Well, hello there! Just in time for cookie season, I have Gluten-Free Coconut Lemon Bars for you today. In a quick audit of my favorite cookies (seven layer bars, crumble bars, brownies, and these beauties), a pattern comes to mind. Specifically, a grid. Because who doesn’t love bars?
After rolling out ten million gingerbread humans and stamping out salted rosemary shortbreads at work all day, the last thing I want to do is roll out dough at home. My pie-ceps get enough of a workout as-is, and at home the main focus is eating sweets, right? Whatever I’m making had better be ready in time to roll out the door for the evening’s gathering, cuz as much as I like puttering around the kitchen it’s probably good to balance that with a social life.
Let’s talk about these Gluten-Free Coconut Lemon Bars, though. I’ve made these a couple of times now, inspired initially by the Ginger Grapefruit Curd recipe over at 101 Cookbooks. Heidi is a genius and this silky, not-too-sweet curd is high on my list of favorite winter noms. However, I’m not such a virtuous eater as she and wanted to find a way to put this dreamy curd in, on, or around a cookie. Enter: proper lemon bars.
You may know lemon bars as a cookie base with a sugar-butter-egg-lemon topping that bakes into a custardy thing with a sugar-dusted top. In their own right, these are pretty good (albeit super messy to eat). We grew up making the Krusteaz boxed version, as my mom’s friend worked at the company and occasionally dropped by with sample boxes of magical mixes that filled our house with cinnamon bread and blueberry pancakes and hot cider for a few glorious weeks. As good as those boxed lemon bars were, though, they weren’t the real thing.
Real lemon bars are a buttery shortbread topped with an intense layer of sunny curd. In winter, they’re all I want to eat: comforting and invigoratingly tangy all at once. Plus, citrus is in season again, woot woot! So if you want to sub fancy meyer lemons or grapefruit (pink grapefruit curd comes to mind as an intriguing possibility), go right ahead.
And speaking of winter, holy cow. Michigan’s winter took its sweet time in getting here, but suddenly there’s close to a foot of snow out there and a freezing wind that makes you hate everything. I know everyone warned us, but damn. Seven degrees and sunset at 5:00 p.m. is unacceptable. I’m already dreaming of springtime, with hopeful signs of life at the farmers’ market and air that doesn’t hurt to breathe. That, and a tropical vacation (that will sadly exist only in my imagination, womp womp).
Until then, though, there are gluten-free coconut lemon bars and knee-length down jackets to make things bearable. You can bet I’m plopping these on our holiday cookie offering to counteract all the bland spritz cookies and overbaked gingerbread usually in rotation, and you should, too.
- 175g butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened
- 75g (1/3 cup) granulated sugar
- 250g (2 cups) flour mix*
- 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 cup lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp. Lemon zest
- a 1" piece of ginger, finely grated
- 5 Tablespoons butter
- 100g (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
- 160g (1/2 cup) honey
- 2 eggs plus 2 egg yolks
- Pinch of salt
- 2 Tablespoons cornstarch whisked with 2 Tablespoons water
- 35g (1/3 cup) unsweetened flaked coconut
- Make shortbread base: Line a 9" x 13" baking pan with parchment paper and set aside. Preheat oven to 350F. Cream butter and sugar on medium speed with your mixer's paddle attachment until light, 5 minutes, scraping down sides frequently. Add in flour mix, xanthan gum, salt, and baking powder. Mix at low speed to form a uniform dough.
- Scrape dough into prepared pan and use a spatula or wetted fingers to press into an even layer. Bake 20 minutes until golden, and remove from oven to cool.
- Make curd: Simmer lemon juice, zest, and grated ginger until reduced to 1/2 cup, about 10 minutes. In the meantime, cream butter, sugar, and honey 3 minutes with the paddle attachment of your mixer. Add eggs and yolks one at a time, beating in each before adding the next. Finish by mixing in salt.
- Off the heat, pour butter and egg mixture into reduced lemon juice and whisk to combine. Whisk in cornstarch slurry and turn the heat to medium-low. Watching and whisking constantly, allow the mixture to thicken and begin to bubble, then remove from heat.
- Assembly and baking: Pour curd onto shortbread base and spread evenly. Top with flaked coconut. Bake 15-20 minutes, until curd appears mostly set and coconut is beginning to brown around the edges. Remove from oven and cool completely. Refrigerate at least an hour before cutting into bars with a sharp knife.
- 80g (1/2 cup) brown rice flour
- 100g (heaping 3/4 cup) tapioca starch
- (1/4 cup) millet flour
- unsweetened coconut flakes, ground into a powder in a coffee grinder