Blueberry Lemon Bars with Gingersnap Crust
July 15, 2021
It’s blueberry season! Around here, that means buckets full, as we love to go picking. Luckily, they are also a favorite for baking sweet summer treats. In these blueberry lemon bars, they combine with gingersnaps to add a little something extra to a picnic classic.
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I am officially a convert to the gingersnap crust. If you are going to be crushing cookies for a crust anyway, they might as well be full of sweet molasses and tangy ginger, right? Plus in this recipe, those flavors pair up perfectly with the sweet and tart combo of blueberries and lemon.
Speaking of which, what a classic combination right? The acidity in lemon juice helps to accentuate the flavor of blueberries. Meanwhile, the bold color of the blueberries turns these lemon bars into a treat that will catch everyone’s eye on the dessert table.
What You Need to Get Started
You can easily find all of the ingredients for these blueberry lemon bars at your grocery store:
- Produce: Blueberries, Lemons
- Pantry: Sugar, Gingersnaps, Brown sugar, Sweetened condensed milk
- Spice Rack: Sea salt, Vanilla extract, Ground ginger
- Fridge: Butter, Eggs
- Equipment: 8×8 Baking pan, Parchment paper, Food processor or heavy rolling pin, Saucepan
How to Make Gingersnap Crust
Any time you use a store bought ingredient, you need to expect that there may be slight differences in the size and composition. That’s one of the reasons I gave the measurement for gingersnaps in weight, so you’ll have the right amount no matter what brand.
In all cases, you will want to crush those cookies into crumbs. I have done this using my food processor and a rolling pin, and I actually prefer doing it by hand with the rolling pin. It gives you better control, especially if there are certain stubborn cookies.
Once crushed, it’s a good time to preheat your oven to 350 with a rack in the center. You should also line your baking pan with parchment paper, with some hanging over the edges. This will make it easier to remove the lemon bars and cut them later.
Add your cookie crumbs to a small mixing bowl along with some brown sugar and ginger. If you aren’t a huge fan of the bite from ginger, you can leave it out here. There will be some in the cookies, but adding more will add a bit more zing.
Toss everything together to combine it. Then pour in the butter. You will want it to be melted, but cooled slightly, so that it’s not too hot to handle. Stir the mixture with a spoon or your hands until the cookie crumbs are thoroughly coated.
Transfer the buttery crumbs into the the parchment-lined baking pan, and press them into the pan to make the crust. An easy way to get them nice and compressed in there is to use the flat bottom of a measuring cup.
Bake the crust for ten minutes. It will be warm and fragrant at this point. Then set the pan aside while you prepare both of the fillings, leaving the oven on.
How to Cook Blueberry Filling
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine blueberries, water, and sugar. I used freshly picked blueberries in this recipe, but if you can only find frozen, that’s fine. Skip adding the water, since frozen berries tend to be much juicier. You may also need to cook them a little bit longer.
Heat the saucepan over medium, stirring occasionally, until the berries begin to burst and release their juices, and the liquid starts bubbling. Continue cooking for another five minutes or so, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
While stirring, gently mash some of the berries. You can leave others whole, as they will add some texture to the lemon bars.
Turn off the heat and then stir in the sea salt and vanilla. Set aside to cool slightly. If you are preparing in advance, you can get ahead of this recipe by making the blueberry filling a few days ahead. Store it in a sealed container in the fridge.
Let’s Build the Blueberry Lemon Bars
In a medium mixing bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the lemon filling. Lemon bars are essentially made of a lemon curd, which includes eggs as a binder.
Definitely only use fresh lemon juice in these. The bottled kind has a different flavor, and it just doesn’t work as well. Plus, you need to zest anyway, so you might as well just grab a lemon. I recommend specific amounts, but in most cases, using one whole standard grocery store lemon will be perfect.
This recipe uses sweetened condensed milk to add a little bit of creaminess to the texture of the bars. It also acts as the sweetener, so no additional sugar is needed. Finally, a little bit of ginger adds a little more zing. Like before, you can leave this out if you don’t enjoy the bite.
Whisk everything in the bowl together until you have a nice smooth custard-like consistency. It may be easier to whisk the eggs separately first, although it’s not entirely necessary.
Begin to build the lemon bars by pouring about a quarter of the lemon filling on top of the crust, and tilt the pan to spread it toward the edges, covering much of the crust.
Then top the lemon with about a quarter of the blueberry filling. Continue alternating spoonfuls of each, one on top of the other, until you have used all of both fillings.
I ended up with a total of eight layers – four each of the lemon and blueberry, ending with the blueberry. There is no specific amount of layers that is correct here, and every batch of these will look slightly different because of that. I do suggest starting with the lemon and ending with the blueberry, however.
Now is the fun part – making it pretty! Swirl the tip of a butter knife through the lemon and blueberry filings to create spirals. You can do this a little bit, for a more distinct difference, and mix it a bit more for a tie dye or gradient swirl effect.
Try to distribute the lemon and blueberry somewhat evenly so that each bar will have bites of both once this is cut. Another idea for a design is to start in the center, and draw lines radiating out, then in between those, draw some radiating inward, for a kind of sunburst.
Bake these for twenty to twenty-five minutes. You will know that they are done when the edges are set, in about an inch and a half from the pan. The center, however, should not be fully set, but instead have a nice, uniform jiggle.
Let these cool slightly, then cover the pan loosely with foil and refrigerate to chill them completely. This will take about four hours but preferably overnight.
Once the lemon bars are chilled and set, carefully use the edges of the parchment paper to lift the bars out of the pan and onto a cutting board. Use a large, sharp knife to cut these into sixteen pieces. Depending on how fine your cookie crumbs were in the crust, you may need a serrated knife to saw through the bottom.
Lemon bars are the perfect make-ahead dessert. You can store them once baked and chilled, sliced or unsliced, in the fridge. Just cover the entire pan tightly with plastic wrap for a few days.
A little ginger zing, tart lemon curd filling, and a sweet blueberry swirl make these Blueberry Lemon Bars with gingersnap crust as delicious as they are gorgeous!
How to Serve Blueberry Lemon Bars
The gorgeous purple and light yellow swirl is enough to make you want to build an entire dessert table just around these gorgeous little goodies. And why not? Show off a similar visual effect with rocky road black bean brownies, or another bright color with blueberry cheesecake cookies.
Plus, since these are made with fruit, I think they are the perfect way to end a multi-course brunch. Follow strawberry caprese salad or avocado tomato omelet with these sweet lemon bars. Then pair the whole meal with a blueberry and basil moscow mule.
Afternoon tea is a natural choice for the bite-sized tidbits. Stick with a refreshing peach and mango iced tea for some additional fun and fruity flavors. And don’t forget to serve them alongside fluffy rhubarb scone strawberry shortcakes.
Use Up Leftover Ingredients
- Blueberries are one of my favorites, especially for breakfast! Try them in a blueberry french toast casserole or blueberry muffin pancakes with streusel.
- Lemons add a little extra tang to some of my favorite cocktails, like a raspberry lemon mojito.
- Try using this gingersnap crust as the base for my favorite no-bake molasses cheesecake. Tip: you can freeze the crust instead of baking!
Creamy Blueberry Ginger Lemon Bars with Gingersnap Crust
- 210 g Gingersnaps crushed into crumbs
- 1 Tbsp Brown Sugar
- ½ tsp Ginger
- 5 Tbsp Butter melted and cooled slightly
- 1 Cup Blueberries
- 2 Tbsp Sugar
- 1 tsp Water
- pinch Sea Salt
- ½ tsp Vanilla extract
- 14 oz Sweetened Condensed Milk (1 standard can)
- ¼ Cup Lemon Juice freshly squeezed, about 1 lemon
- 1 Tbsp Lemon Zest freshly grated, about 1 lemon
- 3 Eggs
- 1 tsp Ginger
- Preheat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the center, and line an 8x8 baking pan with parchment paper, with some hanging over the edges.
- Add the cookies crumbs, ginger, and brown sugar to a small mixing bowl. Toss to combine. Pour in the butter and stir until it is thoroughly mixed in, and the cookie crumbs are coated.
- Transfer the mixture the prepared baking pan, and press the crumbs into the pan. Bake for 10 minutes, and then set aside, leaving the oven on.
- Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine blueberries, water, sugar. Cook on medium until bubbling, and the berries begin to burst and release their juices.
- Continue cooking about 5 minutes, stirring to dissolve the sugar and gently mash some of the berries.
- Turn off the heat and then stir in the sea salt and vanilla. Set aside.
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the lemon filling. Whisk until smooth.
- Pour about ¼ of the lemon filling on top of the crust, and tilt the pan to spread it to the edges. Top with ¼ of the blueberry filling. Continue alternating until you have used all of both fillings.
- Use a butter knife to create spirals in the filling, gently mixing the lemon with the blueberry. The more you mix, the finer the swirls will be, with more blurring of the colors.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, until set about 1 ½ in from the edges, and the center still has a slight, uniform jiggle. Let cool slightly, then refrigerate in the pan to chill completely, at least 4 hours or preferably overnight.
- Once set, use the edges of the parchment paper to lift out the lemon bars, slice into 16 pieces and serve.
- You can prepare the blueberry compote in advance, and store it in a sealed container in the fridge for 2-3 days.
- Store baked and chilled lemon bars, sliced or unsliced, covered with plastic wrap in the fridge for 4-5 days.