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Chamomile Lemon Bars

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Serves 24

  • To learn more, read:
    A Fresh Look at Lemon Bars
  • by from Fine Cooking
    Issue 140

A thick, sturdy-yet-tender cornmeal shortbread crust topped with intensely tangy, chamomile-infused lemon curd makes for a tantalizingly sweet-tart treat.

For the crust
  • 8 oz. (1 cup) unsalted butter, melted; more for the pan
  • 10-1/8 oz. (2-1/4 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal (fine or medium grind)
  • 3 Tbs. finely grated lemon zest (from about 4 lemons)
  • 1 tsp. table salt
Tip:
The finer the cornmeal, the tenderer the crust. Not all brands of cornmeal are ground the same. Bob’s Red Mill medium grind will yield a coarser, grittier texture (which I happen to like), while a crust made with a finely ground meal like Indian Head will be a little more refined.
For the lemon curd
  • 1 chamomile tea bag
  • 1-3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1-1/8 oz. (1/4 cup) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. table salt
  • 3/4 cup strained fresh lemon juice (from about 5 lemons)
  • 1 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • Confectioners’ sugar
  • Flaky sea salt
Make the crust

Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9x13-inch metal baking pan.

In a medium bowl, mix the flour, sugar, cornmeal, zest, and salt with a wooden spoon. Add the melted butter, and mix to form a soft dough. Evenly press into the bottom of the pan. Bake until golden on top, 20 to 25 minutes.

Make the lemon curd

While the crust is baking, steep the tea bag in 1/3 cup boiling water for 20 to 25 minutes. Whisk together the sugar, flour, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk in the lemon juice and melted butter. Squeeze all the tea you can from the tea bag. Add the tea to the lemon mixture, along with the eggs and yolks, and whisk until smooth.

Pour the lemon curd on top of the crust, and bake until the curd jiggles like jello when the pan is nudged, 10 to 15 minutes.

Cool completely on a wire rack. Cut into bars. Just before serving, dust with confectioners' sugar, and finish with sea salt.

Make Ahead Tips

The bars can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days. Let sit at room temperature for 10 to 20 minutes to take off the chill, and dust with the sugar and salt just before serving.

Variations

Play with the flavor. Any tea that you might serve with lemon will work in place of the chamomile. You could also spread about 1-1/2 cups of chopped nuts over the crust before you pour the curd on top. I especially like untoasted pine nuts, which don’t need to be chopped.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 230, Fat Calories (kcal): 90, Fat (g): 10, Saturated Fat (g): 6, Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 0.5, Monounsaturated Fat (g): 2.5, Cholesterol (mg): 60, Sodium (mg): 230, Carbohydrates (g): 34, Fiber (g): 1, Sugar (g): 22, Protein (g): 3

Photo: Scott Phillips

I agree that the chamomile lent a mellowing herbal flavor, without diminishing the expected lemony tartness. The cornmeal offers an interesting textural contrast. I forgot to finish with salt, but the bars were eaten up quickly without it. Will try with lemonhoneybush tea next time.

I agree that the chamomile lent a mellowing herbal flavor, without diminishing the expected lemony tartness. The cornmeal offers an interesting textural contrast. I forgot to finish with salt, but the bars were eaten up quickly without it. Will try with lemonhoneybush tea next time.

The crust is good, gives a little chew to it. The lemon filling is nice texture, but that chamomile is absolutely awful. I made these for a brunch and no one liked them. They were put off by the weird flavor in them.

The new family favorite. A reviewer complained of no lemon flavor. Maybe they didn't use enough fresh lemon juice or maybe I used more but I found the bars to be lemon and sour and just delicious. Will definitely make again. My issue was they were browner because I ran out of organic granulated sugar so used part granulated sugar part and coconut sugar

These were terrible. The cookie crust was nice but the lemon layer was just "sweet" with almost no lemon flavor. I had even used a lemon-ginger herbal tea that was barely noticeable in the final product. A lemon bar worth its calories should be bursting with sweet and sour lemon flavor.

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