I’m blaming this on my mother. I arrived at her house the other day to pick up a watch I needed to borrow. She looked up and said “You’ve come empty handed. Where is my treat?” Since I often spy bakery lemon bars lurking in her kitchen, I hoped this would do the trick. Crisp shortbread crust, creamy tart lemon topping. She got a few. I ate the rest. Oh, I later found out she took some to a restaurant and used them to tip the waitress. Luckily they are easy to make since she appears to be using them for currency.
We’ll get that crust going and in the oven right off the bat. Use a food processor or a pastry blender and just cut the butter into the flour, confectioners’ sugar, and salt. Then press it down, making sure you cover every square inch of that pan. I like to push the mixture up the sides just a little bit.
Into the oven at 350 for about half an hour for this large sized pan. If you choose the smaller pan options (see recipe), it probably won’t take quite as long, but I’d err on the side of a little over done than under done. I’m saying this because my first effort was underdone and tasted doughy which is not desirable but did not stop me from eating them. I know, not that attractive, but you’ll never see it when your bars are done. I left the butter in pretty big pieces (you don’t have to) just to see what would happen.
While your crust is baking you can get moving with the topping. The first order of business is zesting the lemons. For this I use a microplane grater. After testing comes juicing. If you don’t have enough juice from the lemons you’ve zested and aren’t in the mood to juice any more, it’s perfectly acceptable to use a bottled lemon juice. No, not the stuff in the bottles shaped like a lemon – that is imposter lemon juice. You can find good, organic bottled pure juices in the natural foods section of your grocery store, and you can also usually find frozen pure lemon juice also. Your choice.
Juice, zest, eggs, sugar and flour get blended together… This is getting good.
…then baked until just firm. This will take between 20-30 minutes. Give the pan a good jiggle in the oven – There shouldn’t be any extra shimmy in the center. Everything should be the same consistency in order for it to be baked through. ..and when it looks like this – you have yourself a big old pan of lemon bars.
You can dress them up by dusting with confectioners’ sugar right before serving. If you try to do this even about 5 minutes before, the sugar will be absorbed into the topping so you have to wait and pounce on it at the very last second. This made it particularly challenging to take photos of said sugar, by the way.
If you want to get fancy, you can also use a cookie cutter and make heart shapes. Here’s what I did for Valentine’s Day. The down side of that is there are a lot of pieces left over, so you must eat them when no one is looking.
Hope you enjoy!! xoxoxo
- FOR THE CRUST
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup confectioners’ sugar
- ½ tsp. salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
- FOR THE TOPPING
- 8 large eggs
- 2 ½ cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup lemon juice
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons grated lemon zest
- Butter (or spray with kitchen spray) a 10x15 inch-baking pan. (Or one 13x9 inch pan and one 8x8 inch pan).
- For the crust: combine the flour, confectioners’ sugar, and salt in a large bowl or food processor. Pulse or cut in the butter only until large crumbs are formed.
- Press the crust mixture firmly into the prepared pan. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until firm to the touch and slightly browned.
- While the crust is baking, prepare the topping: Mix together the sugar, flour, salt, and lemon zest. Add the eggs and lemon juice. Beat until smooth.
- Pour topping mixture onto the hot crust as soon as it comes out of the oven, return to the oven and continue baking for between 20-30 minutes, or until the topping is firm.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool.
- Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar right before serving, if desired. If you sprinkle ahead of time, the sugar will disappear into the topping so it’s best to wait. Dive in headfirst.