Texans love a ruby red grapefruit, and while I have not been a resident of my home state for more than a decade, my mid-winter citrus needs are still very real. Unfortunately, the window for finding spectacular grapefruit in NYC is alarmingly short—just a few weeks!—and so I am compelled to take advantage. It’s my duty as a displaced Texan. Or something.Grapefruit Scones, Curd and Kolaches have all made appearances on this blog, and today I’m adding another recipe to my favorite winter citrus arsenal: Grapefruit Bars!These beauts are a seasonal spin on their more traditional lemony counterparts, but with all the sweet-tartness and vivid color of ruby red grapefruit.Now, if you’ve ever cooked with grapefruit, you might have noticed that it tends to lose its natural color and tartness as it is heated. I learned to mitigate this last year while testing Grapefruit Curd, and bring some of the same techniques to making the filling for these bars.Here, grapefruit flavor is added in two ways: first, by reducing a cup of fresh grapefruit juice by half, and then by rubbing zest into granulated sugar to release the citrusy oils. I also like to add a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice to ensure that the bars have a tart finish. The idea of omitting the lemon in favor of a “pure” grapefruit flavor is tempting, but I promise that leaving it out will leave you missing the acidic sharpness that makes these bars so singularly great.The sweet-tart ruby red grapefruit flavor pairs perfectly with the lightly-squidgy texture of the filling—it’s the sort of thing I daydream about sinking my teeth into. Really. I have caught myself thinking about the feeling of taking the first bite into a Grapefruit Bar more than a few times since I finished testing these a couple of weeks ago. Is that not normal?If not, I don’t want to be normal. Life’s too short not to daydream about the feeling of soft-set grapefruit filling and crisp, buttery shortbread between your teeth. It’s that sort of wholesomeness that makes this whole being a professional homebaker thing worthwhile.
makes 16 bars
2 large ruby red (or pink) grapefruits
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 1 medium lemon)
2 large eggs + 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 drop red food coloring (optional)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, very cold, cut into cubes
3-4 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
Preheat the oven to 350F. Line an 8- or 9-inch square pan with aluminum foil, leaving overhang on two sides for removal. Grease with butter. Set aside.
Zest and juice grapefruits. Set aside 1 tablespoon of zest. Pour 1 cup* of the juice into a saucepan and simmer over medium-high heat until reduced to 1/2 cup, about 10-12 minutes. Set aside.
Make the shortbread crust. In a large mixing bowl, mix together flour, sugar, and salt. Using a pastry blender or two forks, cut butter into dry ingredients until the largest pieces are the size of small peas. Mixture will be very crumbly and dry. Transfer mixture to prepared pan and use your fingertips to press it into one even layer on the bottom of the pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool on a rack for a few minutes while you prepare the filling.
In a large mixing bowl, combine grapefruit zest and sugar. Use your fingertips to rub zest into sugar until combined. Whisk in lemon juice, followed by eggs and egg yolk, and melted butter. Mix in all-purpose flour and salt. Add food coloring, if using. Mixture will be thin. Pour filling over the shortbread crust. Bake for 18-20 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack before chilling for at least four hours.
Use the foil overhang to remove bars from the pan to a cutting board. Peel foil from the edges. Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to slice bars. Sift confectioner’s sugar over the tops of the bars before serving.
Serve bars immediately or refrigerate for up to three days. Confectioner’s sugar will degrade over time—this can be remedied by sifting more over the tops.
If you have slightly more or less juice, that’s okay. Just reduce it to 1/2 cup, as indicated in the recipe.