Spirited Sweets: Tequila Coconut Lemon Bars

My moderate success making semolina pudding with a ginger vodka sauce inspired me to continue my forays into baking with booze. In this edition, I used my old friend, tequila, to make what I hoped would be sort of like a coconut margarita in baked good form. Although there are plenty of recipes that incorporate mezcal into desserts, like cupcakes, I wanted something lighter, tarter in flavor yet creamy in texture.

The citrus fruit usually paired with tequila in bar recipes is, of course, lime, in a nod to the traditional margarita, but I was feeling like something sunnier and sweeter. Using this terrific recipe as a guide, I made some alterations to produce some very lemony, very coconutty tequila bars. The recipe:

Tequila Coconut Lemon Bars

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups chopped toasted coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3 Tablespoons tequila (I used leftover Hornitos)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line bottom and sides of an 9×13 glass baking dish with parchment paper, letting the paper hang over the sides. Spray lightly with cooking spray.
  • Combine 1-3/4 cup flour and 1/2 cup sugar in a medium bowl. Mash in tablespoon-size chunks of butter with a fork.
  • Press mixture into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 18 minutes.
  • While the crust is cooking, combine 1/4 cup flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl.
  • In a separate, larger bowl, whisk eggs. Add in the coconut, lemon juice, tequila.
  • Add contents of smaller bowl and mix thoroughly. Pour over the hot crust.
  • Bake for 25 minutes or until filling is set and crust edges are slightly brown. Cool for 1 hour and serve. Or eat straight out of the pan right away and burn your tongue.

    For once I actually let my baked goods cool before sampling them (the ambient heat must be ruining my taste for hot sweets). The bars were cool with a light sweetness, though not tart enough for my liking so next time I might increase the lemon juice and ease up on the coconut. And while you could never get drunk on these bars, I swear I got the slightest buzz after three samples. Or maybe that was just the power of suggestion.

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    Joanna O'Leary