A couple of weeks ago, one of my friends was having a party to celebrate her Canadian citizenship and I jumped at the chance to try out a new dessert recipe that I could bring with me.
I considered making a pie or cake, but the downside of one of those options is that you can't exactly test it before serving it (unless you want to serve a pie with a slice already taken out of it), and since the group I was serving were mostly people I didn't know very well, I wanted to make a good first impression!
So I decided that squares or cookies were my best bet, since they can easily be taste-tested first to make sure they're party-worthy (which I happily did with these squares!). Lemon bars seemed appropriate for a late spring backyard BBQ, and to go with the Canadian theme, I thought of adding a red raspberry swirl to the filling (even though it turned out more pink than red).
My next problem was how to make the filling: most lemon bars get their creamy, silky texture from lots of eggs in the filling, but I knew I wanted to make an eggless version. After researching a few different recipes, it seemed like silken tofu would make the best substitute to get the right texture.
I haven't had a lot of success using tofu in dessert recipes in the past, but luckily with these bars, the tart lemon and raspberry flavours were so dominant that you would never guess the main ingredient was tofu. I tried not to tell the people I was serving them to either in case the thought of eating a tofu square for dessert scared them off!
I loved the taste of the creamy filling with the combination of lemon and fresh raspberries, and the crust turned out nice and firm and crumbly, almost like shortbread despite being made with coconut oil instead of butter. I also thought the ratio of crust to filling was just right - the crust was thick enough to support the filling so that you could easily eat these with your hands without making a mess.
I think these would be a great dessert option for a Canada Day BBQ, or any other occasion this summer!
Vegan Lemon Bars with Raspberry Swirl
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole spelt flour (or whole wheat)
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup icing sugar
1/2 cup melted coconut oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup raspberries
1 tbsp organic cane sugar
3 tbsp water, divided
1 scant tbsp arrowroot flour
1/2 cup silken firm tofu
1/2 cup organic cane sugar
1/4 cup + 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice (from one large lemon)
Zest of 1 large lemon
1 tbsp arrowroot flour
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line an 8x8” square pan with parchment paper (leave enough to hang over the edges of the pan a bit) and spray with cooking spray.
First, make the crust: Whisk together the flours, coconut, salt, and icing sugar. Add the coconut oil and vanilla and stir until the mixture forms a smooth dough. Press dough into prepared pan in an even layer. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, until firm and lightly golden. Remove and let cool on a wire rack until the filling is ready.
While the crust is cooking, place the raspberries in a small saucepan with the sugar and 1 tbsp of the water and bring to a boil. Mix the remaining water with the arrowroot in a small bowl until smooth. Add this mixture to the pan and stir continuously for another 1-2 minutes, until raspberries have broken down. Remove from heat and set aside.
To make the filling, blend the tofu in a blender or food processor until smooth. Add the remaining filling ingredients and continue to blend until smooth again.
Pour filling on top of the baked crust, using a spatula if necessary to spread in an even layer (it should be liquidy enough to spread on its own). Drop spoonfuls of the raspberry mixture all over the top of the filling, and use a knife or spatula to swirl it around a bit (you may not need all of the raspberry mixture - I used almost all of it, which is why my bars look mostly red on top).
Return pan to the oven and bake for another 25-30 minutes, until the filling is mostly set. Remove and let cool on a wire rack. Cool completely (I transferred mine to the fridge) before cutting into squares and serving.
Makes 20-25 squares.