When I think of our time living in California, I always think about the citrus fruits in winter. Our neighbors had a lemon tree and it was always full of big, juicy, lemons this time of year. All I had to do was go outside and pick one when I needed a lemon. Cutting open a piece of citrus is an instant mood lifter for me, the smell immediately invigorates me and makes me feel better. I always think of that tree when the days here are long and grey. In California, you are lucky to get ripe citrus all year round. Meyer lemons, limes, oranges, clementines, grapefruit, you name it. But even in California, the blood orange is not available all the time. When they are in season, you need to grab them and enjoy them.
I was at Nall’s Produce the other day picking up my weekly Crop Share, (registration for Early Spring Crop Share is going on now, so sign up!) and they had these gorgeous blood oranges. They had to come home with me. I am hard pressed to find a more gorgeous fruit. The outside looks like a normal orange, but when you slice it open, you find the most gorgeous maroon flesh. Blood oranges are more tart then an orange, so I knew that they would be perfect to try in place of lemon in my favorite lemon bar recipe.
Since I love orange and vanilla together, I added some vanilla bean to the filling. If you don’t have orange extract on hand, just leave it out, or use lemon. Also, I found that the filling took longer to set than regular lemon bars. I baked these for an extra few minutes with a piece of tin foil loosely on top so the top didn’t brown too much. After they cooled, I put them in the fridge and they were perfectly set when I cut them. Dust with a little powdered sugar, and you are good to go. These freeze really well, so you could pull some out when you need a little citrus pick em up.
2 cups flour
1 cup Dixie Crystals confectioner’s sugar
Pinch of salt
1 cup butter
2 cups Dixie Crystals sugar
4 Tablespoons blood orange juice
4 Tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 vanilla bean, split and seeded
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray. Put flour, sugar, salt, and butter into a food processor.
Pulse until it resembles coarse peas. It will be pretty dry, and seem like it will never make a crust, but it does.
Press into the bottom of the pan.
Bake for 20 minutes. Let the crust cool for a few minutes and get started on the filling.
How gorgeous is the flesh and juice from a blood orange. Their season is way too short as far as I am concerned.
Put the eggs, blood orange juice, flour, orange extract, baking powder, and vanilla bean in the bowl of the food processor. Process until smooth.
Pour over the cooled crust. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes. Cool completely and cut into squares.
Disclaimer: I have an ongoing partnership with Dixie Crystals. Opinions are my own.