A new spin on classic lemon bars

My mom has had a well-loved copy of the red-and-white checkered Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book on her shelf for as long as I can remember. It sits beside her small, handwritten cookbook full of some of her — and my — favorite recipes. While Joy is usually my go-to book for American classics, its recipe for lemon bars leaves much to be desired — that’s where The Better Homes and Gardens book comes in.

Once in a while I’ll be in the mood to experiment with a classic recipe, and lemon bars is a great one to modify. I’ve found that the recipes I make well are the best to play with.

On a recent trip to Trader Joe’s, I purchased a bottle of blueberry juice. As I was looking at the lemon bars recipe, it occurred to me that some of the lemon juice could easily be substituted. I also had leftover toasted coconut and coconut milk from the coconut-rum ice cream I made last week that needed to be used.

I set to work and broke up the toasted coconut and added it to the crust, and substituted the coconut milk for the milk called for in the filling. The final product was exactly what I’d hoped it would be. The blueberry flavor mellowed the tartness of the lemon, but both flavors were still prominent in the result. The bits of toasted coconut added a nice bit of texture to the crust. Substituting all of the lemon juice with blueberry juice would likely work, too, should anyone be so inclined to make an entirely blueberry version.

This kitchen experiment definitely goes down as a success.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup toasted coconut
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup lemon juice (if using fresh lemons, squeeze about 4)
1/4 cup blueberry juice
1/4 cup coconut milk
1 tablespoon vanilla sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 13-inch-by-9-inch pan.

In a bowl, combine the 2 cups flour, powdered sugar, toasted coconut, cornstarch and salt. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake 18-20 minutes or until edges are golden.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, stir together eggs, granulated sugar, 3 tablespoons flour, lemon and blueberry juices, coconut milk and vanilla sugar.

Pour filling over hot crust. Bake for 15-20 minutes more or until center is set.

Cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Cut into bars. Cover and store in the refrigerator.

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