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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Lemons...

     Yeyyy! Another food blog by a mom who wants kids to eat wholesome foods…just what the world needed! How original you may say!

     However, in my defense, I do have my own shtick! My recipes are the product of lots of reading, many trips to trade shows, the scouring of every single health food store in Manhattan and several years of training. I bake using “super ingredients” and my recipes are the result of plenty of inedible batches of cookies, cakes, icings made with exotic whole grain flours, and strange named seeds; and a socialist mentality (aka low self-esteem) to bake for everyone, despite gender, age and dietary regimes and food allergies or sensitivities

     I studied nutrition, food studies and pastry arts, and I deserve double points because I’m writing in English, being that Spanish is my first language!

     My philosophy is to rethink plant-based ingredients to bring new and different flavors to satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth (garbanzo beans in your icing, anyone?). The recipes are never too sweet, as I use a very light hand with unrefined sweeteners, or none at all, as I like taking advantage of the natural sweetness of fruits and vegetables. I only use whole grain flours of different kinds. After a couple of years, I’ve come up with some surprising recipes. Most sold through my company, Three Tablespoons, taught in my demos and proudly, eaten by my kids (which trust me, is saying a lot.)

     Please join me in my attempt to marry my contradictory background of nutrition and pastry arts (and I’m a kosher convert too.), and in the meantime, get some original recipes for free! 

     Stick with me as I strive to find balance between sweet and salty, chewy and crunchy, nutritious and delicious, fun and work, whole food recipes and junk food cravings, wanting to bake and not wanting to wash dishes, and in baking and in life itself.

     Why the “irony of baking”? Because, just as life, baking surprises you with its sarcasm and tests your patience. Because everything about cakes and pastries seems sweet, fun and cute, but there can be very sour moments. Is my mission to de-glorify pastries? No, not really. I just want to share that cakes collapse, confusion between baking powder and baking soda, and a child screaming for help as the cookies burn in the oven are normal and there’s always a lesson to be learned.

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade…..or lemon bars”

LEMON BARS WITH THYME AND LAVENDER

This recipe uses agar as a gelling agent instead of bovine, fish gelatin or eggs. Also known as Kanten, agar is a vegetable gelatin made of a variety of sea vegetables with strong thickening properties. The seaweeds are boiled to a gel, pressed, dried, and crushed into flavorless flakes. These flakes dissolve in hot liquids and thicken them they cool.
I learned the technique in Fran Costigan’s More Great Good Dairy-free Desserts Naturally, which is a great resource for vegan baking.
***Please click in the blue items if you are interested in purchasing them at amazon.com directly from this blog. Yes! I do get a cut if you buy them from here, but I would never recommend anything I don't purchase myself from them. They are one of the best resources for hard to find ingredients, utensils and cookbooks. Why waste your time, if I've already got the finds? 

Now, back to the recipe...
These lemon bars are intensely citrusy, barely sweet and the thyme and lavender give them slight aromas of Provence.

Super ingredients: Sunflower and pumpkin seeds, whole oat flour, orange juice, lemon juice (which is not cooked, so it retains its vitamin C), thyme, lavender and turmeric

  • Vegan 
  • gluten, nut, soy, wheat free 
  • pareve


INGREDIENTS

CRUST
½ cup (2.5 oz) hauled raw sunflower seeds
½ cup (2.5 oz) raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
½ cup (2 oz) whole oat flour (gluten free if needed)
1 (0.2 oz) tablespoons tapioca starch
½ teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons (0.75 oz) expeller-pressed grape seed oil
1 tablespoon (0.75 oz) agave nectar or pure maple syrup or honey (use honey if not vegan)
1 tablespoon (0.4 oz) pure vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon (shaved with microplane)
¾ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

FILLING
1 cup (8 oz) FRESH orange juice (about 2 oranges)
1/3 cup (2.6 oz) water
3 tablespoons agar flakes
½ teaspoon dried lavender
½ cup (6 oz) agave nectar or pure maple syrup or honey (use honey if not vegan)
½ cup (4 oz) PLUS 2 tablespoons (1 oz) unsweetened rice milk
¼ teaspoon sea salt
pinch ground turmeric
4 teaspoons tapioca starch
½ cup (4 oz) FRESH lemon juice (about 2 ½ lemons)
1 tablespoon lemon zest
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 -1/2 teaspoons lemon extract

METHOD

CRUST
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line the bottom and 2 sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.
In a food processor, grind the sunflower and pumpkin seeds, oat and tapioca flours and salt until coarsely ground, but no big pieces are left (about 30 seconds).

Add oil, agave, vanilla, lemon zest and thyme and process for about 3 quick pulses, until the ingredients are mixed and look like wet sand. Do not over-process, you want some texture to the crust so it contrasts with the smoothness of the filling. 



Transfer crust mix onto prepared baking pan and spread it pressing with your fingers until the bottom of the pan is covered evenly with the crust.

Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes until slightly golden. Juice the oranges and zest and juice lemons while crust bakes. Once crust is baked, set aside to cool while you make filling.

FILLING

Place agar into a medium pot. Pour in orange juice, water and lavender and set aside for 15 minutes, to allow agar to soften (to not heat or stir).

Once agar has softened, cover pot, and over medium heat, bring liquid to a boil. Uncover, reduce heat to low and stir with a wooden spoon or heat-proof spatula, incorporating any agar that may have stuck to the bottom of the pot. Cover again and simmer for 7 to 10 minutes, stirring often.

Uncover and make sure there are no agar flakes left. If there are some, continue simmering until agar has completely dissolved. Add agave, ½ cup rice milk, salt and turmeric to the pot and simmer for 2 to 3 more minutes.

In the meanwhile, whisk in tapioca starch with remaining 2 tablespoons rice milk in a small bowl until dissolved. Add this slurry into the pot with the orange juice mix, whisking constantly.  Bring to a boil and immediately remove pot from heat.

Stir in lemon juice, zest, vanilla and lemon extract. Pour into a bowl and let cool at room temperature.

Once filling has cooled, pour it onto the crust (which is still in the pan). Refrigerate for about ½ hour, until set.
To un-mold, carefully lift up the ends of the parchment liner, and transfer to a cutting board and cut into 12 or 16 bars.
Enjoy at room temperature!



NOTE: Keeps well double-wrapped refrigerated for about 5 days.

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