Meyer Lemon Bars with Graham Cracker Crust


I love finding new ways to tweak old classics — it’s a great exercise in cooking creatively, and oftentimes is a way to make sure that ingredients get eaten instead of thrown out. I was recently given a bag of Meyer lemons and wanted to find a way to make something unique with them.

meyer lemons

The history and genealogy of citrus varieties is pretty fascinating– most modern varieties are complex, crisscrossed hybrids of a few older variants. Without delving too far into that, Meyer lemons are thought to originally have been a cross between oranges and lemons, taste-wise. They’ve got the bright yellow color and some of the tartness of a regular lemon, but are a lot mellower and tend to have a sweeter, more floral taste. As a result, cooking with them requires less added sugar to balance out their acidity.

Because the Meyer lemon curd for these bars is less intense than with regular lemons, I decided to go with a slightly more robust crust than the standard shortbread used for lemon bars. Rich, buttery graham cracker-crusted pies and cheesecakes is one of my favorite things. Graham cracker flour uses the whole wheat grain, giving it a much more wholesome, grainy flavor than regular flour. I used a modified version of a shortbread crust with crushed graham crackers to make the base for these lemon bars.

lemon bars

Meyer Lemon Bars with Graham Cracker Crust

Lemon curd adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Lemon Bars

Graham Cracker Crust Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 9 crackers)
  • 1 cup AP flour
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt

Meyer Lemon Curd Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup Meyer lemon juice (3-4 large Meyer lemons)
  • 1 Tablespoon + 1 tsp grated Meyer lemon zest (about 3 lemons)
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar


  1. For the crust: To make graham cracker crumbs, either pulse the graham crackers in a food processor, or place in a sturdy (freezer-style) Ziploc bag and crush with a rolling pin until pulverized. Combine graham cracker crumbs, flour and salt in a mixing bowl and set aside.
  2. Cream butter and sugar together until smooth, then add graham cracker mixture. Mix until combined.
  3. Turn dough onto a piece of wax paper or parchment paper and shape into a flattened disc, then place in the freezer for about 15 minutes.graham cracker dough
  4. Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 9×13″ pan with butter, then press the dough into the pan, pressing up the sides to form a 1/2″ lip around the edges. Stick in the fridge for a few more minutes while the oven in preheating.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until lightly browned. Set the pan on a wire rack to cool. Leave the oven on!
  6. For the custard: Combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, flour and eggs in a bowl and beat until well combined.
  7. Pour custard over cooled crust carefully.lemon bars unbaked
  8. Return to oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, about 5 minutes beyond the point where the custard is set in the middle.
  9. Cool on a wire rack, and dust with powdered sugar before serving. Note: I noticed that my powdered sugar essentially melted into the bars after a day, so if presentation is super-important, wait until just before serving to dust the bars with sugar. lemon bars with sugar

Peanut Butter Caramel Cookies

pb cookieThis peanut butter caramel cookie was born out of a hunger-fueled, pre-Christmas brainstorming session. The peanut butter cookie dough is based on that of the famed New York bakery Magnolia Bakery, with the add-ins omitted to make room for the caramel swirl. If you’re not down to make your own caramel sauce (which you should, because it takes under 10 minutes and will make you feel like you have your culinary shit together), a few store-bought caramels chopped up and mixed into the dough will suffice.

cookie ingredients

Peanut Butter Caramel Cookie Recipe

Caramel sauce recipe from Smitten Kitchen. Cookie recipe adapted from Magnolia Bakery, NYC.



  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1.5 Tablespoons heavy cream
  • A heavy pinch of sea salt


  • 1 1/4 cup AP flour*
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup peanut butter, room temp**
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 Tbsp heavy cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Extra granulated sugar for rolling

caramel dough

Making the Caramel

  1. Heat a clean, dry saucepan over medium-high heat and add granulated sugar. Stir frequently with a spatula — the sugar will slowly melt.
  2. When the sugar has entirely liquefied and turned golden brown, take it off heat and immediately add the butter. It’s important not to wait too long, as the sugar will keep cooking and can go from golden-delicious to brown-burnt very quickly. Whisk until butter is incorporated.
  3. Put back on (low) heat and add the cream and sea salt — whisk until smooth and homogeneous, then take off heat and let cool. It will stiffen up slightly as it cools, but you don’t want it to be boiling hot when you add it to the cookie dough, so this is fine. If it gets too hard to work with, you can warm it gently before adding it to the cookie dough.

Making the Cookies

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. In a small mixing bowl combine flour, baking powder and soda, and salt.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, blend together butter and peanut butter, then add sugars and blend until fluffy.
  3. Add egg, vanilla extract and cream. Blend until combined.
  4. Add dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated — I like to switch to a wooden spoon or sturdy spatula for this part.
  5. Drizzle caramel sauce into dough – you don’t have to use all of it, I usually use about 2/3 of a batch and reserve the rest.
  6. Fold the caramel into the dough, but don’t overmix- you should have nice thick ribbons of caramel running through the dough.
  7. You can stick the dough in the fridge for a few minutes here if you want to make it a little easier to scoop, but it isn’t entirely necessary.
  8. Scoop dough out in VERY heaped tablespoons (about 2 Tbsp in volume) and roll into a ball, then roll in a small bowl of granulated sugar. Move sugared dough balls to an ungreased cookie sheets. Place them at least 2 inches apart- they tend to spread a good amount. If you like, lightly press criss-crossed marks into top of cookie dough with fork tines.
  9. Bake for 10-12 minutes until set– don’t wait until the edges are brown, but the cookies shouldn’t look doughy in the center.
  10. Let cool for a few minutes, then transfer to a rack to continue cooling.

pb dough balls* One of my other favorite cookie recipes uses a blend of cake flour and bread flour for a chewy yet tender consistency that was completely mind-blowing the first time I tried it. I haven’t tried that yet with these peanut butter caramel cookies, but I do love the idea of it.

**I used a jar of cheap chunky peanut butter from Trader Joe’s. Since the nuances of the peanut butter get a little lost in the sugariness of these cookies, there’s no reason to spend a whole lot of money on peanut butter. Skippy or Jif would do well too!


Black and White Not-So-Shortbread Cookies

I absolutely love Brown-eyed Baker‘s Salted Chocolate Shortbread cookies. To death. So I decided to play around with them for my family’s Christmas dinner this year. Results were deliciously mixed. My mom can’t have regular chocolate, so I adapted the recipe to make a vanilla bean white chocolate version. I also upped the chocolate level of the original version by adding some semisweet chocolate to the mix.


A note on dechocolating (un-chocolate-ifying?) the recipe: because cocoa powder is alkaline, simply omitting it can mess with the integrity of the recipe a bit more than you want to. I added an extra half teaspoon of baking powder to the mix to help compensate, although in the future I might do baking soda instead. Play around with it.

The Process


These require a metric crapload of butter, which is the not-so-secret to delicious cookies. Here is my butter, softening.


Cream together butter and sugars, and once creamy, add egg. Blend until combined. If you’re going the vanilla bean route, now is the time to slice open that magical bean and scrape out the delicious, wonderful caviar that is vanilla bean seeds. A quick how-to aside: use a paring knife to slit the bean open length-wise along one side, and fold open like a sticky little book.


Use a spoon to scrape out some of the black gold. MMMMMMMMM. Save the bean husk (?), it still has plenty of flavor and can be used to make vanilla sugar, vanilla extract….or whatever madcap infusion of vanilla-infused edible you want to dream up. Put it in a bag of coffee beans, maybe? I’m just spitballing here.


If you’re not going the vanilla route, simply press on to the flour-mixture step, where you have adequately fortified your flour mixture with a healthy dose of cocoa powder. Blend on, man.


Last step for the chocoholics out there: fold in some roughly chopped chocolate chips. In baking, folding simply means dumping the enfolded ingredient into the dough, then using a spatula to scoop dough up and over the ingredient, until said ingredient has been roughly incorporated into the dough. Don’t over-do.


With the inclusion of the egg, chilling is probably not entirely necessary, but I found that it helped a lot with preventing the dough from spreading too much during the baking process. So assemble your dough(s) into a log, and wrap tightly in wax paper.


Let your giant cookie dough joints chill in the fridge for a while, then slice them up into a 1-inch discs immediately before baking. Note to future-self: Do not set cookie sheet on top of preheated oven while assembling cookie dough. They will not hold their shape at all. Not that I’m speaking from personal experience or anything. Cough cough.


Sprinkle with sea salt for the chocolate ones, or drizzle with white chocolate for the vanilla bean ones. Or you know what? Drizzle chocolate on the chocolate ones and sea salt on the vanilla ones. The world is your chocolate oyster.


Chocolate Not-So-Shortbread Cookies

1¼ cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 stick plus 3 tablespoons (11 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup light brown sugar
¼ granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt, plus extra for sprinkling
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped

Vanilla Bean Not-So-Shortbread Cookies

1¼ cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick plus 3 tablespoons (11 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup light brown sugar
¼ granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup white chocolate chips, for drizzling
1 inch section of vanilla bean, scraped (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)