Look, I’m a simple girl with simple needs. I like my slippers fuzzy, and my gossip magazines trashy. I like my water cold and my chocolate hot, unless we’re talking about showers and ice cream, in which case, you should reverse that. And often, I like my desserts with a whiff of the flower garden about them.
The fact that I’m a sucker for floral flavors has been discussed on this blog too many times to count. We’ll put down our sticks and leave that poor horse to rest in peace. But that’s not going to stop me from continuing to cram lavender, rose, and violet flavors into other desserts, because they’re amazing, they deserve to be added to every dish, and I shall not be persuaded otherwise.
Ever since coming up with these Passion Fruit Bars last year, I haven’t seen a need to make plain lemon bars. Why bother, when passion fruit is 65% more delicious and 100% more fun to say? Well, last week I had a lack of passion fruit puree, a surplus of lemons, and a wicked craving for tart, creamy bars, so it seemed like it was finally time to revisit the old classic.
I gave my lemon bars a twist by making one little substitution: I swapped the regular sugar with lavender sugar. Lavender sugar is super simple to make—you basically just blend lavender buds and granulated sugar together in a food processor until the lavender is in small pieces. (Don’t be fooled by the picture below—the lavender flowers are just for looks. You’ll be using regular culinary lavender buds, the kind you can buy in the spice section of the market.)
Lavender sugar is such a lovely ingredient. It’s very aromatic, with a woodsy, vanilla fragrance and a mildly herbal taste. I made some for Christmas gifts a few years ago, packaged in purple jars. (Pinterest wannabe, party of one.) It’s a great pantry item because it keeps for ages and is a wonderful addition to hot drinks, lemonade, or cookie recipes.
In this Lavender Lemon Bars recipe, lavender sugar is used in both the shortbread crust and the lemon filling. The cookies are noticeably different from your typical lemon bar, but I suspect most people probably wouldn’t be able to guess that lavender is the secret ingredient. If anything, I thought that they had a strong vanilla taste, even though there was just a bit of vanilla in the crust and none in the filling. The lavender gives them a light, fresh quality that perfectly matches the bright lemon flavor. They’re a good way to say goodbye to spring, and I think they’ll be showing up at our barbecues and potlucks all summer long!
Lavender Lemon Bars
These Lavender Lemon Bars are a sweet twist on traditional lemon bars! Homemade lavender sugar is used in the crust and filling, to add a soft floral flavor. They're tangy, sweet, and deliciously different!
For the Lavender Sugar:
- 3 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp culinary dried lavender
For the Crust:
- 8 oz unsalted butter melted and slightly cooled
- 1/2 cup lavender sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 cups all-purpose flour (9 oz)
For the Filling:
- 8 large eggs
- 1 1/4 cups fresh lemon juice
- 2 3/4 cups lavender sugar
- Zest of 2 lemons
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- Powdered sugar for serving
To Make the Lavender Sugar:
Place the dried lavender in the bowl of a food processor and blend it for 10-15 seconds to chop it into small pieces. Add 1 cup of granulated sugar to the processor and blend well, for 15-20 seconds, until the lavender is finely ground and mixed into the sugar. Whisk the lavender sugar together with the remaining 2 1/4 cups sugar until the lavender is well dispersed.
To Make the Crust:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a 9×13 pan with foil so that it extends up the sides, and spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray.
In a bowl, whisk together the melted butter, lavender sugar, vanilla, and salt. Once mixed, add the flour and stir with a spatula until it is combined and no streaks of flour remain. Scrape the dough into the pan and press it into an even layer. It might seem a little greasy—this is normal.
Bake the crust for 25-30 minutes at 350 F, until it’s golden brown on top. While the crust is baking, prepare the filling so it’s ready to go as soon as the crust is done.
To Make the Filling:
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, lemon juice, lavender sugar, and lemon zest. Sift the flour on top of the egg mixture, and whisk it in as well.
When the crust is done baking, slide the rack part-way out of the oven. Pour the filling over the hot crust and slide it back into the oven. Reduce the temperature to 325 F and bake for 25-30 minutes. It’s done when the center barely jiggles when you tap the pan.
Once done, remove the pan from the oven and let it cool until it reaches room temperature. For the cleanest cuts, refrigerate the bars and cut them when completely cold. To cut, remove the bars from the pan using the foil as handles. Use a large sharp chef’s knife and wipe it off often between cuts. Sprinkle the top with powdered sugar before serving, and add a few lavender buds on top if desired. Store Lavender Lemon Bars in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Dried lavender can often be found near the spices in the baking aisle of the market. I have had good luck finding it at Cost Plus World Market, if you have one nearby. I like to top my bars with non-melting powdered sugar, which (as the name suggests) won't melt into the bars due to condensation. You can buy non-melting sugar at King Arthur Flour. This crust recipe is from Alice Medrich's Pure Dessert.
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