Earlier this summer we took our kids to Israel for the first time. We all had a great time and it was wonderful to experience Israel through the eyes of our children. Part of what we were the most excited about in planning the trip was the opportunity to introduce our kids to some of the things we loved when we lived in Israel, and of course that included the food. We definitely ate well! I brought a half of a suitcase full of spices and things home so that we can continue to eat well, Israeli style, here as well. (Although my son is disappointed that we can’t get goat’s milk labneh here and keeps asking me for it)
One of my favorite things in Israel is limonana, a minty lemonade. A cold frosty Limonana, a combination of the Hebrew words for lemon and spearmint, is a typically Israeli way to beat the heat. And it definitely works! After pushing a double stroller up the hill from the kotel in 100 degree weather I must say that the frozen slushy limonana we enjoyed at the top was one of the best things I had ever tasted.
Now that we are back, and unlimited lemonade is no longer on the daily menu, my brain has been buzzing with other ways to use the wonderful combination of lemon and mint in a dessert form. A sorbet seems obvious, and I am sure I will be making that soon, but I wanted to try something a little bit different and unexpected first.
These bars are everything a good lemon bar should be with the added punch from fresh mint. With a crisp shortbread crust topped with a sweet and tangy lemon mint filling, these bars are refreshing and deliciously satisfying. The flavor of the bars is quite intense so I highly recommend cutting them into small squares. That isn’t to say people won’t be going back for seconds, they will. I had to package them away quickly to make sure that I still had enough to serve since everyone kept wanting another “taste”.
(adapted from Tartine)
For the crust:
½ cup (2 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
1½ cups (7.5 ounces) all-purpose flour
6 ounces salted margarine*, (I like earth balance whipped buttery spread)
For the filling:
2¼ cups (16 ounces) sugar
2 cups (20 grams or .75 oz) loosely packed fresh spearmint leaves
½ cup (2½ ounces) all-purpose flour
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice
Finely grated zest from 2 lemons
6 large whole eggs
2 large egg yolk
confectioners’ sugar for topping (optional)
*If using unsalted margarine add a pinch of salt to the filling.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.
To make the crust: Sift the confectioners’ sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Stir in the flour. Add the margarine and beat on low speed just until a smooth dough forms.
Press the dough evenly into the pan and allow it to come up about a ½ inch up the sides of the pan. Line the crust with parchment paper or foil and fill with pie weights. Bake the crust until it is a deep golden brown, about 25-35 minutes.
While the crust is baking make the filling. Place the sugar and mint in the bowl of a food processor and process until finely ground. Add the flour and pulse until combined. Place the flour/sugar mixture in a large bowl and add the lemon juice and zest. Stir to dissolve the sugar. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk the whole eggs and egg yolks (and the salt if using). Add the eggs to the lemon juice mixture and whisk until well mixed.
Once the crust is ready, pour the filling directly into the pan. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees and bake just until the center of the custard is set, about 30 to 40 minutes.
Let cool completely on a wire rock, then cover and chill well before cutting. Cut into squares and dust the top with confectioners’ sugar, if desired. They will keep in an airtight container or well covered in the baking dish in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.