Recipe: Lemon Mascarpone Bars with Polenta Crust

When I lived in London, whenever I was down or looking to celebrate, or for any reason at all, I headed to Ottolenghi for one of their lemon tarts with tangy, creamy filling and a crunchy cornmeal crust.  I decided to attempt my own gluten-free lemon mascarpone tart.

For the first run, I decided to try a lemon bar, it’s easier to dish out and share with taste testers or bring to a large / informal party. Some of the people who tasted this loved how tangy it was and others were not as thrilled with the strength of the citrus.  If you are not a big citrus person, just use half lemon juice, half orange juice for a more mellow citrus flavor.

I like working with mascarpone cheese and citrus.  Mascarpone has a lower fat content than butter and does not lack in flavor: it has a slightly mellower tang than cream cheese and gives the citrus some punch.  This was a first run, so I used half mascarpone and half butter for the lemon curd, but next time I will probably just use all mascarpone.


Medium saucepan


9×13 baking dish

Food processor

Parchment paper


1 cup cornmeal

½ cup brown rice flour

¼ cup tapioca starch

¼ cup potato starch (not flour)

2 tsp xanthan gum

½ tsp salt

½ cup sugar

1 stick (8 Tbs) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

2-3 Tbs cold water

Steps 3, 4 and 5

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Make sure the rack is in the center of the oven.

2. Line the baking dish with parchment paper.  This will allow you to lift the finished product right out of the pan.  This step is especially important for gluten-free treats.  Without gluten, crusts and baked goods are more susceptible to breaking / crumbling.  I have ruined the appearance of many a g/f treat by trying to wrangle it the same way I would a gluten-y baked good.

3. In the food processor, combine the first seven ingredients using the pulse setting.

4. Drop the butter, piece by piece into the food processor, continuing to pulse, until the mixture looks like crumbs.  Test if this is ready by putting a small bit in your hand.  Squeeze it into a little ball: if the shape stays when you open your hand, this is ready to press into the pan.  If not, add water to the mixture a few drops at a time until the desired consistency is achieved.

5. Spread the mixture on the bottom of the pan.  Press into an even layer with your hands.

6. Place on the center rack in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, until a light, golden brown.

7. Remove from oven to cool while you work on the lemon curd.

Lemon Curd

1 Tbs lemon zest

1 cup lemon juice

1 cup sugar

4 Tbs cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

4 Tbs mascarpone cheese

8 Egg Yolks (I do not discard my whites when separating as shown below, I put them in a separate bowl for omlettes)

1 Tbs arrowroot powder (you can use tapioca starch or corn starch in a pinch, but arrowroot works best and imparts less flavor)

separating the yolks from the whites

1. In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, combine the sugar and the lemon juice.  Whisk together until the sugar is mostly dissolved.

getting the ingredients together

2. Turn the heat to low.  Add the lemon zest, the mascarpone and the butter to the pan.  Whisk together.

3. Add the egg yolks, slowly, whisking vigorously.  Keep the heat low so the egg does not cook too quickly.

4.  Once the yolks are incorporated, turn the heat up to medium high and let the mixture come to a strong

simmer, it should bubble vigorously and thicken.

5. Add the arrowroot to the mixture, slowly.  The arrowroot will help the curd thicken and set.

Left: adding the mascarpone Right: the proper consistency

Putting it all together

1.Pour the curd over the polenta crust base.

2. Put the pan in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

3. Just before serving, lift the lemon bars out by the parchment paper.  Cut and dust with confectioner’s sugar.

mmm, tasty finish!


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