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Desserts are the exclamation point at the end of a delicious meal. The best ones surprise us, even though we think we know what flavors to expect. While lemon works in both savory and sweet dishes, something exciting happens to our taste buds when added to a dessert dish. Merging sweetness with the tartness of lemons is refreshing and perfect for any season. Whether you prefer custard-like desserts, cakes, or pies, you’ll find the perfect dessert combination when you focus on this versatile fruit.

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Start your day with tangy lemon muffins

Who says you can’t begin your day with dessert? Simple, yet packed with flavor, lemon muffins are easy to make. They’re the perfect start for a leisurely weekend morning or a light dessert after a meal. The ingredients are simple and ones that most people already have on hand. The secret to light, fluffy muffins is to not overmix the batter. Gently fold wet ingredients into the dry ones. After you’ve pulled the baked muffins out of the oven, blend powdered sugar and lemon juice together and drizzle over the tops while they’re still warm.

lemon morning dessert muffins LCBallard / Getty Images
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Try classic lemon bars for a sweet summer treat

Elegant, traditional, and delicious, lemon bars have been a go-to favorite for tart-and-sweet-combo lovers for generations. The baked, pie-like crust surrounds a soft, tangy center. After you remove them from the oven, cool them, then dust the top with powdered sugar, and cut into squares. Lemon bars are buttery, zesty, and sweet, perfect for at-home treats, well-deserved coffee breaks, or get-togethers. One of the best features of this dessert is that you can make lemon bars ahead and freeze them for up to one month.

zesty buttery lemon bars Melissandra / Getty Images
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Dive into dairy-free with Meyer lemon granita

Dairy-sensitive dessert lovers need a frozen treat that offers the same cool, creamy, sweet benefits of ice cream. Granita is similar to sorbet and easy to make; you don’t need an ice cream maker to create it. Meyer lemons are smaller, rounder, and smoother on the outside, with a darker-colored yellow pulp on the inside that is less tangy, but sweeter than regular lemons. They offer a softer flavor, perfect for lighter desserts that need a touch of acidity.

frozen treat creamy granita Juanmonino / Getty Images
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Reward yourself with from-scratch lemon pound cake

Sweet, moist, and luscious pound cake dates back to early 18th century bakers who used a pound each of butter, flour, sugar, and eggs to create it. Since then, home cooks have varied those ingredients by adding sour cream to increase moistness, lowering the amount of butter, and adding new flavor profiles. Lemon pound cake calls a double dose of zesty flavor: lemon zest and lemon juice are used in the cake itself as well as in the icing. Pound cakes also freeze well, so you can bake an extra one to get ready for busy days ahead.

luscious moist pound cake DebbiSmirnoff / Getty Images
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Surprise them with lemon tea cookies

Creamy lemon filling sandwiched between two golden-brown cookies is the perfect add-on for custards, puddings, and sorbets, or as a stand-alone dessert. These bite-sized shortbread cookies have a crumbly texture and a rich, buttery flavor. Bite into them, and you’ll discover a sweet, lemon filling with just the right amount of tartness. Before baking, allow the cookie dough to refrigerate overnight. Refrigeration solidifies the butter in the dough and prevents your cookies from spreading out during baking. Allow the baked cookies to cool completely before adding the lemon filling.

shortbread sandwich lemon cookies eZeePics Studio / Getty Images
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Add no-bake, gluten-free, lemon cookies to your dessert favorites

These lemon cookies are a no-bake option that is not only gluten-free but also paleo-friendly. Combine maple syrup, cashew butter, coconut butter, lemon juice, shredded coconut, poppy seeds, and vanilla and allow to set up in the refrigerator for at least two hours. These flavorful no-bakes are a quick-and-easy solution, perfect for warmer days when you want to avoid turning on the oven.

gluten free lemon cookies balls Manuta / Getty Images
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Discover a Southern specialty: lemon chess pie

Don’t let the simple filling fool you. Chess pies are flavor-packed, with a sumptuous texture. Add lemon juice and you’ll discover why it continues to make an appearance on southern tables throughout the year. Traditional recipes call for a tablespoon of cornmeal to thicken the filling and create a coarser texture, which differentiates it from custard pies. Once baked, the center is moist, sweet, and gooey, while the top delivers a slight crunchiness.

gooey lemon chess pie margouillatphotos / Getty Images
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Delight your taste buds with lemon rice pudding

If you’ve never experienced the delight of slow-baked rice pudding, you’ve been missing out on an amazing comfort dessert. Using a combination of uncooked jasmine rice, the finely shredded peel of a medium-sized Meyer lemon, sugar, milk, and whipping cream, you’ll create a creamy, rich, rice pudding. Bake the ingredients in a nine-inch pie dish in a 250-degree oven for two hours and serve hot, warm, or cold.

baked jasmine rice pudding -lvinst- / Getty Images
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Bake a delightful lemon cheesecake

This dessert offers everything you crave in a dessert. Sweetness, creamy texture, and crunch of a graham cracker crust combined with the tartness of fresh lemons. Cheesecakes have a reputation as a difficult dessert to prepare, yet, once you understand the concept of a water bath, they’re easy to do. A water bath prevents cracks from forming across the top of your cheesecake during baking. Add lemon zest and lemon juice into the cheesecake batter. After removing it from the oven, cool the cheesecake completely. Top with a layer of homemade or store-bought lemon curd and follow that with a bit of whipped cream, if you desire.

curd top lemon cheesecake PJjaruwan / Getty Images
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Savor the flavor of lemon-blueberry turnovers

Some of the best desserts are flexible, and freshly baked turnovers are the perfect example. Eat these delicious lemon-curd-and-blueberry-filled pastries with your hands, or serve them on a plate, topped with a scoop of ice cream. A turnover is an individual pie with folded layers of pastry enclosing a fruit filling. Light and crispy puff pastry made from scratch, or purchased from your grocer, works best to hold the filling. Serve for breakfast, with your afternoon tea, or as an elegant dessert.

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