This winter, I’ve found it impossible to walk past a wooden box full of sweet, little clementines and not bring them home with me. With their easy to peel skin, nearly seedless flesh, and names like “cuties” and “darling,” who can resist? Not to mention their bright citrus flavor is the perfect remedy for the winter blues.
Of course they’re perfect as a snack, but I wanted to do something more with them. I came up with an idea to do a play on lemon bars and make clementine bars instead. I found this recipe online, but the crust was a disaster and the clementine flavor didn’t come through as much as I’d hoped. I then turned to Ina’s classic lemon bar recipe and simply used clementine juice and zest instead of lemon. The result was way too sweet, but the crust was perfect. On my third try I used a combination of the two recipes and added some tweaks of my own. The bars came out just the way I wanted. The crust was tender and buttery, the filling was creamy and only slightly sweet with a subtle citrusy tang. They’re milder than a traditional lemon bar, but I dare say* I like them better. I took them to a friend’s house for dinner and they were a hit. Yes, it’s still January, and no they’re not healthy, but don’t we all deserve a treat?!
*Sorry, I’ve been watching too much Downton Abbey. I keep saying things like “I dare say.”
For the crust:
- 1 stick of unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup flour
- a pinch of kosher salt
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 5 tablespoons clementine juice (2 clementines)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons grated clementine zest (2 clementines)
- 2 eggs, at room temperature, beaten
- Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into the bottom of an 8 inch square baking dish and slightly up the sides. Chill.
Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.
Next, in another bowl whisk together the granulated sugar, baking powder and 2 tbsp. flour. Whisk in the clementine juice, grated zest and eggs and blend well. Pour mixture over the baked crust and bake again until set, about 20-25 minutes, or until an inserted knife comes clean. When cool, lightly dust with powdered sugar and cut into bars.
MAKES 9 BARS