Blood Orange Bars

Yes, I am posting a pink recipe for Valentine’s Day, which is sure to elicit both groans and smiles. It is one of the holidays (like New Year’s Eve?) that is both loved and hated. All I know: pink custards are cute!

This is based on a recipe in Baking in America by by Greg Patent, which is wonderful and comprehensive cookbook that chronicles classic American pasty recipes. The subtitle is Traditional and Contemporary Favorites from the Past 200 Years, which just about says it all. It is full of history, lore and tips and I am very happy to have the book in my collection. One of the reasons I love recipes and recipe books as much as I do is that they are all history books. (I am currently really into cookbooks from the 1980’s. It seems like a good time for baking.)
The original recipe is for lemon bars, which I am sure would be delicious (as would grapefruit), but Bryan claims to not like lemon desserts (can you sense the skepticism?). I tried this variation with blood orange, and was glad I did because the pink works. It was a big success with the test audience (Bryan and me!) and perfect for sharing with the people you love, or for being selfish with and enjoying on your own.

Happy Valentine’s Day, dear readers. I hope you all have an excellent weekend.

Blood Orange Bars (adapted from a recipe by Greg Patent)


  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour


  • 1 cup cottage cheese (not fat-free)
  • Finely grated zest of 1 blood orange
  • 3 tablespoons blood orange juice
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 large egg whites

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan and set aside.

Beat the butter, nutmeg, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, until smooth and creamy. Add the brown sugar and beat for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the flour and beat it on low speed until thoroughly combined. Press the crust firmly and evenly into the prepared pan.

Bake for 20 minutes.

For the filling, process the cottage cheese in a food processor for a minute or two, until very smooth. Add the orange zest, lemon juice, sugar, flour, baking powder, egg, and egg whites and process for 10 seconds. Scrape the work bowl and process for another 10 seconds.

Pour the filling over the hot crust. bake for 25-30 minutes, until the filling is slightly puffed and set. let cool to room temperature and then refrigerate for at a few hours, until thoroughly chilled. Serve cold.

24 comments to “Blood Orange Bars”

  1. Smiles from us for any and all pink desserts! These look sublime…

  2. I also love looking through old cookbooks. A lot of the illustrations from the ones in the 1950’s just crack me up. My favorite is the Betty Crocker Cookbook that Charley Harper did the illustrations for. I just finished making lime, meyer lemon, and blood orange bars. I love all the great colors of citrus this time of year and all the pretty confetti specks in citrus cakes.
    Love the pink of these bars!

  3. Beautiful job with these and great use of blood oranges! Perfect for VD….love the pink!

  4. Love this! Question for you-is it 1 egg and 2 egg whites?

  5. just so your post is cleaner, there’s a typo in the recipe, 1 egg

  6. I like that it’s pink in a subtle way – looks delicious!

  7. love the ingredients for these bars…i am going to bake these tomorrow!

  8. Fabulous post! And I love Valentine’s Day. Although I don’t like to go out for dinner on the 14th… no need to spend the extra $$. Happy weekend.

  9. I love blood oranges so this is my kind of dessert. Happy Valentine’s Day to you too!

  10. blood oranges delicious….they look delicious. dayle

  11. How do you feel about ricotta substituting for the cottage cheese? I’m going to try it!

  12. I adore lemon bars, so I’m definitely interested in trying out other citrus in custardy bars form.

  13. I’m officially a Valentine Day hater. But recently I am starting to appreciate that any occasion to bake cute desserts should be more welcome than not. And these bars are so incredibly cute!

  14. Hi Chelsea,
    Let me know if ricotta works for you. My fear is that it will be too dry but maybe it will work. Good luck!

  15. these look lovely!

  16. It’s actually hard to tell that they may be pinkish in any way, so no groans here. :) Vday may be all commercial and silly, but no one’s going to turn down treats!

  17. Just bought cottage cheese yesterday so it’s meant to be!

  18. Just bought cottage cheese yesterday so it’s meant to be!

  19. Tim – this is an absolutely brilliant recipe! I would never have thought about blood orange bars – I’m so used to the traditional lemon ones. On my list of recipes to try. Now I need to find desserts where I can substitute lemons or other citrus fruits with blood oranges.

  20. Just made these last night. The crust is simply delightful and the blood orange flavor is a nice alternative to the usual lemon (though I will never pass up a lemon dessert!). But, I did have a bit of an issue with the cottage cheese. I tried and tried, but I could never get it completely smooth. I don’t have a food processor, so I was using a hand mixer. After ~5min of beating, I still had little lumps. I finally gave up, since they seemed to not be going anywhere. They didn’t really smooth out during baking (not surprising), so the texture of the final bar isn’t quite as nice as I was hoping for. Still highly edible, though :)

    Do you think that’s an issue of mixer vs. food processor? Would a blender be better? Or does the size of cottage cheese curd matter (I had large curd, 4% fat)? I’m not well-versed in baking with cottage cheese.

  21. Hi Amy, Absolutely it is an issue of mixer vs. food processor. You need the blades to destroy the curds. Try your blender, if you don’t have a processor. I don’t think curd size makes any difference. Next time, they’ll be perfect!

  22. These are soooo good! The crust is excellent. I also couldn’t get my cottage cheese smooth because I used a hand mixer, but I don’t mind the imperfect texture.

    My only issue is with the color of the filling. Mine came out quite yellow — not pink at all. Should I have added more blood orange juice? I only used 3/4 of the juice from my orange; I worried about adding more because the filling seemed so liquid-y.

  23. Hmm. I wonder why the color was yellow? The zest I used was pretty dark red/orange, and my blood orange had very, very dark red juice. I am guessing it was just the intensity of your particular orange.

  24. shoot, the blood oranges are absent from my market; i guess this isn’t the season! could you recommend a different citrus? was thinking that naval oranges might be closest, but tangerines would be nice too.

What do you think?