Monday, February 7, 2011

Lemon Bars, Episode 2: The Agar Agar Strikes Back

No surprise here, but this winter's been wearing me out. Sure, it's been cold. And there's been lots of snow. I can deal with that. But I just can't deal with a week of GRAY skies. I mean seriously. The trees are dead. The snow is dirty. I need some color here. (Note: The Photo below was taken at noon. NOON.)
I can handle single-digit temps and wintry mix if I can just get blue sky and sunshine a couple days a week. But no, a week of gray. This weather had me on the edge and I needed some color. So I did what always seems to make sense. I made some lemon bars. Bring the sunshine in.
A year ago, I battled my lemon bar demons. But that was back in my pregan (pre-vegan) days when butter and eggs were still in my fridge. A vegan attempt was long over due, especially since I have at least 3 different recipes to try. I started with Isa and Terry's version, since that's usually the best place to start.
The jury's still out on this recipe. As far as appearances go, these did the trick. They looked beautiful; bright, sunny, little gems in my dreary February world. I'm just not sure I liked the taste. (Though, to be sure, I kept eating them...)
They hardly had any lemon flavor, despite adding more juice and zest than the recipe called for. And the texture was just weird. Too solid, yet soft. Sorta like those fruit-shaped jelly candies. Weird.  Maybe I loved my pregan lemon bars a little to much for these to compare. Or maybe I screwed up the agar agar. It was my first time working with it, and it seemed a little too thick to me. Is there a manual for baking with agar agar?
So what's the deal? Have any of you made this recipe before? Does it just not suit my taste, or did I screw up? People, I need to know. Enlighten me.

Until then, I think I'll move on to the recipe in The Joy of Vegan Baking. Lemon bars, you haven't heard the last of me...

Vegan Lemon Bars
from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar


1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour 

2/3 cup powdered sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

1 cup non-hydrogenated margarine 


1 1/3 cups water

3 tablespoons agar agar flakes

1 1/4 cups sugar

1/8 teaspoon tumeric

2/3 cup fresh lemon juice

3 tablespoons arrowroot powder 

1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (from two large lemons)

1/4 cup soymilk

Extra powdered or confectioners’ sugar to decorate finished bars 

Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a 13 x 9 inch baking pan.

Pulse flour, powdered sugar and cornstarch in food processor. Add margarine in spoonfuls and blend, 8 to 10 seconds, and then pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle mixture into prepared baking pan and press firmly into an even layer with slightly raised sides to hold in the filling. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes and then bake for 40 minutes; remove from oven and let cool. Meanwhile, prepare the filling.

In a sauce pot, soak the agar agar in the water for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, zest your lemons and squeeze your lemon juice. Mix the arrowroot into the lemon juice to dissolve.

When the agar has been soaking for 15 minutes, turn the heat up and bring to a boil. Boil for about 10 minutes, or until the agar is completely dissolved. Add the sugar and tumeric and boil until dissolved, about 3 minutes. Lower the heat to medium and add the arrow root and lemon juice mixture, then add the lemon zest and soy milk. Wisk constantly until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. It should not be rapidly boiling, but lowly bubbling is ok.

Pour the mixture into the prepared crust, let cool for 20 minutes and then refrigerate for at least 3 hours, until the filling is only slightly jiggly and set. Use a sifter or a fine mesh strainer for sprinkle the bars with powdered sugar. Slice into squares and serve.


  1. look amazing! I love that pudding-like/jiggly texture for desserts