So we’re about two weeks into the New Year which is normally when most people have give up on their ridiculous New Year resolutions that they set as the bell strikes midnight signalling the end of 2013 and the start of an exciting 2014 (actually most people only make it to 10 days supposedly).
Resolutions tend to follow a theme which mainly involve taking away the lovely things we enjoy from day-to-day, life’s small pleasures as I like to think of them. Whether it’s a bar of chocolate, a steaming cup of coffee or a large chilled white wine, these suddenly seem to be treated as the devil’s treats! I’m not sure I’m much of a believer in punishing yourself in January when life is miserable enough, especially when really you can enjoy them all in some moderation.
I’d rather view the concept of New Year resolutions as a positive opportunity to enhance rather than take away from the things that you enjoy regularly. In my case my passion is cooking so I was always going to focus on this area of my life to achieve improvement. Trying new flavour combinations, experimenting more and just seeing what turns out as you pull the baking tray from the oven after you’ve altered a recipe and using ingredients you’ve never tried before in different ways are goals I’ve set myself for 2014.
After the over-indulgence of Christmas and New Year I was craving fresh citrus flavours to cut through the sweetness that I’d become accustomed to over the past few weeks. There are so many strong citrus flavours in season including blood oranges, limes, lemons and pomegranates that it ends up being difficult to pick one!
Often a citrus flavour can provide that sweetness you might be craving after a meal especially when you team it up with natural sweeteners like maple syrup and coconut.
I’m a big fan of lemon drizzle cake and using lemon to provide a flavour hit in cakes and I found these wonderful lemon coconut bars on a blog I love called Green Kitchen Stories. It was also handy that with so few ingredients involved (of which in our kitchen are store cupboard staples), I set to work with an hour free one afternoon.
The result was a lovely light ‘cake-like’ bar with a crunchy coconut base and then a soft sponge sitting on top. The coconut base gives a crust that is reminiscent of a cheesecake but with a gentler edge to bite through. The coconut having been made a little bit more tacky from the maple syrup then you would find with a digestive base.
I know you’re wondering how you can compare a full fat lemon drizzle cake with all its gooey-lemony-sticky yumminess, but I do think these bars put up a great fight. There is still the hit of lemon that you expect from a lemon cake and the stickiness comes from the addition of maple syrup but without an overriding flavour shadowing what you really want from a lemon bar which is a great big punch of lemon in the chops!
I’ve long been a champion of ground almonds rather than lots of flour in cake recipes and these are another example of why ground almonds work so well in cakes. They deliver such lightness that you barely notice that whilst writing your blog, you’ve gone and devoured four of five pieces of cake!
I urge you to try these and remember you also get to feel a little bit saintly whilst you eat them safe in the knowledge that whilst you’ve broken your new year’s resolution not to eat cake for a month (boring!), really in this instance, they are just mouthfuls of lemony goodness.
Gooey lemon coconut bars
Inspired by Green Kitchen Stories, lemon coconut bars
Makes about 20 bars of 1×4 inch size
75g coconut oil
3 tbsp maple syrup
200g shredded coconut (unsweetened)
100 g ground almonds
1 pinch sea salt
2 egg whites (save the yolks for the filling)
3 eggs + 2 egg yolks
6 tbsp maple syrup
80 ml lemon juice + 1 tbsp zest (around 2 lemons)
35 g ground almonds
Dust with 3 tbsp icing sugar
Set the oven to 175°C. Line a 12×8 inch baking dish with baking paper.
Melt coconut oil in a sauce pan on low/medium heat.
Add maple syrup, shredded coconut, ground almonds and salt. Stir the mixture until everything is combined and then remove the saucepan from the heat.
Crack two eggs, save the egg yolks for later and add the whites to the sauce pan while stirring. Keep stirring for about a minute until the mixture is quite sticky.
Pour the coconut mixture into your baking dish and using the back of a spoon flatten the mixture so that it becomes quite compact and firm.
Bake for 10-12 minutes and whilst it’s baking make a start on the filling.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs and the 2 egg yolks from earlier with an electric mixer until frothy (think soft peaks).
Add the rest of the ingredients to the eggs and beat for a couple more minutes before pouring the mixture over the baked crust in the baking dish.
Bake for around 16-19 minutes or until edges are light brown and centre is set and slightly firm too touch.
Leave the cake to cool slightly in the tin before removing it onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Cut the cake up into bars roughly of the size of about 1×4 inches to make about 20 bars.
Dust with icing sugar.