Twenty luscious bars are cooling on the counter, waiting to be wrapped. I just baked them. The lemon and lime aroma filled the kitchen, travelled through the ceiling towards the dining room, like a north star drawing you to the dessert. The bars were golden yellow, sprinkled with sweet confectioners’ sugar. They tasted tart-like, yet had a sweet shy savory flavor. They’re lemon – calamansi bars, and I baked them for another family birthday.
I have been baking lemon bars, or what some refer to as lemon squares for as long as eternity. I have tried different recipes. But one thing remains the same. I always bake it at this time of the year, more than any other time.
Years ago, in the Philippines, I used calamansi, the Filipino lime, for these dessert bars. The Filipino calamansi are small round citrus fruits, with a dark green outer skin and an orange-yellow flesh inside. From these tiny spheres came the most piercing limey aroma, that was sweeter than a regular American lemon, the latter having more tart traits.
The Filipino calamansi is a staple in nearly every Philippine household. Its short tree shrub grows abundantly in many backyards around the country. It has versatile uses, too. The calamansi is used as an ingredient for dishes, as a flavoring for baking, as a refreshing addition to beverages, and even makes its way to medicinal uses, or home remedies, and even as a cleaning or bleaching agent on fabrics.
Back here in my American kitchen, I have access to frozen calamansi concentrate from the Asian groceries. I combined it with fresh lemons which are sweetest in the summer here in the east coast. When I merged and mingled both citrus fruit flavors, the result on these lemon-calamansi bars was irresistible.
As I sliced them, the bright golden yellow bars were soft, moist, dewy with a delicate lemony-limy scent. The gel-like centers were delightfully encased on a beautiful bottom of buttery, flakey crust. When I lifted the entire bar from the pan it was baked in, tiny crumbs of the crust carelessly fell off on the sides. But the lemon- calamansi bar stayed firm and marvelous, ready to be devoured by my oldest son, Tim, who celebrates his birthday today. And you are reading this blog because of Tim. He is the brains behind this site’s sleek design. He is the oldest of my wonderful sons, and both have helped and inspired me to write my 2 food sites.
He loves and lives for these lemon – calamansi bars, most especially this time of year, his birthday !
These bright golden yellow bars were soft, moist, dewy with a delicate lemon and lime scent.They were made from freshly squeezed lemons and its zest, and pure, concentrated calamansi, the Filipino lime. At the bottom is a buttery, flakey crust that crumbles in your mouth. This is the best time of the year to bake these Lemon - Calamansi bars. The lemons are sweetest right about now, thus making this a perfect summer treat. This recipe is adapted from a previous AsianInAmericamag blog post and makes 18 to 24 pieces.
- all purpose flour - 2 cups
- confectioners' sugar - 1 cup
- cornstarch - 1/2 cup
- salt - 1/2 teaspoon
- unsalted butter - 1 cup or 2 sticks, cold and cut into small pieces
- eggs - 8
- fresh lemon juice - 3/4 cup, from 8 large lemons
- calamansi juice - 1/4 cup, frozen or from fresh fruit
- all purpose flour - 1/2 cup
- lemon zest - 3 Tablespoons
- lemon flavoring - 1 teaspoon
- baking powder - 1 teaspoon
- baking soda - 1 teaspoon
- confectioners' sugar - 2 to 3 tablespoons, for sprinkling on bars
- granulated white sugar - 2 cups, for the lemon-calamansi filling
- Preheat oven to 350 F degrees. Pre-grease a 9 inches x 13 inches baking pan with baking spray.
- How to prepare the crust: (Mix by hand or use a food processor to blend). In a food processor, combine the 2 cups flour, confectioners' sugar, cornstarch and salt. Add the cold butter. Pulse till it resembles coarse crumbs. Press this mixture to the bottom of the baking pan. Refrigerate for 10 minutes to firm up.
- Bake the crust for 20 minutes in a 350 F degrees, till lightly brown. Remove from the oven and reduce oven temperature to 325 F degrees.
- Make the lemon filling : beat the eggs in mixer till thick. Blend in granulated sugar, lemon and calamansi juices, and the zest.
- Add the flour, baking powder and soda. Last, add the lemon flavoring. Pour it all into the crust and bake for 38 to 40 minutes at 325 F degrees or test with a knife to see if it is done. If knife comes out clean, then lemon bars are cooked.
- Remove from oven and cool on counter for at least 40 minutes or till thoroughly room temperature. Sprinkle the top with confectioner's sugar. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate a few hours or overnight. Slice in equal-sized squares or bars, about 2 inches x 2 inches.
- Cook's comments: if calamansi is not available, substitute the same amount with fresh lemon juice.