Lemon Pie Bars with Strawberry Meringue

lemon bars with strawberry meringue

I have had so many requests for this recipe since posting this photo on Instagram, so I am sharing it with you today with one caveat: I have only tested this recipe once as written. Generally I make all recipes I post here at least twice before sharing so I can ensure it’s repeatable and work out any kinks. But I just released a cookbook and honestly, I’m so tired!

However, I realize that many of you may want to attempt this over Thanksgiving and holidays, so I’m sharing what I did along with some notes. I do plan to retest these again and will update the recipe accordingly if needed.

A few notes:

  • I made these bars with a pretty thick base, which I liked. However, I suspect most people would prefer it a little thinner so the recipe amounts below reflect that. If you’re team extra-thick base, multiply all amounts by 1.45.
  • I realize having a couple extra egg whites leftover from the filling may be annoying. However, I really liked this ratio of filling to meringue! The filling is bright and tart and stands up well to the sweet topping. I freeze extra egg whites for future meringue / financiers / macarons or macaroons or just add them to a batch of scrambled eggs. If you want to use just 4 eggs total, then multiply all filling ingredients by .67. (Sure, you could make a bigger batch of meringue but honestly I feel it would be overkill. But your bars, your ratios!)
  • Did I mention I just released a cookbook? Baked to Order is available now, wherever books are sold! And if you’ve bought the book and are enjoying it, would you consider writing a review on Amazon? Reviews are incredibly valuable and help others find the book more easily. THANK YOU for your support!
lemon pie bars strawberry meringue

Lemon Pie Bars with Strawberry Meringue

Makes one 9×5 loaf pan (about 8 big slices or 16 squares) | Filling adapted from Bravetart; meringue inspiration from Erin McDowell

Ingredients:

For the graham cracker crust:
  • 120g graham cracker crumbs
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 12g light brown sugar
  • 42-56g unsalted butter (as needed), melted
For the lemon-elderflower filling:
  • 250g granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 53g cornstarch
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • Zest of 3 lemons
  • 170g freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 340g water 
  • 42g elderflower liqueur (such as St. Germain)
For the strawberry swiss meringue:
  • 30g freeze-dried strawberries
  • 180g granulated sugar
  • 120g egg whites
  • 1/8 tsp cream of tartar
  • Pinch of kosher salt

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven and prepare the pan: Preheat the oven to 350F with a rack in the middle. Line a 9×5 loaf pan with parchment paper leaving 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.5 cm) of overhang on the long sides for easy removal. Lightly grease the pan and parchment. Secure the edges of the parchment with metal binder clips, if desired, to make assembly easier (they keep the parchment paper from flapping around).
  2. Make the graham cracker crust: In a small bowl, mix together the graham cracker crumbs, salt, and sugar. Add about 42g (3T) of melted butter and stir to combine. You’re looking for a wet sand consistency — when you squeeze a bit of the mixture in your hand, it should hold together easily but not feel overly greasy. The amount of butter needed can vary depending on the brand of crumbs and how finely ground they are. Add more melted butter as needed, a teaspoon at a time, until you reach the right consistency.
  3. Transfer the crumb mixture to the prepared pan and use a small glass or measuring cup to press it along the bottom of the pan firmly and evenly. Bake for about 12 minutes, or until fragrant and just set. Transfer to a wire cooling rack.
  4. Make the lemon-elderflower filling: Set a sieve over a medium heatsafe bowl. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, salt, and cornstarch until well combined. Add the egg yolks, zest, lemon juice, water, and liqueur and whisk to combine.
  5. Cook over low heat until steaming, whisking constantly. Raise the heat to medium-low and continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and starts to bubble. Once the bubbles appear, continue whisking and cooking for two full minutes (set a timer! It’s important to not skimp on the time or the filling will not set properly). Take care as the mixture will sputter and spit a bit.
  6. Strain the filling into the prepared container to remove the zest, then scrape the filling over the prepared crust. Cool at room temperature until a skin forms over the surface, about 30-45 minutes, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the filling is cold and fully set, at least 4 or up to 24 hours.
  7. Make the strawberry meringue and assemble the bars: About an hour before serving, remove the bars from the refrigerator and transfer to a serving plate. Discard the parchment.
  8. To make the meringue, fill a medium saucepan with 2-3 inches of water and bring to a simmer. While the water is heating up, combine the freeze-dried strawberries and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the strawberries are ground into a fine powder. Transfer the strawberry-sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk in the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt.
  9. Place the bowl on top of the saucepan to create a double-boiler—this heats the egg mixture gently to avoid scrambling the eggs. The base of the bowl should not touch the simmering water.
  10. Heat the egg white mixture, stirring frequently and scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl with a heatproof spatula, until it reaches 165°F (74C) on an instant-read thermometer. The mixture should be quite thick and the sugar completely dissolved.
  11. Remove the bowl from the double-boiler and transfer to a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on high speed until the meringue has increased in size 3-4x times and holds glossy medium-stiff peaks, about 4-5 minutes. (It will still be a little warm — don’t overbeat or the meringue can get a little gooey and difficult to spread.)
  12. Immediately scrape the meringue on top of the lemon filling and use a spatula or spoon to spread it over the top. Swoop and swirl as you desire.
  13. To serve, use a hot, sharp knife to slice (clean the knife with a hot, damp towel between cuts). The bars are best served immediately. Refrigerate any leftovers in an airtight container.

Baked to Order: Photography Sneak Peek

My first cookbook, Baked to Order, comes out in just a few short days! One of my main takeaways from the cookbook writing experience is that it takes a village. I could not have written this book without the help of SO MANY people! In particular I wanted to give a shout-out to my wonderful cookbook photography partner Diana Muresan.

Diana took photos for all sixty main recipes in the book, plus chapter openers and step-by-step photos for some of the more intricate processes. COVID lockdowns hit when we were about a third done with the photos, which prevented us from working in the same room as much as we had planned (not to mention it threw a major wrench into our childcare/school routines!). In retrospect, I’m still not entirely sure how we pulled it off. There were a lot of spreadsheets, socially distanced food drop-offs, and FaceTime consultations involved. But challenges were made to be conquered! I personally learned so much from watching Diana in action — she has an incredible eye for light and detail. I can’t wait for you all to enjoy her beautiful photos!

I asked Diana to share a few of her favorite images from Baked to Order, along with a few food photography tips. Be sure to check out her website and follow her on Instagram!


At Ruth’s invitation, I am sharing my favourite images from Baked to Order, and a bit about the photography and styling process behind them. It was a fantastic project, and like all worthwhile life experiences, it had its ups and downs (hello, lockdown). The best thing about creating the photography was working with Ruth, whose skill, patience, and optimism seemed endless, even amidst the challenges of finding ingredients during food staple shortages, or transporting ready-made baked masterpieces to my studio to be photographed. If you ever took a cake to a party, sweating bullets at every turn or pothole, and praying your cake makes it in one piece, unscathed, then you know what those weeks looked like for us. But amazingly, not a single crumb was harmed during transportation, and all the goodies made it to my studio in one piece, ready for their moment of glory. Working “together but apart” on the book wasn’t exactly how Ruth or I had envisioned our collaboration at the start, but I am really proud of this book and I hope that you enjoy it too.

braided sourdough challah

Braided sourdough challah

We were experienced baked goods transporters by the day when I opened the door and Ruth was standing there, holding a baking sheet with this braided challah on it. It looked stunning, and was still warm. My jaw dropped and I could not look away – it is one of the easiest subjects I’ve ever photographed. I literally just placed it down on set and started clicking. It’s one of my favourite images in the book, with its appealing simplicity of a beautiful bread hugged by gentle light.


Earl Grey Bundt

Earl Grey bundt cake

This is one of the more propped shots in the book, as I made an effort to hint to the bundt’s tea flavouring by adding props that supported the story. In the interest of creating an image with nice glaze drips, we decided to glaze the bundt after it was already on set. If you are styling a bundt with a glaze, adjust its consistency carefully, so the drips flow slowly and you have plenty of opportunity to capture them in crisp detail. 


bostock

Bostock

If there is powdered sugar to be photographed, I’ll make it a priority to photograph it in motion – it is one of the most beautiful food gestures that can be captured, in my opinion. So I decided to capture a motion shot for the bostock. The difficulty was creating an action shot in horizontal orientation, which does not naturally lend itself to food action images. We normally drip, drizzle, sprinkle or pour vertically – so fitting that into a horizontal frame was challenging. I still think it is beautiful, and definitely learned a few tricks while shooting it.


chocolate raspberry cake

David’s chocolate raspberry cake

The way light interacts with the different textures of chocolate is so interesting, and this cake gave me the chance to observe that. I took some images of the whole cake, but the magic was missing: I wanted the readers to see what the inside looked like. I knew from Ruth’s briefing on the recipe that the layers were sandwiched together with juicy raspberries in between, and also knew the layers would look perfect when cut. Grouping several plated slices in the shot hints at a celebratory gathering, and it’s as if we are just waiting to be handed a plate so we could, with a satisfied smile, finally dig in.


mango strawberry

Mango strawberry tart

The fantastic thing about a tart is that it can be styled in so many ways: whole with sparse garnishes for a flatlay, or with lots of garnish, sliced once, or with many slices, as I’ve done here. To achieve the clean cuts, I made sure to not place garnishes where the cuts were going to be, as garnishes get pulled down into your tart if you are trying to cut through them when slicing. So after taking a few shots of the uncut tart with the strawberry garnish, I removed the strawberry halves, then sliced it, and finally re-positioned the strawberries. Another thing to keep in mind is to keep the garnish as fresh-looking as possible, since “tired” garnishes would make even the best-looking tart look… well, tired. 


I have so many other favourites, and I hope you will have some of your own once you hold the book in your hands. Ruth put her heart into it, and we both strived to create something you would enjoy and use often in your own kitchen. Happy baking!


Baked to Order comes out November 17, 2020. Preorder wherever books are sold!

Coffee date squares

I’ve been leaning hard into nostalgic bakes lately; and these coffee date squares are my latest crush. An oat-flecked bar cookie with a layer of sweet date filling, date squares make a perfect sweet bite alongside your warm beverage of choice.

Date squares are popular coffeehouse fare here in Canada. Apparently in some parts of the country they’re known as “matrimonial cake” — possibly because the varying flavors and textures mirror the complexities of marriage (I know…it’s a stretch), or maybe because they were frequently served at weddings.

Name speculations aside, these old-fashioned treats are simple to make and enjoy. I’ve added coffee to help balance the sweetness of the dates, but these bars just call for personalization. Try simmering the dates in a mixture of water and orange or lemon juice (add some orange zest to the crumble if you want to play up the citrus notes!), or swap in your favorite medley of warming spices.

A few notes:
  • I use a food processor to make the crumble mixture for speed’s sake, but if you can also rub the butter in by hand. In general, I prefer using cold butter (vs. softened or melted) for crumb bars and streusels as I find the crumbs hold their shape well and have my ideal firm-but-tender texture after baking.
  • If you don’t want to use nuts, you can swap in an additional 45 g (1/2 c) oats instead (add them at the end with the rest of the oats).
  • You can use plain all-purpose flour for the crumble, but I think whole grain flour adds extra character and flavor to these bars! I’m a big fan of Flourist sifted Red Fife in baked goods, but you could try white whole-wheat, a mix of all-purpose and whole grain, or all whole grain for a heartier texture.

Coffee date squares

Makes one 8×8 pan

Ingredients:

For the coffee date filling:

  • 300g (1 3/4 c) dried Medjool dates, pitted and chopped
  • 200g (3/4 c plus 2 Tbsp) freshly brewed coffee
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda

For the crust and crumb:

  • 188g (1 1/2 c) flour (I used Flourist sifted Red Fife)
  • 45g (1/3 c) toasted walnuts or hazelnuts
  • 1 tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt
  • 100g (1/2 c) light brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp finely ground coffee
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 200g (14 Tbsp) unsalted butter, cubed and cold
  • 90g (1 c) rolled oats (preferably regular, not quick)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F with a rack in the middle. Line an 8×8 square pan with two criss-crossed pieces of parchment paper, leaving a few inches of overhang on all edges. (This makes it easy to remove the squares from the pan later.)
  2. Make the coffee date filling: In a medium saucepan, combine the chopped dates and coffee. Cook over medium heat, stirring and mashing the dates frequently, until the dates have broken down and the mixture is thick and relatively smooth, about 10 minutes. Add the baking soda and stir to combine thoroughly. Scrape filling into a bowl and let cool while you continue with the recipe.
  3. Make the crust and crumb: In the bowl of a food processor, add the flour, nuts, salt, sugar, ground coffee, and spices. Pulse several times until well combined. Scatter the cold butter over the top and pulse until the mixture starts to form small clumps. Add the oats and pulse just a few times to incorporate — you don’t want the oats to completely break down as they add a nice texture.
  4. Assemble and bake the squares: Transfer approximately 2/3 (400g) of the crumb mixture to the prepared pan. Use a small glass or measuring cup to press the crumbs firmly and evenly across the bottom. Bake for 10 minutes, or until just set.
  5. Use a small offset spatula to spread the date filling evenly over the par-baked base (no need to let the base cool) and sprinkle the remaining crumbs evenly over the top. Bake until the top is golden brown, about 22-30 minutes. Let cool completely before slicing — I find chilling the bars in the fridge for a couple hours makes slicing a breeze. Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days or freeze for longer storage.