When I saw calamansi for sale on Farm Link Hawaii, I instantly knew I wanted to try to make calamansi bars. But not just any calamansi bars – flavorful, balanced calamansi bars. And, to that end, I think I was mostly successful.
Now, there aren’t many recipes for calamansi bars out there. Aside from being an uncommon citrus around the US, who the heck wants to do all that work? Instead of juicing a few lemons, making calamansi bars requires you to juice dozens of tiny fruits instead! But, if you put in the work, you’ll be rewarded with a familiar yet unique treat.
I should note that this recipe is based on Stella Park’s Sunny Lemon Bars – my favorite lemon bar recipe. This isn’t a straight-up copy, though, thanks to the differences between lemon and calamansi.
What You’ll Need
Before I begin, you should know that this recipe came out pretty tart. It was almost too tart for me and I like tart treats. So, while I’ll detail exactly what I did in this post, I’ll also provide suggestions to modify it at the end. With that, here are the ingredients you’ll need to make these tart calamansi bars.
- 12 ounces or 1 1/3 cup calamansi juice – about 2.25 to 2.5 pounds of calamansi
- 0.25 ounces or 2 packed tablespoons calamansi zest
- 3 large whole eggs
- 4.75 ounces or 1/2 cup egg yolks – about 8 large eggs
- 9.5 ounces or 1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2 ounces or 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 4.5 ounces or 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 ounces cold unsalted butter cut into 1/4-inch cubes (store in fridge after cubing)
- Kosher salt
There are also a few pieces of equipment you’ll need to make this recipe:
- Food processor
- 8x8x2-inch anodized aluminum baking pan
- 3-quart non-reactive sauce pot (stainless steel or glass)
- Parchment paper
- Instant read or probe thermometer
Line your 8×8 pan with enough parchment paper to overhang just two of the edges. If you buy the Costco rolls of parchment paper, you’ll likely have to trip it. You don’t want it to climb up the four sides of your pan, or it’ll mess up your final product as you’ll see with my finished bars.
You can also pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees at this point. But, the next step took me an hour to complete… So, maybe wait till you’re halfway through the next step to turn on your oven?
Juice Your Calamansi
Since you need to use the zest of the calamansi, you need to wash your calamansi before beginning. Once washed, dab them dry and juice by cutting a slit in one end and squeezing it into a container of your choice.
As you’re juicing your calamansi, keep an eye out for larger specimens with unblemished skins. When you find them, be sure to remove the pulp from them after juicing and set them aside. This is how you’ll get the zest you need for this recipe. How many you need to save depends on the size of your calamansi. But, I’d recommend putting aside 10 to 20.
Once finished juicing, strain the seeds out of your juice. If you come up short, you can augment this with lime juice, lemon juice, water, or simple syrup.
Mince Your Zest
So, I learned something important while working on this recipe – you can’t zest calamansi. They’re too soft and the skin is too thin to do this. So, instead of zesting the fruit with a microplane, you’ll need to mince your skins with a knife.
When mincing your calamansi skins, you’ll want to make sure you cut your skin pieces as small as possible – at least for half of the require 2 tablespoons. The reason for this is because 1 tablespoon of the skins goes into the crust and will be eaten. The other tablespoon will be strained out, so size isn’t that big of a consideration. That said, if the pieces are too big, less zest will make it into the custard, reducing the overall flavor. So, if you leave your pieces on the larger side, maybe toss an extra tablespoon into the custard step.
Make Your Crust
This entire recipe – juicing aside – is easy. But, the crust is, perhaps, the easiest part of this recipe. That’s because, to make your crust, you’re going to combine your 4.5 once of all-purpose flour, 2 ounces of powdered sugar, 4 ounces of cubed butter, 1 tablespoon of calamansi zest, and 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt in the bowl of a food processor.
Then, you’re going to pulse your food processor until it forms a crumbly, dry dough. This should take about 12 1-second pulses. It took me 16.
Once you’ve formed your dough, dump it into your prepared pan and press into an even layer and bake for 30 minutes, or until golden and firm.
Cook Your Custard
While your crust is baking, prepare your custard. To do so, you’re going to combine your 3 whole eggs, 8 egg yolks, 9.5 ounces of granulated sugar, calamari zest, and a pinch of kosher salt in a 3-quart stainless steel sauce pot or other non-reactive 3-quart pot off the heat. Then, slowly whisk in your juice until combined.
Turn the heat on low and, whisking gently but constantly, cook until your custard is warm. Once warm, crank the heat to medium for about 8 minutes. You’re looking for your custard to thicken and become steaming hot. If you have an instant-read thermometer or a probe thermometer, you’re looking for a temperature of 170 degrees Fahrenheit.
Assemble Your Bars
Once your custard is finished, immediately strain it over your still-warm crust and spread into an even layer. Then, without disturbing the parchment paper or burning yourself, cover your pan with aluminum foil and return to the oven for about 10 minutes or until the custard is smooth and firm.
Cool and Serve
Once your calamansi bars are finished baking, place the pan on a cooling rack and remove the foil. Allow to cool until it reaches room temperature, then place in the refrigerator until fully set – about an hour.
Once ready to serve, run a butter knife along the two edges not covered by parchment paper to release from the pan. Then, grab the two tabs of parchment paper and carefully lift your bars out of the pan. Place the bars, parchment paper included, on a cutting board, and cut to your desired size. You’ll want to use a sharp knife to do this and wipe the knife down between each cut.
Optional – dust with powdered sugar and serve.
As I mentioned earlier, the recipe as presented came out quite tart. If you want something sweeter, I’d suggest scaling back on the juice. I have yet to remake this recipe, so I’m not sure by how much yet, but I think replacing about 1/3 cup of the juice with simple syrup should do the trick.
To make your simple syrup, combine 1 cup of granulated sugar, 1 cup of water, and about 4 tablespoons of calamansi zest (optional), and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer for three minutes. Strain out the zest and cool to room temperature.
While you don’t have to use the zest in your syrup, it’ll help to maintain a strongly flavored custard since you’re replacing some of the juice with the syrup.
Tart Calamansi Bars, Final Thoughts
This recipe isn’t quite as local as my Mushroom Carbonara 2.0. However, the main flavoring component – the calamansi – is periodically available via Farm Link Hawaii. The eggs, which you need a lot of, are also available via Farm Link Hawaii. And, sometime, even unsalted butter is available there too. If you can’t find calamansi, though, you can substitute it with lemon, Meyer lemon, lime, or Tahitian lime. If you use any of these substitutions, though, you’ll want to prepare the recipe as written since lemon isn’t as tart as calamansi. Meyer lemons are even sweeter than traditional lemons too, so use those only if you don’t like any tartness at all.
If you like this recipe, please consider supporting my future culinary experiments by signing up for Farm Link Hawaii using my referral link. By doing so, not only will you earn yourself a $10 credit towards your first order, while also awarding me a referral credit. Plus, Farm Link Hawaii is offering free delivery through the end of April. Mahalo!