Luscious Low-Carb Lavender Lemon Bars — that is a lengthy name! I just wanted to choose as describing name for these extra delicious and extra tangy tidbits as I could. Actually, I wanted to include the word ‘little’ there as well, but that would have been an overkill. Moreover, you can cut as big or small bars as you want to. I think I prefer small bars anyway, since these delicacies are heavy stuff what comes to both taste and richness.
Tips for making the bars
You might have noticed that the bars in these photos are quite thick. I baked the bars in 7 × 9 inch (17.5 × 22.5 cm) baking dish, just because it was the only baking dish available. I was fine-tuning this recipe and taking the photos in my summer cottage in the middle of nowhere. If you use the recommended 9 × 9 inch (22.5 × 22.5 cm) or even 9 × 13 inch (22.5 × 32.5 cm) baking dish, you get thinner bars. Actually, too large baking dish is not that good, since the crust might get leathery and there can be cracks on the topping. In that sense 9 × 9 inch (22.5 × 22.5 cm) baking dish or smaller would be the best.
When grating the lemon peel, be sure to grate just the yellow part, no white pith. The pith is bitter and simply makes the topping taste bitter and bad.
I use tea strainer to strain the lemon juice mixture. It’s just the right size — not too big and not too small. Press carefully to get as much liquid as possible. Tea strainer is also perfect for dusting the ready bars.
If crust is not your favorite part of the bar, you can make the crust even thinner by using 2 cups (480 ml) almond flour, 2 large eggs and 1/4 cup (60 ml) erythritol for the crust. Prebake the crust for 20 minutes before adding the topping.
Press the crust dough evenly and firmly into the greased baking dish. If there are bumps in the dough layer, that shows in the ready bars (like you can see in some of my photos…).
It’s a good idea to start making the topping immediately after putting the crust in the oven. Then the erythritol has some time to dissolve and it doesn’t sink to the bottom during baking.
This topping is tart and tangy, so if you prefer it sweeter, you can add for example some liquid stevia to give more sweetness. If you use more erythritol crystals, they might form even bigger crystals after baking. Just taste the raw topping mixture (caution, raw egg!) and add more sweetener if you think the topping lacks some. Actually, I wanted to use powdered Zsweet to sweeten these bars, but since Amazon, Netrition and other major online stores have been running out of it for several months, I chose erythritol crystals, which you can get much easier. It’s really a shame that Zsweet (the company) hasn’t been able to fill the supplies.
You do get more sweetness also by dusting the ready bars with an ample amount of powdered Zsweet (if you happen to have some) or powdered erythritol.
Be sure to bake the topping so that it has just set. Don’t bake too long, otherwise the topping might get some cracks on top, even this is not cheesecake. Don’t despair if you get some cracks, they are easy to cover with powdered sweetener or whipped cream.
Unfortunately I didn’t have any chance to include progress photos. If you would like to have them, I can take them later. Just leave a comment.
My experiments when developing this recipe
Developing a recipe for low-carb lemon bars has been very long in my to-do list. I had bought plenty of lemons and was wondering what to do with them. And I simply was craving for something sweet and baked.
Previously I had baked low-carb lemon bars from George Stella’s great cookbook. Those bars were very nice, however the glaze layer was too thin for my preference.
Now it was time to dig up those two recipes, take a look of them and plan my own version. The Stella version had a cake-like crust which was very nice as cake. However, the Allrecipes recipe had a shortbread-type crust and thicker, custard-like topping, which sounded really tempting and mouth-watering. I never tried the actual recipe, just took a look of it to get ideas for my own low-carb version.
Since the Internet is full of recipes for lemon bars — certainly also for low-carb ones — I wanted to make my lemon bars a notch more interesting. I had four ingredients: almond flour, erythritol, lemon and eggs, so there was still room for the fifth ingredient. I was watching the contents of my pantry.
A while ago I had bought an enormous bag of dried lavender flowers. I always wanted to make cookies with lavender. I have to confess that I’ve never really liked the smell or taste of lavender, so the challenge to make delicious cookies was more than demanding.
Now I got the idea to use lavender in my lemon bars. I was wondering how well it goes with lemon. Well, that I could find out only by trying it out.
I was planning to use both lemon peel and lemon juice to get the maximum lemony taste. However, I was craving for smooth and velvety custard as topping, which meant that there shouldn’t be a single piece of lemon peel in the topping. I was going to let the lemon peel stand in the lemon juice overnight and then strain the mixture. The lavender was simple to add in, let it season the juice and strain with the other ingredients on the following day.
First I was experimenting with toppings only. I had taken 4 teaspoons lemon juice, part of the grated peel and 1 teaspoon dried lavender flowers and let them stand in the fridge overnight. The rest of the lemon juice and the peel was in another jar.
On the following day I took both jars, strained the contents one after another, mixed 1 extra large egg and 4 teaspoons erythritol with the lavender mixture. That was enough to fill a ramekin.
To the plain mixture with only lemon juice and peel, I added 3 extra large eggs and 1/4 cup (60 ml) erythritol. I divided the mixture in three parts. To one part I added 1 pinch vanilla extract and to the second one I added 1 teaspoon coconut flour to see if it would improve the texture. The third part I left as it was. All these mixtures I poured into ramekins.
I baked the ramekins for 15 minutes so that the topping had set. All the topping experiments looked nice, expect the one with coconut flour — that had cracked very badly. The cooler it got, the worse the cracks got, too.
I tasted a little bit from each ramekin. Vanilla was too overpowering, otherwise it was quite okay. The plain version was nice, but to my big surprise my absolute favorite was the topping with lavender! The more I ate it, the more I liked it.
Finally I did some experiments with crust. For the first crust experiment I used 2 cups (480 ml) almond flour, 1/4 cup (60 ml) erythritol and 2 extra large eggs. The dough wasn’t very stiff, although it was okay to knead and press into the baking dish. I prebaked the crust for 15 minutes after which I added the topping where I had mixed the strained fluid from lemon juice, lemon peels and lavender (approximately 6 tablespoons fluid), 1/2 cup (120 ml) erythritol and 3 extra large eggs. I baked the whole thing for 20 minutes.
After taking the baking dish from the oven I noticed that the crust was fine, though slightly too soft and cake-like, and the topping had awful cracks on top. Moreover, it looked that there was fluid in those cracks. My conclusion was that there was too little egg and too much lemon juice in the topping.
In my next experiment I used one more egg, and the topping was perfect without any cracks. Actually, this successful experiment I baked in a glass baking dish, whereas in the unsuccessful one I used silicone pan. For the crust of this successful experiment I used 2 1/2 cups (600 ml) almond flour, 1/4 cup (60 ml) erythritol and 2 extra large eggs. Now the crust was perfect, a shortbread-type crust that I was hoping to achieve.
I was wondering whether the crust was too thick compared to the amount of topping, but my family convinced me that thick crust was just fine, since the topping was tasting so powerful and the more or less neutral tasting crust was nicely compensating all that tart and tang in the lemony topping.
|Per bar if 8 bars in total:
|Per bar if 10 bars in total:
|Per bar if 12 bars in total:
|Per bar if 16 bars in total:
|Per bar if 20 bars in total:
|Per bar if 24 bars in total:
Tips for variation
In case you already know that lavender is not your biggest friend flavorwise, you can simply omit it not to ruin this delicious dessert.
In turn, if you prefer some vanilla, you can add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract together with the lemon juice. Even better idea is to add the vanilla extract to the crust dough because the crust is tasting quite neutral. Vanilla extract would give it some elegant flavor.
Another idea for making the crust more interesting is to add 1 tablespoon poppy seeds to the dough. Add the seeds together with the almond flour. You can omit the lavender so that the flavors don’t get too complex and chaotic.
For utmost citrus experience, omit the lavender and add grated peel of 1 organic lime (with no white pith!) and peel of 1 organic orange (again with no white pith!) in addition to those lemon peels. Follow the directions and remove the peels by straining the juice mixture before adding it to the other topping ingredients.
For festive treats, you can top the bars with sugar-free meringue or whipped cream — that will also make the taste smoother so that it’s not that tart. With meringue these bars are like small lemon pies!
Any other ideas? I’m sure you have some!