Aside from marking the end of the bitter cold winter and the sprouting of green stuff, there's another reason why I love spring. It's a transitional season where one season's produce is winding down and the produce from the next season, first comes to market.
Meyer lemon season for example runs from November through April, while strawberry season starts in April and runs through the summer. I love Meyer lemons because they're one of the few bright flavors you can taste during winter. To stick your nose in a bag full of these golden yellow beauties and take a deep breath, is like inhaling a lungful of pure happiness. Strawberries on the other hand start showing up, just as the weather starts turning really hot, and the sweet red berries stream juicy bliss into your mouth with each bite. .
After a neighbor's Meyer lemon tree was blown over by an overabundance of fruit and some heavy winds, we found ourselves the lucky recipient of a bag full of fruit. I also found two pints of glorious organic berries at the market and it wasn't long before thoughts of strawberry Meyer lemonade started coursing through my mind. In the end, I decided to have a bit more fun with the flavors and made these strawberry lemon bars.
One of the biggest gripes I have with lemon bars is that they are way too sweet. But when you're using regular lemons, it's necessary to add a ton of sugar to offset the acidity of the lemons. The beauty of using Meyer lemons and strawberries, is that they are both sweet and only mildly acidic, so I was able to reduce the amount of sugar in the filling by almost half. I also added some rolled oats to the crust for some texture and fiber. While I don't think you could ever call a lemon bar healthy, these are certainly "healthier" than your run-of-the-mill lemon bars.
With a buttery crunchy crust underneath, the sweet fruity flavor of the strawberries pairs perfectly with the tart taste and floral aroma of the Meyer lemon juice. As the days grow longer, I'm looking forward to trying this out with other fruits like peaches and wild blueberries!
- Line a 9" x 13" pan with enough parchment paper to go about 1" up on all sides. In the work bowl of a food processor, add the flour, rolled oats, powdered sugar, salt and vanilla seeds. Pulse a few times to combine, then add the butter and pulse until the dough looks like pea sized gravel (about ten, one second bursts). Sprinkle the dough evenly over the parchment lined sheet and use your fingers to press the dough into a uniform sheet of dough that goes about 1/2" up all the sides. Put it in the freezer for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, place the oven rack in the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a small bowl, combine the strawberries and 1/4 cup of sugar and toss to coat. This will release excess moisture and sweeten the strawberries. To prepare the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, flour and lemon zest. Add the lemon juice and whisk to combine.
- Remove the crust from the freezer and put in oven and bake for around 25 minutes, or until it is golden brown and fragrant. When the crust is done, take it out of the oven, then immediately scatter the strawberries around the crust, pour any accumulated juices into the lemon mixture and whisk to combine. Pour the lemon mixture over the strawberries.
- Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees F, then put the pan in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the center of the lemon bars doesn't jiggle anymore. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool completely. Slice, then dust with powdered sugar and serve.