Last week, after spending a fun Memorial Day weekend with family and friends, I felt as if I awoke Tuesday morning from a Rip Van Winkle-like slumber only to discover that I’d missed out on summer altogether. Despite a weekend of 90 degree highs, temperatures for the rest of that week struggled to escape the low 60’s. To make matters worse, the unseasonably cool temperatures were accompanied by overcast skies and, from time to time, a drizzly rain. Either I’d slept through the entirety of the summer season, or Washington DC had gotten stuck in a time loop that was forcing it to redo the cool, wet weather of early spring.
To put it bluntly, it was really cold. My plan to make the season’s inaugural visit to my community pool suffered a severe setback. However, mid-week, as I was running some errands wrapped warmly in a jacket I had retrieved from the back of my closet, it occurred to me that the arrival of this unfortunate weather pattern presented an opportunity. If spring had decided to do an unexpected rewind, then I would do likewise by revisiting a few spring recipes that had piqued my food blogger’s interest but which for one reason or another had fallen by the wayside.
Today’s post features one of those recipes. It’s an adaptation of Cooking Light’s Berry Lemonade Bars. I freely admit that I was drawn to the recipe by that tried-and-true marketing tool, the drool-worthy photograph on the cover of a magazine placed strategically in the grocery store checkout line.
In this case, it was the April 2015 issue of Cooking Light. As I was loading a week’s worth of groceries onto the conveyor belt, my attention was caught by the magazine’s cover photo showing a plate of glistening squares of lemon, raspberry, strawberry bars. Everything about the image suggested spring, from the mint leaves and curls of lemon zest used as garnishes to the fresh raspberries and strawberries scattered around the plate to the pastel pinks, mauves, and yellows of the bars themselves. Unable to resist the urge to try the recipe out at home, I grabbed a copy of the magazine from its rack and tossed it onto some cans of chickpeas and a few packages of mixed baby greens as they inched forward toward the beeping barcode scanner.
Since then I’ve been tinkering with the recipe. I started with the version that includes raspberries, since I figured it was an easy way to up my fruit consumption, and raspberries are an especially rich source of both fiber and antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients.
But then I tweaked the recipe by adding more fiber and reducing its sugar content, giving it an even better nutritional profile. The extra fiber comes from using white whole-wheat flour exclusively in the crust versus Cooking Light’s ratio of one part white whole-wheat to two parts all purpose. A smaller amount of sugar was justified because I wanted to emphasize the natural flavor of the raspberries, which I felt would be hidden under the quantity of sugar in the original recipe.
Finally, I tried to make the recipe a little more user-friendly. Instead of relying solely on fresh raspberries, which can be hard to find, are highly perishable, and tend to be on the expensive side, I give you the option of using frozen raspberries. I also figured out a way to make both the crust and the raspberry puree without the use of a food processor in case you don’t have one or you don’t want to be bothered with washing it afterwards.
The result is a delicious recipe that you and your family can enjoy all year long, regardless of the fickleness of the weather or the season you’re in.
Raspberry Lemon Bars
I devised this recipe as way to channel Spring during an unseasonably wet and cold post-Memorial Day week that made me feel as if Mother Nature was attempting a seasonal do-over. It is adapted from the cover recipe in Cooking Light’s April 2015 issue. The original version is good, but mine increases the amount of fiber and reduces the sugar content, giving it an even better nutritional profile.
2 cups (230 grams) white whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup (55 grams) granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick or 113 grams) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
2 1/2 cups (12 ounces or 340 grams) raspberries (fresh or frozen)
1 tablespoon water
1/2 cup (120 milliliters) lemon juice (preferably freshly squeezed from 3-4 medium lemons)
2/3 cup (85 grams) white whole-wheat flour
2/3 cup sugar (150 grams)
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 medium eggs, lightly beaten
fresh raspberries and powdered sugar for garnish
1. Prepare the crust: Preheat oven to 350°F (176°C). Line a 9×14-inch sheet pan with parchment paper, allowing at least an inch to overhang each side. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the 2 cups of white whole-wheat flour, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add the melted butter and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract if using and stir until they have been fully absorbed and the mixture is crumbly with no dry parts. Transfer the mixture to the pan, spreading it evenly over the top of the parchment paper. Using your fingertips or the back of a large spoon, gently press on the mixture so that it slightly adheres to itself. Place the pan in the preheated oven and bake until the crust is golden and firm to the touch, 18-20 minutes.
2. While the crust is baking, prepare the raspberry puree: Place the raspberries and the tablespoon of water in a large saucepan over medium heat. Gently heat the raspberries, stirring frequently, until they have a liquid consistency and have thoroughly broken down, about 15 minutes. (Be sure not to boil the raspberries, or you will may lose too much water through evaporation, resulting in a smaller quantity of puree.) Transfer the raspberries to a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl or large measuring cup. Using the back of a large spoon, press on the top of the raspberries so that the puree is forced through the strainer and into the bowl, leaving the seeds in the strainer. You should end up with about 1 cup of puree. Stir in the 1/2 cup of lemon juice, and then set aside. Discard the seeds.
3. Prepare the filling: Gently whisk the 2/3 cup white whole-wheat flour, 2/3 cup sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt into the raspberry and lemon juice mixture, making sure to eliminate any lumps that may form. Add the eggs, whisking to combine.
4. After the crust has finished baking, remove the sheet pan from the oven. Immediately pour the filling mixture evenly over the hot crust. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 23 minutes or until the filling has set. Remove the pan from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack for at least an hour. To slice, carefully lift the sheet of cooled unsliced bars from the pan, using opposite overhanging edges of parchment as handles. Place on a flat surface, and then slice into 42 1½ x 2-inch pieces. Garnish with fresh raspberries and confectioners sugar, if desired, and serve.
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