As herbs begin to emerge from the garden boxes that we built last summer, and the lavender we started from seed two years ago sends out fragrant new leaves and flowers, our bees become visible once more, busying themselves among our homestead's first brilliant blooms. Reminders of life-renewed spring forth everywhere I look, from the returning plants and flowers, to the bees buzzing from blossom to blossom, to my own little "gardening companion", my cat Theo, who playfully rolls around near me as I carefully transplant vegetable starts into the freshly tilled soil. Our chickens seem to enjoy these brighter days as well, leisurely sunbathing and picking at fresh grass outside of their coop. I savor every beautiful sight, sound, and aroma that surrounds me at this most exciting time of the year — there truly is no greater time than summer in the Willamette Valley!
To me, these Lemon Lavender Thyme Bars taste just like summer. Every delectable bite reminds me of warm days spent outside in the welcome sunshine. In fact, they’re probably among my favorite desserts to make any time of the year because they so perfectly take me right back to those cherished summer memories. Even in the middle of winter, when there is only the downpour of rain as I’m planning the garden layout for the coming spring, the hints of citrus, floral lavender, and herb-y thyme (or lemon thyme for a less peppery and more citrusy flavor) in these bars transport me to pleasant days spent outside in the sun.
Lemon Lavender Thyme Bars
Makes about 16 medium-sized bars.
- 1 cup organic unbleached flour (substitute gluten-free flour for a gluten-free version)
- 1/4 cup organic sugar
- 1/4 tsp. smoked sea salt
- 1 Tbsp. organic lavandin flower powder
- 1/2 Tbsp. organic thyme or organic lemon thyme
- 1/4 tsp. organic sweet cinnamon powder
- A pinch organic nutmeg powder
- 8 Tbsp. (1 stick) organic unsalted butter OR vegan butter substitute, melted
- 1 whole organic lemon
- 1 1/3 cups organic sugar
- 8 Tbsp. (1 stick) organic unsalted butter OR vegan butter substitute,cut into cubes
- 4 large free-range/cruelty-free, organic chicken eggs OR vegan option (See "Pro Tips" below)
- 2 Tbsp. organic arrowroot powder
- 1/4 tsp. red alaea salt
- Organic powdered sugar for sprinkling on top
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Blend together flour, sugar, salt, lavandin flower powder, thyme, sweet cinnamon, and nutmeg in a stand mixer or food processor.
- Slowly incorporate the melted butter or vegan butter substitute until it forms a soft dough.
- Evenly spread the dough in a greased, 8-inch square baking pan and press down to seal along all sides of the pan.
- Prick the crust all over with a fork to assist with baking properly.
- Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until crust is just golden brown.
- Set aside to cool for 10 minutes while you make the lemon filling.
- Peel the rind from the entire lemon using a paring knife. Set aside.
- Cut the remaining lemon flesh into thin rings and remove all seeds.
- Combine half the rind with all of the lemon flesh in a food processor and blend to a smooth consistency.
- With the food processor running, slowly add the sugar.
- Add the butter cubes (or vegan butter substitute) piece by piece, until all are combined.
- Add the eggs (or vegan option) and blend until well combined.
- Blend in the salt and arrowroot powder.
- Slowly pour the lemon custard on top of the prebaked shortbread crust in the pan.
- Return the baking pan (and all of its lemony goodness!) to the oven to bake for an additional 30 to 35 minutes, until the custard appears to have a lightly golden edge and has solidified enough to pass a pan "test jiggle"; the bars should be just barely firm at the center.
- Set the baking pan on a rack to cool.
- The bars must be completely cool before you attempt to cut them. Wait at least two hours, if not more, before attempting this. Put cut bars in the refrigerator before serving to cool completely.
- Once ready to serve, remove the bars from the fridge, sprinkle with powdered sugar, and enjoy!
- For vegan lemon bars, replace each egg with 1 tablespoon organic flax meal mixed with 3 tablespoons water. Thus, this recipe requires 4 tablespoons flax meal mixed with 3/4 cup of water.
- Make the bars the day before you want to serve them. Once at room temperature, cover the pan and put in the refrigerator overnight to cool before you cut the bars. This makes cutting so much easier!
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