This time of year I’m known to turn into a bit of a sourpuss. Summer is my spirit season and the first signs of fall generally put me in a sour mood. When the air starts to get a little crisper, the days shorter, the stores fill with backpacks and notebooks, and the final nail in the summer coffin, the arrival of the infamous PSL. Nooooo! This is when my back to school anxieties take over, despite not attending school in decades.
I realize I live in Southern California and it will remain warm and sunny for most of the year, but the mental shift from summer into fall still kicks me right where the sun don’t shine. So this year, instead of trying to cover up my grouchy attitude over the transition into all things pumpkin spiced, I am embracing my inner sourpuss with these bracingly tart and buttery warm Red Currant Lemon Crumble Bars. The bright lemon and zingy currants have a sassy summer attitude while the buttery shortbread crust and hearty oat topping have all the comforts that come with fall.
These Red Currant Lemon Crumble Bars are a baked up representation of that time of year when it’s crisp in the morning and you’re all excited to bundle up in that brand new Cher Horowitz inspired sweater vest and plaid skirt, paired with knee high socks and chunky platforms. But, come the afternoon you’re stripping down to your midriff and peeling off your knee highs because the weather is way harsh and you’d rather be rolling with the homies. But you can’t because you have to give your speech on why “all oppressed people should be allowed refuge in America,”. Ugh! As if! We’ve all been there, right? No, just me? Whatever.
Side note, the year Clueless came out, my BFF Saundi, and I had a borderline sociopathic SWF style crush on Alicia Silverstone. We were obsessed with Clueless, The Crush and those Aerosmith videos. So much so that our combined back to school wardrobe was a straight rip off of Cher’s high fashion frocks, well at least the Northtown Mall in Spokane, WA version of her Beverly Hills attire. We did look like total Betty’s in our spaghetti dresses over baby tees, though.
Like these Red Currant Lemon Crumble Bars, I feel that Cher had a tart yet comforting side to her. And by sheer obsession masked as imitation, I think Saundi and I did too. If you aren’t quite ready for the seasons to change or if you were just a giant Clueless fan, like us, these Red Currant Lemon Crumble Bars are a good place to start the transition.
These Red Currant Lemon Crumble Bars have a bright & bracingly tart filling in a buttery shortbread crust, sprinkled with a hearty & comforting oat crumble topping.
- 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
- 3/4 teas salt
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teas pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
- 3/4 cup Bob's Red Mill extra thick rolled oats
- 3-4 tbsp confectioners' sugar
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3 tbsp lemon zest - finely chopped
- 4 egg yolks
- 6 tbsp lemon juice - freshly squeezed
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1/4 teas salt
- 2 cups red currants - fresh or frozen
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
Use either a 11" x 8" tart pan with a removable bottom, 10" spring-form pan or a quarter sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Whisk together the salt and flour in a medium sized bowl and set aside.
In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on medium/high speed for about 5 minutes until light and fluffy, stop the mixer and scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl a few times. Add the vanilla and mix until fully incorporated.
Reduce the speed to low and slowly add the dry ingredients, scraping the bowl a couple of times. Only mix until the ingredients have just come together and the dough is still crumbly so it is easier to distribute in the pan.
Set aside 3/4 cup of the dough and spread the rest out in the bottom of the pan.
Once the dough is evenly distributed in the pan, lightly press the dough into place so it covers the bottom and slightly up the sides of the pan.
Bake for about 25 minutes until the shortbread dough puffs up and is a warm golden color all over.
While the tart shell bakes, add the oats to the 3/4 cup of remaining dough and use your fingers to smash the dough and oats together into a crumble topping. Place in the crumble topping in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Combine sugar, lemon zest, and egg yolks in a bowl or the top of a double boiler and whisk together immediately; if you delay, the mixture will coagulate. Place the bowl over a pan or the bottom of the double boiler with about an inch of lightly simmering water and whisk continuously until the sugar dissolves.
Add the lemon juice and, still whisking continuously, cook for about 5 minutes. Add the butter and salt, then use a spatula to stir constantly until the mixture is the consistency of sour cream, which will happen at about 170° F.
Strain the curd through a fine mesh sieve. Set aside.
*If you won't be using it right away, cover with plastic wrap, placing it directly on the surface so the custard doesn't for a skin, and refrigerate for up to 1 week.
Gently toss the red currants with the granulated sugar.
Spoon the lemon curd into the crust and smooth the top with a spatula. Top with sugared red currants and sprinkle with reserved oat crumble topping. Dot with a handful of currants for color.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. The topping should be slightly browned and the filling should start to soften and turn a deeper red color.
Dust with a sprinkle of confectioners' sugar, then allow to cool slightly before removing from the pan. Slice into 12 equal slices and optionally dust with another layer of confectioners' sugar.
This recipe is adapted from the Lemon Crumble Tart in the Grand Central Baking Book. My favorite baking book of all time.