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Meyer lemons, almonds team in heavenly dessert bars

Recipe: Meyer lemon bars with almond shortbread crust

A sprinkle of powdered sugar is the final touch for Meyer lemon bars with almond crust.

A sprinkle of powdered sugar is the final touch for Meyer lemon bars with almond crust. Debbie Arrington

Meyer lemons on a tree
Meyer lemons are ripe for picking now

It’s Meyer lemon season and time to celebrate these juicy little marvels. Believed to be a cross between a mandarin and a standard lemon, Meyer lemons tend to be small with smooth skin. Naturally sweet, they’re packed with lemon flavor but no bitterness.

Which makes Meyer lemons ideal for lemony desserts; not as much sugar is needed to balance their acidity.

Here’s a lemon bar variation that makes the most of the Meyer lemon difference. Eureka or other standard lemons may be substituted, but the filling will be tarter and not quite as sublime.

Chopped almonds and almond flour pack the shortbread crust with almond flavor – a nice complement to the Meyer lemon filling. A little bit of all-purpose flour added to the filling helps create a delicate top “crust.” A dusting of powdered sugar is optional.

Because Meyer lemons are small, you’ll need two (maybe three) lemons for this recipe.

Meyer lemon bars with almond shortbread crust

Makes 16 bars

Ingredients:

For crust:

½ cup salted butter, room temperature

½ cup powdered sugar

¾ cup all-purpose flour

¾ cup almond flour

¼ cup almonds, chopped

Lemons and almonds on a turquoise plate
Meyer lemons pair well with almonds.

For filling:

2 eggs

1 cup sugar

½ teaspoon baking powder

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

¼ cup Meyer lemon juice

1 tablespoon Meyer lemon zest

More powdered sugar for dusting (optional)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

With a mixer, beat butter until fluffy, about 30 seconds. Add ½ cup powdered sugar and mix to combine. Add ¾ cup flour and the almond flour; mix to combine. Fold in chopped almonds.

Line an 8-by 8-by 2-inch deep pan or baking dish with parchment paper. Press the crust mixture into the pan, using the bottom of a glass or spatula.

Bake crust in 350-degree oven until top is light golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes.

While the crust is baking, prepare the filling. In a medium bowl, beat eggs with mixer until creamy. Add 1 cup sugar, baking powder and remaining flour. Beat to combine. Add lemon juice and zest. Beat to combine; filling will be light and creamy.

16 lemon bars on a plate
Sweet enough and very lemony.

When ready, remove crust from oven and cool slightly (1 or 2 minutes). Pour filling over crust and return pan to oven. Bake at 350 degrees for another 20 to 25 minutes or until top is light brown at the edges and a delicate crust has formed.

Remove from oven and cool on rack. Carefully remove from pan by lifting up parchment paper and transferring to a cutting board or large plate. Pull down paper around outer edges. Sift 2 or 3 tablespoons of powdered sugar over top. Cut into 2-by-2-inch bars. Transfer bars to another plate to continue cooling. Serve at room temperature.

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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 3:

* Celebrate the city flower! Catch the 100th Sacramento Camellia Show 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 2, and 10 a.m to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 3, at the Scottish Rite Center, 6151 H St., Sacramento. Admission is free.

* Between showers, pick up fallen camellia blooms; that helps cut down on the spread of blossom blight that prematurely browns petals.

* Feed camellias after they bloom with fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants.

* Camellias need little pruning. Remove dead wood and shape, if necessary.

* Tread lightly or not at all on wet ground; it compacts soil.

* Avoid digging in wet soil, too; wait until it clumps in your hand but doesn’t feel squishy.

* Note spots in your garden that stay wet after storms; improve drainage with the addition of organic matter such as compost.

* Keep an eye out for leaning trunks or ground disturbances around a tree’s base, a sign of shifting roots in the wet soil.

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* If aphids are attracted to new growth, knock them off with a strong spray of water or insecticidal soap. To make your own “bug soap,” use two tablespoons liquid soap – not detergent – to one quart water in a spray bottle. Shake it up before use. Among the liquid soaps that seem most effective are Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soaps; try the peppermint scent.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Make plans for your summer garden. Once the soil is ready, start adding amendments such as compost.

* Indoors, start seeds for summer favorites such as tomatoes, peppers and squash as well as summer flowers.

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