Raspberry Blood Orange Bars
Can it be? It’s the day before Valentine’s Day and I am actually posting something appropriately sweet! (And pink and red!)
Nothing chocolatey though, since I like tangy fruit desserts even better than chocolate ones. (Good thing every other food blog out there has got you covered…)
And no, I’m probably not going to start being on top of themed holiday posts all year round; I didn’t even intend for these to be Valentine’s-y… I made them last week, for Paula’s birthday.
At first she requested the same zesty lemon lime bars I made for her birthday last year. But then she changed her mind and asked for blood orange bars. This would have been easy enough to accommodate, since it’s just swapping in a different kind of citrus juice… until she also asked me to add raspberries. An inspired flavor and color combination, to be sure, but I was at a loss as to how to do it.
Luckily, it only took two batches to figure it out. (And while the first failed version was not remotely photogenic enough to be shown here; both were delicious.)
For attempt #1, I assembled all the ingredients for each layer, and stuck the crust in the oven. When it came time to add the raspberries, I simply scattered a layer of frozen whole raspberries—dusted with sugar and flour—on top of the crust, and for some reason (hunger? impatience? denial?) I assumed that pouring the raw citrus-curd topping over the top of the raspberries would result in nice separate layers.
Instead, the liquidy mixture of blood orange juice, lemon, sugar, and eggs immediately swirled under and around the raspberries. The watery topping took ages to firm up—more than double lemon bars’ usual baking time.
It was also not as pretty as you might think: I’d used frozen rather than fresh raspberries, some of which were smushed and broken, so the ice still clinging to the raspberries diluted the bright pink of the blood orange curd to a duller, faded color, and there were splotchy yellow lemon/egg swirls around the bashed up raspberry bits.
Needless to say, I didn’t take photos.
Also needless to say, it still tasted good! (Even though I’d also added way too much sugar…)
So let me make a long story
short a little less long and say that the second batch was perfection.
I knew the raspberry layer would need to keep to itself, so I simmered the frozen raspberries in a saucepan for a few minutes until they gelled and thickened, then I gave that layer its own 10 minutes of baking time before pouring over the citrusy topping and putting it back in the oven.
The vibrant bars are gooey and sweet. They’re not as tart as the lemon lime bars thanks to the sugary blood orange juice, but I added some lemon juice and used less sugar the second time to make them a little less saccharine. The thick raspberry layer adds a nice tartness and textural contrast.
The red and pink layers pretty much kept to themselves, except in a few spots around the edges. The few remaining hints of yellow, and the rogue bubbles of deep red raspberry, were nothing that couldn’t be covered up by a light sprinkling of powdered sugar on top.
I’m pretty proud of this recipe—even though the idea was all Paula’s—since I don’t often invent or experiment with baked desserts; I’m much more of a cook than a baker. These are the prettiest, tastiest treats I’ve whipped up in a while. I plan to keep making them until the blood oranges disappear for the season; and I look forward to eating them in winters to come.
Happy Valentine’s Day if you’re celebrating!
(And happy Anna Howard Shaw Day if you’re a 30 Rock fan!)
Print this recipe. (PDF)
(Makes 16 small square bars)
Active time: 45 minutes; Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes.
~ 8 Tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
~ ¼ cup sugar
~ 1 tsp. vanilla extract
~ ¼ tsp. salt
~ 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. flour
~ 12 oz. frozen raspberries
~ 2 Tbsp. flour
~ 1 Tbsp. sugar
~ 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Blood Orange Topping Ingredients:
~ ¾ cup sugar
~ 3 Tbsp. flour
~ 3 large eggs, whisked well until smooth
~ ½ cup strained fresh blood orange juice (from 5-6 small or 2-3 large oranges)
~ 2 Tbsp. strained fresh lemon juice (from ½ a lemon)
~ powdered sugar, for dusting
How to make it:
1. Move an oven rack to the lower third of the oven, and pre-heat to 350 degrees. Line the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch square baking dish with parchment paper or foil.
2. Make the crust: In a medium bowl, combine the melted butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Whisk until this mixture is smooth, then fold in the flour with a rubber spatula until just mixed. Press the dough across the bottom of the baking dish—it will be thin, and might take a little time to cover the entire pan evenly. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the crust is starting to brown at the edges and in the center.
3. While the crust is baking, cook the raspberries: In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the raspberries, flour, sugar, and lemon juice. Cook for 10-15 minutes total, turning the heat up to medium once the raspberries have started to release some liquid, and turning the heat up to medium-high for the last 3-4 minutes, to simmer and thicken the raspberries. They are done when you can see a clear path after dragging a spoon across the bottom of the pan, even if only for a moment. Remove from the heat and set aside.
4. When the crust is ready, remove from the oven and pour over the cooked raspberries. Evenly spread out the raspberries with a rubber spatula, then return to the oven for 8-10 minutes, until the raspberry layer looks glossy and firm.
5. Meanwhile, make the topping: In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar and flour, then whisk in the eggs. Stir in the strained blood orange/lemon juice.
6. When the raspberry layer is done baking, turn the oven down to 325 degrees. Remove the baking dish from the oven and let stand for 2-5 minutes (so the raspberry layer can continue to firm up) before pouring the blood orange filling over it. Bake for another 25 minutes, or until the topping no longer jiggles in the center when you tap the side of the pan.
7. Let cool completely in the baking dish, set on a cooling rack. Then lift up the parchment and transfer to a cutting board. Use a long, sharp knife to cut the bars into 16 squares. The bars can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. Optionally dust with powdered sugar just before serving (but don’t dust with powdered sugar if you’re making them ahead of time; the sugar will dissolve into the tops of the bars, and you won’t be able to see it).
Print this recipe! (PDF)
Related recipe posts:
|Blood Orange Tart||Zesty Lemon Lime Bars||Cara Cara Orange Chocolate Cake||Raspberry Chocolate Tart with Coconut Crust|