Magic Lemon Bars (SCD)

When I was a girl there was just one dessert my mother made from scratch and she called it Magic Lemon Pudding. The moment the clean scent of lemon zest hit my nostrils and I heard the laboured sound of the hand whisk clunking away, I knew we were in for a rare treat.

Sometimes she even let us beat the eggs into a wonder of gravity defying foam, each taking our turn to hold the bowl, whilst the other grappled with the neglected whisk and its fascinating arrangement of cogs set into motion by the cranky wooden handle. In a childhood largely devoid of cosseting and delicious treats, this dessert was ambrosial manna from heaven. We called it magic lemon pudding because it was one of those sponge desserts that separate to form a sauce underneath. To us it seemed like alchemy. Watching that sponge rise to the top of its Pyrex dish, through the glass door of the oven was like witnessing a miracle every time.

So now when I want something that speaks to my inner child of comfort, I turn instictively to lemons and butter and almonds. I'm not offering a recipe for magic lemon pudding just yet - although I'm sure it will emerge in time - instead I give you these snack bars that remind me how delicious that dessert is, with the additional benefit of portability. Don't be fooled by their unpretentious packaging - these babies are all that. They have a satisfying body to them, a little like marzipan but without the overpowering wallop of almond essence. The mild nut flavours support the three separate notes of woody bourbon vanilla, mouth filling cocoa butter and fresh tingling lemon zest. Each finding its own receptor on the tongue if you let it.

You could eat these bars for breakfast if you like, but please don't scoff them in a hurry whilst running for a bus. Look on them as a little slice of something to savour in a quiet moment. Something to slip into a lunch box with a knowing wink at the recipient. A welcome pick me up for a tired small person as they tumble out of the school gates.

If you don't have cocoa butter don't despair - you can make these with dairy butter or even coconut oil, but use a little less and don't melt the fat as it is already soft enough. You will have to refridgerate them to get the same toothsome bite or just enjoy a slightly softer version instead. You can also make them purely with almonds or any combination of pale nuts such as cashews or macadamias. If you can't find blanched hazels, just roast them gently for about 15-20 mins at 140C and then tip them into a tea towel and rub off the skins, blow the loose skins away outside for the birds to nibble on.

Magic Lemon Bars (SCD) makes 8-10 bars

2 oz each of brazil nuts and blanched hazels
2 oz ground almonds (almond flour)
2 heaped tsp raw honey
finely grated zest 2 unwaxed lemons
1 tsp bourbon vanilla extract
1 oz cocoa butter - (or coconut oil if you can't find cocoa butter - it will taste very different but still delicious!)

Chop the cocoa butter roughly and melt in a bain marie. Set aside. (if using coconut oil there is no need to do this, just add later in the recipe unheated).

Grind brazils and hazels to a fine meal in a coffee grinder, or process as fine as possible in a food processor (without turning into nut butter or bars will be horribly oily).

Into the bowl of a food processor, tip the almonds, ground nuts and lemon zest - pulse to mix.

Spoon in honey and drizzle over vanilla and cocoa butter. Pulse until the mixture looks like damp crumbs.

Cover a chopping board in cling film or baking parchment and tip the nut mixture out. At this point it looks like it will never form a dough, but have faith. I use a large chopping knife for this part, a square sided cleaver is even better. Push the mixture into a rough oblong about 3 1/2 inches by 6 inches and 3/4 inch thick, using both your hands and the knife to encourage the mixture. Then slap it with the flat part of the knife to compact it and tidy up the sides.

When you are happy with the compactness and neatness of your oblong (and have vented any pent up frustration) leave it for ten minutes to set - in a place away from cats and children. Then slice into bars and wrap in greaseproof paper or waxed paper, twisting the ends to secure.
The bars will keep for a few days happily at room temperature, a week or so in the fridge in an airtight box or a for a few weeks in the freezer in a box. If you can keep them that long I'll give you a special certificate commending your strength of will.

If you like these, I also have a darker hazelnut version in the pipeline which is pretty fabulous too x x x