Eternal Sunshine

Even now, in early February, when brightness is deeply hidden in winter’s snowy depths, kitchens keep the sun shining.  One taste of today’s effort, Lemon Bars, is enough to reignite memories of a time when light sparkled and warmed all.  Better yet, it anticipates a return to solar benevolence in a couple months.

This is more than metaphor, as liquid sunshine elevates Lemon Bars to vibrant culinary heights.  Sunkist indeed.  Cooks Illustrated included the  recipe in its March/April 2018 number, setting the dessert afloat on a vibrant lemony tide.  A fantastic concept, but this journal does encourage experimentation, doesn’t it?

Certainly.  Another fruit’s juice could deepen lemon’s flavor, while the citrus lends the other element, well, effervescence.  What to use?  Limes?  No, Lemon-Lime is a classic combination, but that status makes it ubiquitous.  How about oranges?  Nah, too similar.  Finally, of all places, a site dedicated to mixology, Bitters & Bottles, provided an answer: passion fruit!

The fruit has a bright, quintessentially tropical taste, with elements of both guava and papaya.  As such, if compliments lemon perfectly.  Despite its red flesh, passion fruit yields an orangey juice that, based on appearances alone, has got to be be vibrant:Meyer Lemon Juice

Great, but can we improve on the lemon, too?  It’s possible, yes, but you’d need Meyer Lemons.  Luck brought those too, just in time for this week’s recipe.  Meyers are a botanical combination of lemons and tangerines, with a juice that’s sweeter and gentler than is “regular” lemons’.  Here are some the ingredients used in today’s preparation, Meyer lemons and passion fruit:Meyer Lemons Let’s not forget the crust.  Beneath the sweetly vibrant tanginess is cookie layer; really, a shortbread.  The variation here is that, based on ideas repeated elsewhere, finely-ground pistachios replaced a bit of the flour.  Finally, a use for the spice grinder since it was used last year to produce the berbere powder!

Bringing together all the strands, among them Meyer lemons, passion fruit and pistachio powder,  results in a transcendent confection that sends a signal 93 million miles.   Straight to the heart of our solar system.  The clouds, however thick they may seem, part to allow in a beam of sunshine.  Warmth returns to the land, and the future is suddenly brighter.  If you doubt a Lemon Bar’s power to do this, obviously you haven’t tasted these particular Lemon Bars.


Best Lemon Bars

For the crust:

  • 1 cup flour (*1)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 teaspoons bream of tartar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs, plus 3 yolks
  • 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest, 2/3 cup juice (*2)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease an 8″ x 8″ pan or, preferably, create an aluminum foil “sling” from two pieces of foil set perpendicularly and pressed firmly against the pan with any excess pressed the outside of the pan.

Make the crust by whisking together in a medium bowl the flour, sugar and salt.  Add the melted butter and stir until combined.  Press the crust firmly into the bottom of the prepared pan, being sure to cover the bottom completely and evenly.  Do not rinse bowl.  Bake crust for 22 minutes, until golden-brown.

Meanwhile, whisk together in the “crust” bowl the sugar, flour, cream of tarter and salt.  Whisk in the eggs just until no streaks remain.  Whisk in the lemon juice and zest.  Pour filling into a saucepan and cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes, until the mixture begins to thicken.  Turn off heat and stir in the butter until it’s incorporated.  Pour mixture into another bowl, through a fine-mesh strainer.

When the crust is done baking, pour the filling over it.  It’s preferable for the crust to be hot when you do this, making in best to do so  soon after the crust has been taken from the oven.  If necessary, shake pan gently to make sure filling is even.

Bake for 10 minutes, then allow the bars to cool for at least 90 minutes.  Dust with confectioners’ sugar, if desired.


1 – As mentioned in the text above, I used about 2/3-cup of flour and 1/3-cup of finely-ground pistachios.  If you’d rather not do this, the recipe as presented above will be fine, if not quite as flavorful.

2 – Again, straight lemon juice will do the job, but if you wish to add pizazz, use 1/3 cup each of Meyer lemon juice and passion fruit juice.


6 thoughts on “Eternal Sunshine

    1. Much appreciated, Everyday Goddess! You’re right that pistachios definitely contribute complexity, both in terms of flavor and in texture. Their mild crunchiness contrasts nicely with the smooth lemon topping. Meyer lemons are another secret weapon, as their mixed parentage includes tangerines, making them less tart than are “regular” lemons.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Daniela! Isn’t it a nice arrangement that, just when produce seems to have abandoned us, citrus reaches exuberant perfection? That brightness, both in color and in flavor, reminds us the sun will return. Just try to contemplate a clementine without a smile escaping your lips. It can’t be done. Citrus is just too optimistic!

      Liked by 2 people

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