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Coconut oil lemon bars

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Eat, Run, Read

(Read caption) These delicious dessert lemon bars use coconut oil and a cookie crust to give this classic recipe a twist.

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Lemon bars are one of my favorite summer desserts. The only downside is that if you try to take them places in Tupperware they tend to melt into a sticky mess. So these bars seek to solve that – thanks to their more solid cookie crust, they’re a more-easily-transportable twist on the usual recipe. I made them with homemade lemon curd, which I'd be happy eating straight with a spoon. Plus the coconut oil in the crust gives them a special hint of extra richness and flavor.

And for the record, I’m officially obsessed with coconut oil. The many uses of this magical substance have been well-documented, so no need to get into them here – let’s just cut to the chase and talk about its utility as a baking ingredient. 

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I haven’t thoroughly experimented with coconut oil as a straight substitute for butter, but apparently it can be used as your oil of choice in many recipes. It has a lower melting point than butter, so while it works well in bars and brownies and cookies, I haven’t seen it used as much in cakes. And for those of you who care, it’s vegan and paleo and a lauric acid, which may or may not be good for you, but is probably not any worse for you than other oils/butters/fats. The important part (to me) is that it’s delicious – coconut oil adds a nice hint of vanilla and coconut flavors to whatever you’re making.

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The dough looked dangerously shiny and potentially not quite right, and as I put them in the oven, I was concerned that the bars would turn into some sort of sticky disaster. But nope! They turned out perfect! And came out of the pan so easily – ready to be packed up and taken to a picnic.

Coconut oil lemon bars

For the lemon curd:

3 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (2-3 lemons) (do not use the bottled lemon juice)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 tablespoon finely shredded lemon zest

1. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, whisk the eggs, sugar, and lemon juice until blended. Cook, stirring constantly (to prevent it from curdling), until the mixture becomes thick (like sour cream or a hollandaise sauce). This will take approximately 10 minutes.

2. Remove from heat.

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3. Cut the butter into small pieces and whisk into the mixture until the butter has melted. Add the lemon zest and let cool.

4. The lemon curd will continue to thicken as it cools. Cover immediately with plastic wrap (so a skin doesn't form) and refrigerate for up to a week. This recipe yields approximately 2 cups of curd, so you will have some leftover (yay you win!).

For the crust:

1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup coconut oil, at room temperature
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8- or 9-inch square baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, cream coconut oil and sugars until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the egg, vanilla extract, and coconut extract. Mix well. Mix in the flours, salt, and baking powder until combined.  

3. Gently press 3/4 of the dough into bottom of prepared baking dish. Evenly spread approximately one cup of the lemon curd over dough. Use your hands to flatten pieces of remaining dough and spread it over the top, almost covering all the curd.

4. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Cool completely and cut into squares.

Related post on Eat, Run, Read: Dark/White Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches