Vegan Lemon Bars & Agar Agar Flakes

January 13, 2012

in Cookies & Bars

Thank you all so much for your kind words in response to yesterday’s post. It was a not-so-great day for me, that was made more frustrating by the fact that I somehow managed to smash my French press while attempting to make coffee and then the blog went totally blank for a couple of hours after I updated my recipe plugin. When it rains, it pours, right? At that point I could only laugh.

A word of caution: if you use the easy recipe plugin, do NOT install the 2.1.9 update. They’ve since released an update to that one that reportedly does not kill your blog, but I’m too scared to go there. I spent most of yesterday morning and afternoon learning how to force deactivate their plugin (you have to use FTP to re-name it) and will be looking into alternatives for my posts. As far as my recipe page, I’m already in the process of transitioning over to Recipage.

Enough about that. Onto the fun stuff!

vegan_lemon_bars

I’ve had lemon desserts on my radar since eating that phenomenal vegan lemon meringue pie at Veggie Galaxy back in November. Quite frankly, two months is far too long to go lusting after lemons.

lemons

Rather than attempting a pie this time, I decided to try my hand at lemon bars. The filling is similar, so I knew bars would satisfy my craving, but without the scary vegan meringue topping. I still don’t know how they do that, although I remember them saying something about soy? One of these days, I WILL figure it out. And I’ll make sure to share the secret when I do.

lemon_zest

Lemon bars can also be kind of tricky when you don’t bake with eggs or gelatin, and although a lot of recipes rely on cornstarch to thicken the filling, I’m not always the biggest fan of the texture it creates. It can sometimes taste a little…off. So I consulted my much-loved Veganomicon cookbook, and found that their recipe uses agar agar flakes. This was a totally new-to-me ingredient, but after a quick Google search, I learned that agar agar is a vegetarian substitute for gelatin that’s made from seaweed. Sounded interesting.

lemon_juice

Of course, I immediately planned a trip to Whole Foods to pick some up, and crossed my fingers that it would actually work and not be nearly $8 down the drain (it’s pricey!). I also tried to stay focused on the agar when I went in the store, but inevitably came out with salad bar and kombucha as well. I just don’t think it’s possible to come out of Whole Foods with a single item.

agar_agar_flakes

Anyway, because it was my first time using agar agar flakes, I went with the Veganomicon recipe, which I knew wouldn’t let me down. But instead of using their super indulgent, sugary crust, I went with a lemon bar crust from Eat Live Run, and just used Earth Balance instead of butter. It made significantly less crust than the Veganomicon recipe, but as I’ve mentioned before, I’m a filling girl at heart. The crust is simply a vehicle to get as much filling from plate to mouth without making a mess of whatever I’m wearing. In most cases this is yoga clothes, but still.

crustbaked_lemon_bar_crust

This recipe turned out so well! I had my doubts about the agar agar flakes, but they really were very easy to work with. You just let them sit for about 15 minutes in water, and then boil until they’re dissolved. And the best part? You don’t even have to own the Veganomicon cookbook to make these – the recipe is posted on the No Meat Athlete blog! I do, however, highly recommend that cookbook. I’ve yet to make a recipe that hasn’t been incredible.

lemon_bars

The only thing I might change the next time I make lemon bars is using a touch less turmeric for the yellow coloring. It may have just been the brand of spice that I used, but the yellow was a bit too saturated.

vegan_lemon_bar_bite

Next up…figuring out how to make vegan meringue. Anyone?

Happy Friday!!!

 

{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

Gina @ Running to the Kitchen January 13, 2012 at 9:59 pm

Those look awesome! I’m a big fan of lemon desserts. I feel like people either love them or hate them. I’m a lover. So glad you’re using recipage now. It’s pretty much awesome except I still can’t get it in my actual posts w/o breaking my feed. I tried it again today, no dice.
I usually wait a couple of weeks before updating plugins for the fear of exactly what happened to you yesterday. I’m glad I didn’t update that one! I literally just last night got the courage to update WP. Thankfully no whammies there.

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Amanda January 13, 2012 at 10:08 pm

I haven’t tried recipage in my posts yet. There’s only so much technical drama I can handle in one week. haha And I’m going to be much more careful about updating WP and plugins. Definitely smart to wait it out before updating!

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Gena January 14, 2012 at 11:35 am

I have made these very lemon bars, and absolutely loved them. Agar is a bit of a tough ingredient, but not once you grow accustomed.

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Amanda January 14, 2012 at 1:14 pm

Yes, I love how “lemony” the bars turned out – the flavor is great. Now I just need to figure out what to do with all that extra agar… :)

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Nicole January 15, 2012 at 5:18 am

Get Hannah Kaminsky’s book Vegan Desserts for an awesome vegan meringue recipe! You’ll laugh when you see how easy it is to make.
I am a big fan of agar flakes. Check out my latest recipe for another way to use up your extra agar :)

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Amanda January 15, 2012 at 1:46 pm

Thanks for the recommendation! I will definitely check out that book (and then likely feel embarrassed for not being able to figure it out!).

Your dark chocolate mousse cups sound divine. Time to seek out some full fat coconut milk… :)

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Andrea January 15, 2012 at 11:18 pm

These look awesome! I’m always on the hunt for delicious vegan desserts (I’m not but many of my friends are) ~ can’t wait to try these!

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Amanda January 16, 2012 at 1:10 am

Thanks, Andrea! These turned out great and they were pretty easy to make too. :)

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Elina (Healthy and Sane) January 16, 2012 at 3:04 pm

I’ve been wanting to try a vegan key lime pie from Peas and Thank You (here is the recipe: http://peasandthankyou.com/recipage/?recipe_id=6000703) forever and she specifically uses agar agar powder, not flakes. So every time I’m at Whole Foods, I look for it and all I find is flakes. Good to know that those work too. Like you said, they are pricey and I just wasn’t going to risk it since I’m not even vegan :)

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Amanda January 16, 2012 at 4:58 pm

I wonder if you could just process the agar flakes into powder? I have no idea if that’s the same thing, but I’m pretty sure flakes will work fine. It might just take a little longer to dissolve them in the liquid.

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Michelle Collins January 16, 2012 at 5:57 pm

I LOVE lemon bars – they’re one of my favorite desserts. These look incredible!

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Amanda January 16, 2012 at 7:06 pm

Mine too! I’m obsessed with anything lemon.

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vogelstar January 16, 2012 at 6:13 pm

ok I have been looking for a good lemon bar that doesn’t taste eggy. I want to make these this week and then lock myself in my house and eat them all to myself. Is that wrong?

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Amanda January 16, 2012 at 7:05 pm

Not wrong at all. :)

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Jimbo February 18, 2012 at 6:00 am

Elina, agar flakes and agar powder are interchangeable.

1 teaspoon of agar powder = 1 tablespoon of agar flakes & vice versa.

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sweet road February 23, 2012 at 11:39 pm

I love the Veganomicon! I have been meaning to try the lemon bars but I don’t have all the ingredients yet… good to know that the recipe is a keeper though! Now I’ll have to go to the grocery store.

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Amanda February 24, 2012 at 12:37 am

Yes, definitely worth making a trip to the grocery store! They’re super lemony – which is just the way I like them. :)

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Cierra February 24, 2012 at 1:18 am

These look delicious!

Versa whip is a brand of isolated soy protein (it comes in a powder) that you can use to make vegan meringues. It whips up beautifully and will even brown when torched (because of the sugar) I go to the culinary institute of America, so that’s where I’ve used it. But I’m sure you can buy it online. And it is so easy to use! Just like traditional meringue powder!

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Amanda February 24, 2012 at 1:41 am

Thanks, Cierra! I’m going to have to see if I can find some of that Versa whip. I just recently posted a recipe for vegan meringue cookies using Ener-G egg replacer and was amazed at how closely the texture resembled real egg whites.

P.S. So jealous you’re in culinary school! I took a few baking classes at a school near me (Cambridge School of Culinary Arts) and loved it!

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j3nn February 24, 2012 at 2:00 am

This is why I bought an expensive bag of agar agar the other day: Amazing recipes like this!! I can’t wait to try. Love the bright yellow. Lemon is so delicious, both sweetened and sour. :)

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Amanda February 24, 2012 at 2:04 am

I held my breath a little when I used the agar agar for the first time in this recipe, but I can attest that it’s worth the hefty price tag. :)

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Noelle (@singerinkitchen) February 24, 2012 at 3:02 am

This looks pretty amazing. I am going to have to try these!

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Amanda February 24, 2012 at 12:37 pm

I hope you do!

P.S. Love your name – that’s my middle name. :)

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Valerie February 24, 2012 at 4:19 pm

I Love anything that involves lemons, and one can’t have enough lemon bar recipes in their life. :D These look so bright and airy…delicious reminders that spring is on it’s way!
(Site mishaps make me nauseous, I’m glad you were able to get everything sorted out.)

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Amanda February 24, 2012 at 5:09 pm

Thanks, Valerie! Yes – I find myself going to town on citrus fruits right now. I can’t wait for spring!

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kat February 24, 2012 at 11:26 pm

Those look delicious! I can’t get over the fact that they are vegan!!

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Amanda February 25, 2012 at 12:49 am

Thanks, Kat! I think most people wouldn’t be able to tell they’re vegan.

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Ashlae February 29, 2012 at 4:25 pm

I love the Veganomicon lemon bars – yours look beautiful! And it’s not possible to leave Whole Foods with one item. I went in to get flour this morning, rolled out with $50 in crap I probably could have done without.

Also, I wrote a meringue recipe for the Daring Bakers – if you scroll to the bottom of the page, the recipe is there :) http://thedaringkitchen.com/recipe/marquise-meringue – it uses EnerG egg replacer, which I don’t really like.. but hey! it’s vegan meringue.

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Amanda February 29, 2012 at 5:44 pm

Spending $50 at WF is way too easy. There’s always a new product to try or a random ingredient I’ve had my eye on for months.

I’ll check out your post! I just recently posted a meringue recipe using the Ener-G replacer. :)

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Alex April 5, 2012 at 8:22 pm

If you want to make vegan meringue, you can use a nitrogen whip charger (ISI Gourmet whip) & dehydrator.

Use your favorite fruit juice and sugar (3:1 ratio) and heat to combine.

Then add 7% (by mass) methyl-cellulose of your sugar/juice mixture and 2% Xantham Gum. Mix this very thoroughly with an electric whisk or stand mixer (Xantham Gum takes some effort to incorporate).

Once it’s all combined, pour into a pastry bag and dispense onto a dehydrator tray. Dehydrate completely – the result should be similar to egg white-based meringue.

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Alex April 5, 2012 at 8:23 pm

Scratch the charger, all you need is a dehydrator.

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Amanda April 5, 2012 at 9:01 pm

Thanks, Alex! I hadn’t heard of this method before. I ended up using some Ener-G egg replacer to make meringue cookies: http://www.picklesnhoney.com/2012/02/21/mint-chocolate-chip-meringue-cookies/

I don’t have a dehydrator at the moment, but it’s next on my list of kitchen things!

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Allison Smith August 15, 2012 at 6:00 am

Hi Amanda
If you want to make a Vegan Lemon Meringue Pie go to this website: http://www.mrniceguy.com.au and go to the “our show” tab where you will find a demonstration and recipe for the pie.
Mr Nice Guy Cupcakes make all kinds of vegan cupcakes which are delicious, they have a shop at the Prahran Market here in Melbourne, they are also extremely lovely people.
I hope you enjoy their website, please let me know what you think I have just found your blog and its now on my “favourites” list (for the internet)
Greetings from ‘Down Under’
Best wishes
Allison

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Amanda August 15, 2012 at 8:09 am

Thanks, Allison! Unfortunately, the link isn’t working…maybe it’s just my computer though. I’ll try it again in a bit. I’m really excited to check out their recipe! :)

Edited to Add: I found the video on YouTube – http://youtu.be/ENrRMPAA8Dc SO excited to make this!!!

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Mark May 14, 2013 at 9:11 pm

Hi Amanda,
Im a vegetarian here in Boston and want you to know that I love your recipes.However I can’t find the recipe for your Lemon bars. Can you help me with this? Am I missing the link somewhere

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Amanda May 15, 2013 at 9:06 am

Hi Mark! I used a recipe from Veganomicon, which is posted on the No Meat Athlete blog. It’s linked within my post (towards the bottom): http://www.nomeatathlete.com/vegan-lemon-bars/

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Mash August 7, 2013 at 7:19 pm

Hi Amanda lovely blog and fantastic looking recipe cannot wait to try these bars one question though what size is your pan I like the thickness of your fillin also can I substitute with lime would I need to decrease the juice quantity – I’ve been searchin like crazy for these bars without egg

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Amanda August 7, 2013 at 9:26 pm

I used a 9×13 inch pan. I think you could definitely make them lime bars! I’d replace the lemon juice with an equal amount of lime juice. :)

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Lauren August 21, 2013 at 5:57 pm

Hi! I just started to make these and am having a dilemma. My crust sort of turned into a goopy batter rather than the crumbly kind you have pictured. I don’t have a food processor, so I tried to improvise–first by using my Vitamix (which just sort of got clogged), then by transferring the mixture to a bowl and adding in the rest of the margarine while using a hand mixer (a very complicated process, yes). Obviously the end result was not what it should have been. Do you think my problem lies more within a) not having the proper tools (i.e. food processor) or b) using tub margarine?

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Amanda August 21, 2013 at 6:08 pm

Hi Lauren! Sorry you’re having trouble with the crust. I’m thinking the issue might be with the margarine. The original recipe (on Eat Live Run) called for cold butter, which I replaced with cold Earth Balance. The coldness is key for texture and I’m wondering if the margarine was too soft/oily. It could also be that it simply got over-worked and turned more liquid than solid. If you attempt it again, I’d recommend cutting in the butter (or Earth Balance) by hand. Hope this helps!

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Lauren August 21, 2013 at 10:07 pm

That does help, thank you! I used Smart Balance Light, which might be softer than Earth Balance if my memory serves me correctly. I may hold out for some Earth Balance sticks before I attempt these again, just to be safe.

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