Monday, January 2, 2012

Grain-Free, Sugar-Free Lemon Bars

I'm not quite sure why, but lately I've really had a craving for lemon bars.  I used to love them but for the life of me don't think I've had one in many many years.  I guess when chocolates around that's usually my go to.  But I kept thinking, it really shouldn't be too difficult to come up with a sugar free lemon bar recipe.  And it wasn't!  I still want to tinker with the recipe more, because it was incredibly tart, but it was much easier than I expected.  It was also an opportunity to play with two new sugar-alternatives.  I was nervous about them and not sure how our tummies would handle it, but no problems whatsoever.  I used a mixture of Zsweet (from WF) and Xylitol, or birch sugar, which I picked up at Vitamin Shoppe.  A lot of the online references I found regarding these sugar alcohols recommend that you pulse them in the cuisi first.  This not only helps stop them from recrystallizing once your baked good has cooled, but I guess it also breaks them down further so you don't have that strange "cooling" mouth feel.  For instance, when you are chewing sugar free gum and your whole mouth feels cold and it hurts to drink cold water?  That is the "cooling" mouth feel, because incidentally most sugar free gums now are made with Xylitol.  Erythritol (the main ingredient in Zsweet), on the other hand, supposedly doesn't cause much tummy upset but is better used in wet applications, making it perfect for a lemon bar/custard, I thought.

Are these lemon bars exactly like the lemon bars you are picturing?  No.  I could have made them a little bit more like traditional lemon bars by grinding some xylitol in the cuisinart to make faux powdered sugar to sprinkle on top, but I was lazy.  But they are really good, and have no weird fake sugar aftertastes or anything like that- no weird consistency issues or strange textures.  They are a great alternative! 

Grain-Free, Sugar-Free Lemon Bars
2 cups almond flour
5 tbsp butter, melted
1 or 2 packets of stevia or your preferred sweetener
4 eggs
juice of 3 lemons
zest of one lemon
1/4 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp coconut flour
3/4 cup sweetener (or more if you aren't a fan of tart desserts.  I used just a 1/2 cup total of a combination of half Zsweet and half xylitol and it was super super tart.)

Line an 8x8 with parchment and preheat your oven to 350.  In a medium mixing bowl combine your almond flour, softened butter, and sweetener.  You want the mixture to be crumbly, kind of like a graham cracker crust.  Press the crust into your 8x8 so that it's evenly distributed and reaches all sides.  Bake for about 15 minutes or until it's just starting to turn golden.  While it's baking you'll make the filling, which couldn't be easier.  Throw your lemon juice, baking powder, zest, eggs, coconut flour, and sweeteners into a blender and blend until it starts to thicken and the yolks lighten.  Pour the mixture over the crust and bake for another 25 minutes or so or until the center is just beginning to firm up.  You'll want to let it cool for at least an hour before serving. 

Everyone has their own opinions on sugar alternatives, which ones are best and which ones should be avoided.  I'm not really sure how I feel about any of them to be honest, except my feelings on which ones are superior taste-wise.  The best option would certainly be to live your life without desserts and treats like a true paleo.  Get used to tasting things in their natural state and appreciate the natural flavors without adding a bunch of enhancers.  Appreciate the inherent sweetness in things and don't use a bunch of junk to make it sweeter.  I sort of look at all these sweeteners the same as I'd look at a smoker who's trying to quit and using nicotine gum.  It's better than a cigarette, but you still haven't kicked the addiction.  You're just using a modified version of the drug.  Hopefully someday I'll have the motivation and willpower to say no to sweet stuff, but even if I do, I can't expect the rest of the world to do the same, and it would be nice to know how to make a few things that both myself, and others can enjoy without quite as much guilt.  Right now there are a thousand sugar-free challenges going on- and I have almost zero inclination to try any of them, although I would be wise to!  Have you had success with any sugar-free challenges?  Did giving up all sweeteners, even the low-carb low-cal ones have any appreciable effects?  And most of all, did it lessen your cravings for sweet treats?  Let me know!  Maybe your experiences will inspire me!


  1. I would really love to try out these lemon bars! I have kind of the same opinion as you do regarding the sweeteners. Even though these are supposedly healthy options, they do still allow for my sweet tooth to have free range. This year my end goal (although I didn't put it as a resolution) is to get rid of more of my sweet tooth, by removing more of the 'sweet' from my desserty stuff. I want to train myself not to want a sweet thing at all, but I don't want to go cold turkey, either. Is that the mark of an addict or what?!?! LOL Anyhow, I thought about doing one of the sugar free challenges, but I am already at 15 grams of sugar or less per day, so I wasn't ready to take it to the next level. Next step will be to cut out the Truvia and Stevia. Not *quite* ready..