Grace Hwang Lynch

Little Bit of This, Little Bit of That

Grace Hwang Lynch

Grace Hwang Lynch
Location
Silicon Valley, California,
Birthday
December 31
Bio
I'm a former television news reporter. Currently a communications consultant, freelance writer, and mother of two. I write about raising a multicultural family at HapaMama, and I'm also the News & Politics Editor at BlogHer. My work has been published in several magazines and newspapers, as well as in the anthologies "Lavaderia: A Mixed Load of Women, Wash and Word" and "Mamas and Papas:On the Sublime and Heartbreaking Art of Parenting" by City Works Press. Follow me on Twitter: @HapaMamaGrace

MY RECENT POSTS

Editor’s Pick
FEBRUARY 12, 2011 5:40PM

Improved Meyer lemon bars

Rate: 16 Flag

Meyer lemon tree 


Early February has been unseasonably warm in the Silicon Valley, with the sun shining and kids wearing shorts and t-shirts to school. It’s hard to believe just a few weeks ago, temperatures were dipping below freezing at night and front lawns were crunchy with frost in the mornings.  Even when winter is cold and gray in the Bay Area, there are little drops of sunshine in the form of citrus trees in yards, back and front, decorated with bright fruit. They may be grapefruits you could pitch in a softball game or kumquats no bigger than a thumbnail. When the sun does pierce through the Northern California gray skies, it is often blindingly low on the horizon. Likewise, these homegrown citrus fruits can often come with a tang that will scare off all but the scurviest of sailors.  

Enter the Meyer Lemon. Native to China, this petite, thin-skinned variety is actually a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange, giving it the perfect blend of acid and sugar. However, the delicate rind and high sugar content make for poor shipping and storage, and the Meyer has never caught on as a supermarket item. Pricey in gourmet stores and farmer’s markets, the best way to obtain them is by knowing someone.  

bag of citrus fruits
  

Ask and you shall receive

It’s not too hard in the Bay Area, as just about anyone with a yard owns a citrus tree, and when the harvest comes in full and fast, owners can’t give them away quickly enough. I’ve found baskets of Meyers next to the coffee and doughnuts at church, and I’ve been  handed bags of them at school pickup.

But not all Meyer lemons are created equal. Some have lighter coloring of the standard Eureka lemon, or the thicker pith of a monstrous Ponderosa lemon. And they are not easy to grow. At least my tree hasn’t been. Planted three years ago, it is still shorter than I. Newer branches sprout inch-long thorns making it hard to check for fruit. Not that there’s been any — until this winter. For the first time, my Meyer lemon tree bore fruit: three of them, in fact.  

Meyer lemons cut
  

 

New and Improved?

 

As I asked around, I learned that other people had difficulties getting new Meyer Lemon trees to grow. They are sort of hot house flowers. During the 1960s, nearly all of California’s commercial Meyer lemon crop was wiped out by a Tristeza virus, and the remaining orchards were destroyed to avoid contaminating other trees. Growers at Four Winds Nursery found a disease-free strain, and in 1975 released the Improved Meyer Lemon tree for sale.  

My friend Mary has a giant Meyer lemon tree in her backyard. The canopy towers over both of us and is filled with more yellow fruit than she can ever pick. Given the size of the tree and the fact that the house dates to the 1930s, it’s safe to assume that this Meyer lemon is a survivor of the original strain. These “heirloom” Meyers appeal to me greatly. Their color is deeper, the rind thinner, the juice sweeter. Or so I lead myself to believe.  

Meyer lemons and jasmine tea
 

While I may doubt the improvements to the Meyer lemon tree, I have found a way to put a new spin on one of on of my favorite baked goods: the lemon bar. The Meyer lemon’s fruit is not its only appeal. When the trees are in bloom, during late-fall and early winter, its purple-tinged white flowers give off a heady fragrance reminiscent of jasmine on a summer evening. I’ve upped the lemon juice and zest content of the filling and incorporated jasmine green tea into the shortbread crust of the traditional recipe, to create — The New Improved Meyer Lemon Bar!

 


 

Jasmine Tea and Meyer Lemon bars

 

Jasmine Tea and Meyer Lemon Bars

 

Ingredients

Crust:

1 c. flour

1/4 c. powdered sugar

1/2 c. unsalted butter

1/2 tsp. jasmine tea

 

Filling:

2 Tbs. flour

3/4 c. sugar

1/2 tsp. baking powder

2 eggs

3 Tbs. Meyer lemon juice

2-3 tsp. grated Meyer lemon zest (or more, if your lemon yields it)

 

Glaze:

1 tsp. jasmine tea

4 Tbs. powdered sugar

 

Directions

  1. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan.
  2. Using a chef's knife and a rocking motion, mince the jasmine tea leaves.
  3. Cut the butter into small pieces. Add flour, sugar. When the mixture looks like coarse crumbs, mix in jasmine tea.
  4. Press the crust mixture into the baking pan.
  5. Bake in 350-degree oven for about 15 minutes.
  6. While crust is baking, make the filling: mix the dry ingredients in a bowl.
  7. Lightly beat the eggs, adding lemon juice and lemon zest.
  8. Add dry ingredients from step 6.
  9. As soon as the crust is golden brown, pour the filling over it and return to oven. Bake 25 minutes longer, or until the top is mostly set.
  10. Make the glaze: steep the jasmine tea in one cup hot water. Strain the leaves, and add the brewed tea one spoonful at a time into the powdered sugar, stirring to make a glaze consistency.
  11. Run a thin, sharp knife around the outer rim of the pan as lemon bars are cooling. Drizzle with glaze and cut into sixteen squares.

All text and images © 2011 Grace Hwang Lynch 

 

 

 

Your tags:

TIP:

Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:

Comments

Type your comment below:
Mmmm...lemons.... and the jasmine will just make it all the better. Printing for making tomorrow. Thank you!
Thanks, Ironguts! Enjoy...
Nom nom nom nom.... nope, imaginary lemon bars aren't the same. I WANT ONE NOW! =o)
rated.
I walk by lemon trees every day and think of lemon bars..:)
I swear I do..
rated with hugs
Thanks Grace, will have to try this. I love Meyer Lemons, and the bride hates them. I don't know what's wrong with her. In fact, I once fed-exed some of my Meyer Lemon bars to a friend in Zurich (hella expensive and you have to lie on the customs form--I don't recommend it). They were well received. I look forward to this version.
You know how you could improve on a lemon bar, Hon? Don't use lemons.
A Taste of Jasmine and Lemon Make A Great Duo With Tea!
Grace, this is so creative! I have a bunch of Meyer lemons right now-- nothing better.
Lovely, Grace. The four Meyers in the fridge this red-hot minute are slated for the next batch of preserved lemons or I'd be whipping out the baking pan. :) Rated
I love lemon bars...and this variation looks intriguingly delicious.

I bought my dad a Meyer Lemon tree for Christmas two years ago. The first year it did great. The second year, despite his babying it only produced four lemons. I am seeing them in our farmer's markets though, so apparently some folks are having better luck. I love the juice...but the zest is, for me, too resinous, and not "bright" like conventional lemons. So when a recipe calls for both juice and zest, I use the Meyer lemon juice and a regular lemon's zest.
Lovely. As always. A nice twist on the all-favorite lemon bar.

Alas, we have a grocery chain in Michigan named Meyers... but I'm not all that aware of the glorious Meyer lemon. Will be on the look-out.
Bell: I often mix Meyers with regular lemons, too (uses up some of those ringers I get) especially if you want more tartness.

Vivian: I remember that Meyer's store from my early childhood in Ann Arbor. I also like it's NW cousin, Fred Meyer, which is the hugest grocery-Home Depot-Target and open 24 hours.
Oh, that's a different take on lemon squares - using jasmin tea in the flavoring and drizzling with a glaze. I make them but with regular lemons, since Meyer lemons are not available here. Once I saw them in a high end fruiterie and a pack of 4 were selling for $5.99. Thanks for the story and your recipe, Grace.
Gorgeous as usual. And as usual, I will only be dreaming about making them...:) ~r
Ooh, I am so jealous of you Californians! I actually picked up a Meyer lemon in the market yesterday and scratched the peel a little to smell that gorgeous scent so I could be reminded of sunnier climes than mine. The tea looks like a fun addition to the recipe. I made two different versions of Meyer lemon bars in January. I thought I'd gotten it right, but you may have just upped the ante.
Grace, I'm so envious of the Meyer lemon trees. Bags of Meyer lemons turned up for a week in my suburban market last year - I'm hoping for the same this year. And if I get lucky, I'll make your New & Improved Meyer Lemon Bars! (and congrats on the SKC, too!)
This recipe looks delcious! I appreciate knowing where Meyer Lemons come from - that's always been a question in my mind. I live in Minnesota and we were given a Meyer Lemon plant a few years ago. It occasionally produces one lemon, which takes forever to mature. It tickles me to have a lemon growing in the house when it's below zero out. :-)
Oh this looks lovely. I will have to try it with grocery store lemons (alas, no lemon trees in Oregon). Thanks!
Yes, Meyer lemons can be very expensive when you find them in stores. Earlier, I bought a package of four for $4 at Trader Joes. Recently, I've found some good deals on them, $2.99 for a pound at Whole Foods and 3/$1 at farmer's market. They're probably more outside of California (or other warm climates), but definitely something you need to try sometime.

Thanks for stopping by...
Wow, this sounds delightful! I've never had lemon bars with a glaze on them, let alone a jasmine tea glaze. That sounds so very elegant--I'll have to try this!
the recipe sounds terrific, grace. the tea drizzle - what a brilliant idea. i've got two meyer trees (among others) and they're both doing fine five years along. it might be that the hotter SoCal climate helps (we're in a citrus belt pocket inland from the coast but not as hot as true inland). also, they're dwarf grafts to keep them from getting too tall, unwieldy and difficult to harvest.
Grace, what an imaginative idea - tea in the bars, instead of with the bars~ it will save me a cup, haha. These are going on my home page left hand Foodie column.

I loved this line, "these homegrown citrus fruits can often come with a tang that will scare off all but the scurviest of sailors." My father had a kumquat tree in the yard for many years, I get this!