix until no dry spots remain.
- Firmly press dough into an 8x8" baking dish, working about ½" up the sides (the firmer you press, the easier it will be to cut the baked crust). Bake until golden brown on bottom and a shade or two darker at the edges, 25−35 minutes. Start the curd just before the crust is finished baking so that both are warm when you assemble.
- Combine blood orange juice, salt, ¼ cup sugar and vanilla in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar.
- Whisk egg yolks, egg, and remaining ½ cup sugar in a medium bowl until no longer grainy and slightly lightened in color, about 2 minutes.
- Whisking constantly, gradually stream hot lemon mixture into eggs, then transfer mixture back to saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until thickened and marks from whisk are just visible, 5–7 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in butter until smooth, adding a couple of pieces at a time and whisking until incorporated before adding more.
- Reduce oven temperature to 300˚. Strain warm curd through a fine-mesh sieve into warm crust and bake until curd is set around the edges (filling should still wobble when dish is jiggled; it will set completely as it cools), 12−15 minutes. Do not overbake or filling may curdle. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool, about 2 hours, then chill until cold, at least 1 hour.
- Just before serving, cut lemon bars into squares and sprinkle with citrus salt.