There’s something about hot summer weather that makes me crave lemon desserts -especially this one. Having a burst of citrus at the end of a meal or for a mid-day snack just feels refreshing – a mini escape from the 100oF + temperatures outside. These bars are stored in the refrigerator which ups the “coolness” factor. Too bad there isn’t room for me in there.
I mixed half Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Pastry Flour and half Hodgson Mill Naturally White All Purpose Flour for the crust/crumble part, so not only are these treats delicious, they’re better for you than your typical lemon bar. Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Pastry Flour is easy to substitute in any recipe. It’s pretty much a one-to-one ratio, whole wheat to white flour, so feel free to experiment making your favorite recipes healthier.
My kids sometimes pull out their whole wheat radar, and they couldn’t detect a thing in these lemon crumble bars; nor could they in some of the other sweets where I’ve inserted a little “stealth health”. I think my husband was actually hoping they wouldn’t like these lemon crumble bars (and may have even hinted that whole wheat was involved) so there would be more for him – no luck this time, Dad! In fact, I think the kids’ palates are becoming more and more receptive to the whole wheat ingredients I’ve used.
If you don’t have any whole wheat pastry flour on hand, Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Flour is a great alternative. Or if you are really lucky and have some Hodgson Mill 50/50 Whole Wheat & White Flour in your pantry – give yourself a little measuring break and scoop out 1 and 1/3 cup of that instead. Any way you choose to go about these lemon crumble bars – you’ll be happy with the end result.
The crumbs are where it’s at in this recipe. Mix the brown sugar and butter together first – it makes a kind of brown sugar paste – not really crumbly, but not really creamy either. You can use a mixer, pastry cutter or fork to accomplish this part. Then add the oats, flours, baking powder and salt to this mixture. Use your fingers to combine things until they stick together and form little clumps.
Press half of the crumbs into the bottom of a 13×9 inch pan that has been coated with cooking spray.
Juice three large lemons until you have ½ cup of fresh lemon juice. Be sure to zest one of the lemons first – we need that part, too. I forgot about zesting a lemon until after I had squeezed them all. It’s possible to zest a squeezed lemon, but trust me, it’s much easier to zest one that hasn’t had all the juice extracted.
Whisk together the lemon juice, lemon zest, vanilla and condensed milk in a medium sized bowl. Pour this mixture over the pressed crumbs in the pan, spreading evenly. Sprinkle the remaining crumbs over the top of the lemon layer, but don’t press them down. Bake the bars in a 350˚F oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
When the lemon bars are ready, take them out of the oven and let them cool for 30 minutes. Then cut them into squares with a sharp knife and allow them to cool enough to be able to put them in the refrigerator. Cutting them into squares now will make it easier to lift them out of the pan when they’re cold.
Chill the bars in the refrigerator for several hours or until you can’t stand it any longer and need to eat one or two or three.
These lemon crumble bars are a new favorite at my house. They’re cool and creamy in the middle with just the right amount of lemon zing to make your taste buds dance. The buttery whole wheat crunch on the top and bottom is the perfect complement to the tart-sweet filling and is a big part of what makes these treats taste amazing. The news reported temperatures in the 100s for the rest of this week and into the next– I see LOTS of lemon crumble bars in our future. Enjoy!
Lemon Crumb Bars
Mix together the brown sugar and butter until well combined and paste like. Add flours, oats, salt and baking powder to the brown sugar butter mixture and mix together with a fork or your fingers until things are combined and stick together in little clumps. Press half of the crumb mixture into the bottom of a 13×9 inch pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray.
Mix together the condensed milk, lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla in a small bowl. Pour over of the bottom layer of pressed crumbs and spread out evenly.
Sprinkle the remaining crumbs over the top of the lemon layer, but don’t press down. Bake in a 350˚F oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes and then cut the bars into squares. Refrigerate the bars for several hours before serving. Serve chilled for the best results.
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman