When I started this blog, I made it a goal that I would try to adapt every recipe I tried, either in a small way or in some cases by practically changing all the ingredients to make it my own. When I was looking for a good summer potluck recipe last month, I came across these lemon raspberry bars and knew they would be a hit. But I was hesitant to change anything about the recipe because everything I’ve tried from Two Peas and Their Pod has been perfect as is.
I still wanted to try to adapt it somehow, and decided that a shortbread crust would go great with these bars. Well, after the bars came out of the oven I instantly regretted my decision – the crust was dry, hard, and crumbly. Fortunately, the filling was still delicious, and everyone still loved the bars at the lunch potluck that I brought them to – when I went back to grab one for an afternoon snack they had all disappeared!
I knew I wouldn't be satisfied until I got the crust recipe perfected, so I kept waiting for another opportunity to make them. But since I had found the filling to be a little too much on the tart side for my tastes, with the combination of the sour lemons and raspberries, I decided to make them with blueberries next time. I thought I had come up with such a great idea, but soon realized that Maria had already beat me to it! She seemed to love these bars just as much as the previous version, so I couldn’t wait to try them.
So as soon as a family dinner came along with enough people to eat these, I offered to make them for dessert. Not only did I use the blueberry lemon bar recipe this time, but I used a different shortbread crust recipe, and also reduced the amount of lemon juice and eliminated the lemon zest just to make sure they weren’t too sour. The result was amazing! The crust was soft and buttery, and everyone loved the smooth, creamy filling, which tasted rich even though it was made with fat-free condensed milk. I loved the burst of sweet blueberries amid the sour lemon filling, although the blueberries were a little harder to slice through when cutting the bars compared to the raspberries.
I thought the lemon flavour was much more subtle this time, but my Dad was still puckering his lips and commenting on how sour the bars were. I guess people have different levels of lemon tolerance! If you have a high tolerance and love sour bars, then try putting the full amount of lemon in, but if you’re serving these to people who have a lower tolerance for sour things, then try using the lesser amount that I did (I noted both amounts in the recipe).
The best part about these was that they were so easy to make, and they were also versatile - they were portable enough to bring to a potluck for people to eat with their hands, but turned into an elegant dessert when served on a plate with a fork!
Lemon Blueberry Bars
Adapted from Two Peas & Their Pod
Makes one 8x8 pan, about 12-16 squares
For the crust:1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
For the filling:2 large egg yolks
1 (14-ounce) can fat-free sweetened condensed milk
Juice of one large lemon (this was about 6.5 tablespoons for me – if you want a stronger lemon flavour, use the original amount of 8 tablespoons (1/2 cup))
1 teaspoon lemon zest (I eliminated this, but include it if you want the stronger lemon flavour)
1 cup fresh blueberries (make sure to choose the ripest, sweetest berries – usually the bigger ones)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line an 8x8 pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper (this will help with removing the bars later).
In a medium bowl, mix together the softened butter, flour, sugar, and salt. Press into the bottom and slightly up the sides of the pan.
Bake for 15-20 minutes at 350°F, until crust is firm and golden. Let cool on a wire rack.
To make the filling, whisk together the egg yolks and condensed milk in a medium bowl. Add in the lemon juice (and zest if using) and stir until mixture is smooth and slightly thickened.
Sprinkle half the blueberries evenly over the cooled crust. Pour filling over top, then sprinkle the other half of the blueberries over the filling. (Alternately, you could mix the blueberries into the filling before pouring the whole mixture over the crust, but I like doing it separately to ensure the berries are evenly spread and don’t leak any colour into the filling).
Bake at 350°F for 15 minutes or until just set. Cool at room temperature then chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour before cutting into bars and serving.
Note: Bars will keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.