Lemon bars have been my vegan nemesis; I just couldn't get it quite right, but after 6 attempts (and a lot of terrible lemon bars), I FINALLY got it! Like my Epic (I can't believe it's vegan) Lasagna, you will not believe these bars are vegan or have zero egg! In traditional lemon bars, many recipes use egg to get that creamy, dreamy citrus ribbon of custard-like texture, and those were my favorite kind! That is what I wanted from a vegan bar, and just wasn't accomplishing. Then, at the gym on the bike (I guess exercise really does help the brain), lightening struck!
Later that day, I grabbed my recipe that I was going to attempt next; crossed off and re-planned. Then, with 3 lemons from my extra large warehouse club bag, I got to work. What will give it cream? Cashew cream! What will give it the color and some of the binding qualities I need? JustEgg (yes, this specific brand - if you haven't had it, get it; immediately. I've tried other brands, there is no comparison. The only thing it doesn't do that I wish it did? Come in a larger size)!
Then, I just tried some old non-vegan tricks (like adding baking powder to ensure that the filling stays light) and added all the zest to the filling in the blender so it's smooth (and there is no straining necessary). That's that folks - Easy Peasy, Lemon Squeezy Bars are here to stay! P.S. - the entire 8x8 pan that I made less than 24 hours ago? Yeah, it's completely and utterly gone. Nary a crumb remains....good thing I have more lemons! = )
Sustainability Spotlight: Who among you think of citrus flavors (orange, lemon, lime and grapefruit) to be spring or summer fruits? Very possibly, many of you for dishes and recipes such as lemonade, lemon bars, lemon and strawberry or lemon and raspberry combinations, and frosted (cold with sugar) grapefruit for breakfast. Citrus is often featured in Mother's Day menus (May) or for 4th of July fare (July). Even deeply into the end of summer (August), you will see these fruits featured for seasonal ice creams.
Ready to blow your mind? Citrus are winter fruits; SURPRISE!
"The prime harvest time for many citrus fruits is between the months November to March," according to UCDavis.edu. "...citrus fruits are also packed with antioxidants and an excellent source of Vitamin C, which important for your immune system. These fruits also contain folate, an essential B vitamin, and fiber, which helps with digestion and keeps you feeling full." Not only are you cooking / baking in-season when you grab citrus fruits, but their 'sunny' disposition can boost your immune system in the time when you need it the most; winter (aka - cold & flu season).
Since these bars are vegan and using in-season produce, I'm doubling up on my sustainability efforts by removing animal products as well as revolving my recipe selection with the seasons and reducing the load on transport of goods outside of the U.S. (where I live). The healthy boost from a dessert isn't too shabby either so I'm going to take that as well.
Next time you are at the store, grab those big bags of vibrant yellow lemons, verdant green limes, bright oranges, or blushed grapefruits and start building meals around these winter fruits. I have loads of recipes on this blog that 100% feature these fruits (just search "citrus," "lemon," "lime" or "grapefruit") if you need a place to get started. Citrus brightens up savory and sweet so you can't go wrong with a squeeze of pure sunshine; especially in the winter.
Now, prepare yourself for mind-blowing vegan awesome-ness....
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup vegan butter (chilled - cut into small pieces - will incorporate easiest)
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup raw unsalted cashews (soaked for 4 hours or overnight - drained)
1/4 cup filtered water
3 lemons (zested and juiced)
3 tbsp JustEgg
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder - it will "foam" when you add it, no worries!
1/8 tsp salt
Garnishes (optional): powdered sugar (sifted) and fresh berries
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine all ingredients of Shortbread Crust above in a food processor and pulse / combine until a soft "sand" forms.
In an 8x8 glass pan coated generously with cooking spray, press the shortbread crust into the bottom of your pan.
Slide pan in the oven for 15 minutes to bake.
While your crust bakes, add all ingredients of Lemon Filling above to a high-speed blender and blend on high for ~1 minute (Vitamix; up to 5-6 minutes for others - use a tamper and scrape down sides as needed) until completely smooth. Set aside for now.
Once your crust is done baking, remove pan (carefully! it's hot) from oven and pour filling over the crust (from the middle; it will spread out evenly).
Now, slide the pan back in the oven for another 25-28 minutes or until the filling no longer looks loose (it will "stiffen" as it cools more). Note, when you remove it from the oven, the filling will look pocked (like the surface of the moon). Once you dust the bars with powdered sugar, you won't see those little divots. Or, be like me and just don't worry about it - the taste is what matters!!
Set bars aside to cool completely. Serve now (or save for later up to three days in a covered container in the fridge).
When ready to serve, slice into bars and dust with powdered sugar and garnish with berries (if using).