Citrus Bars with Zesty Hazelnut Crust

Citrus is our reminder of the importance of gratitude. At the end of the winter, when our immunity against seasonal colds and our patience for eating rough root vegetables has hit its breaking point, these bright orange and yellow gems come to our rescue. 

The intoxicating odor of citrus fruits has unfailingly seduced me throughout the month of February, and my citrus binges became pretty serious in March. On a recent trip to Paris, I stocked up on fresh fruits and veggies at the fabulous Terroirs d'Avenir, paying no heed to the extra baggage I would be dragging along with me to the train station. 

I couldn't bear leaving the beautiful bergamot and hefty grapefruits behind, imagining the lovely breakfasts that would help me start off the coming days. It wasn't until I saw a photo posted by my friend Stacey of The Modern Domestique of a lemon bar she made with Meyer Lemons from her parent's garden that I thought of an alternate use for my citrus haul. 

Full disclosure: these are mostly lemon bars, but I encourage adding that extra quarter cup of juice from something else: whether it be bergamot, grapefruit, clementines or even limes- just to experience the full scope of these lovely tart and bitter, sweet and sour fruits, plus the extra zest really perks up the hazelnut crust

Be sure to save all the shells and peels of the fruit to put in a large jar of water and make a refreshing, vitamin c packed beverage to enjoy throughout the day. 

Citrus Bars with Zesty Hazelnut Crust

For the crust: 

1 cup (100 grams) shelled hazelnuts, lightly toasted in a dry pan over high heat

2 cups (230 grams) all purpose flour

2 tbsps granulated sugar

1 tsp coarse sea salt

1 cup (225 grams) salted butter, cold and cubed

1-2 tbsps ice water

Zest from one of each citrus fruit used in the bars (lemon, bergamot, grapefruit, etc.) 

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease a 9" X 13" oven safe pan with butter or cooking oil. In a food processor or blender, pulse together flour, hazelnuts, salt, and sugar. If using a food processor, add cubes of butter directly to the mixture and pulse until it becomes a course meal. If using a blender, transfer the mix to a bowl and do this part by hand. Add the ice cold water as needed if the dough gets too dry. Press the dough into the bottom of the oven safe pan, creating an even layer. Bake for 20-25 minutes (or until golden) then remove from oven and let cool. 

For the bars: 

5 large eggs

1 1/2 cup (275 grams) granulated sugar

3/4 cup (180 mL) lemon juice (4-5 large lemons)

1/4 cup (60mL) juice from 1 bergamot, grapefruit, lime,  or other citrus fruit of your choice

1/4 cup (30 grams) all purpose flour

Zest from all the fruits used

Powdered sugar (optional)

Whisk together eggs and sugar until combined (color should become a pale yellow). Stir in juices and zests. Sift in the flour, stirring it in as it's added. Pour the mixture over the warm crust and bake 15-25 minutes, or until set. Remove from oven and let cool before cutting into squares. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving if using.