Sunday, April 17, 2011

Vegan Lemongrass-Lemon Bars, with Coconut Shortbread Crust!

Vegan Lemongrass-Lemon Bars, with Coconut Shortbread Crust!

    This weekend I had the pleasure of hosting dinner for my besties parents on their very first visit to the fine state of Massachusetts. I have spent many a night an their house back home in Long Island, enjoying lots of yummy eats, and drinking plenty of wine. I knew that our night at my place would be no different.
    I was informed that I was to be the chef of the night (naturally), and they would be providing the ingredients for a wonderful dinner. Of course I felt the need to put my touch on the meal by making some sort of bangin' dessert. So while my bestie and her boyfriend took the parents on a scenic drive of the north shore of Massachusetts, I set out to devise the perfect dessert.
    I wanted something unique, not too heavy, not super rich, not too weird, and not messy. Then I remembered that I had seen a recipe in Bon Appetite for Lemongrass Bars with Coconut Shortbread Crust, and I knew that I had found my recipe!
    Now here's where it gets complicated. The recipe in Bon Appetite was for a traditional egg based filling, and my bud is quite put off by eggs in her food. So I began the challenge of veganizing a recipe that relies very much on eggs.
    Luckily I have made the vegan Lemon Bars recipe from Isa Moskowitz's book Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, so I knew that a vegan lemon topping was possible, and very yummy! My recipe is based on her recipe with a few subtle differences, plus the delicious, and unique addition of lemongrass.
    Anyways, a delicious dinner of fresh swordfish, scallops (or scollops as the New England natives say), haddock, grilled veggies, and mashed sweet potatoes was enjoyed by all. It was washed down with a healthy six bottles of wine, and ended with these totally delicious Lemongrass-Lemon Bars with Coconut Shortbread Crust! A wonderful night indeed!
Vegan Lemongrass-Lemon Bars, with Coconut Shortbread Crust

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons vegan butter (such as Earth Balance)

3 Tablespoons agar agar flakes
1 1/3 cups water
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 4 lemons)
3 tablespoons arrowroot powder
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 lemongrass stalks, bottom 4 inches only, tough outer layer removed, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 cup soy milk

     Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 13x9-inch baking pan.
     Using an electric mixer, beat flour, coconut, powdered sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl until well blended, 30 seconds. Add butter, beat on low speed until moist clumps form. Press dough onto bottom of the prepared baking pan, with slightly raised sides to hold the filling. Bake crust until golden, about 25 minutes. Remove, and let cool completely.
     In a sauce pot, soak the agar agar in the water for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, squeeze your lemon juice. Mix the arrowroot powder into the lemon juice to dissolve.
     Meanwhile, pour the sugar, and lemongrass into a food processor and pulse until the lemongrass is finely ground, about 1 minute. Set aside.
     When the agar 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 agar is completely dissolved. Add the sugar/lemongrass mixture, and the turmeric and boil until sugar is dissolved, about 3 minutes. Lower the heat to medium and add the arrowroot powder mixture, then add the soy milk. Stir constantly until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. It should not be rapidly boiling, but a low bubbling is okay.
     Pour the mixture into the prepared crust, let it cool for 20 minutes, and then refrigerate for at least 3 hours, until the filling is only slightly jiggly and set. Slice into squares. Use a sifter, or fine mesh strainer to sprinkle the bars with powdered sugar just before serving. 

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