Believe it or not, I have never liked lemon bars. But not for the reason you think (remember…the whole not-liking-fruit bit?)!
I’ve always thought they just weren’t lemony enough. I think I just want them to taste a little more tart, to pack a little more punch.
But really, who wants to be punched in the mouth by dessert? That’s just silly.
I read somewhere that lemon is a quintessentially Spring flavor, so I decided to embrace lemon bars for what they are: a classic dessert with a light citrus filling, a crisp crumbly crust, and a mountain of confectioner’s sugar. These will be a hit wherever you bring them! (Oooh, bring them to your mother! Because what says “I love you, Mom,” better than dessert?)
Don’t be afraid of making shortcrust! It’s the easiest kind.
Beat the butter and sugar to within an inch of its life. (Just kidding. I can’t seem to get away from violence today, though. Maybe I should go relax with a lemon bar….) When it is lovely and fluffy and creamy, scrape the bowl, then add the flour and salt. Mix just until the flour disappears. Don’t worry if the dough still appears shaggy or dry! It will bake just fine.
Bake for 15 minutes at 350°, until the crust is set and just barely browning around the edges.
Meanwhile, whisk together all the lemon filling ingredients. You don’t have to get too fussy with it! Just start with the eggs and sugar and whisk until the eggs have broken down completely and the mixture feels thick, about a minute or so as quickly as you can manage.
Stir in the lemon juice, flour, and lemon zest. You can use as much lemon zest as you want because it won’t alter the chemical composition of the filling much at all. The more you use, the more lemony your filling will be. I didn’t want to “waste” a lemon (you know how quickly they rot once you zest them…), so I only zested the lemon I planned to juice. But if you have plans to use lemon juice in a different dish within the next day or so, I say zest away!
Allow the lemon bars to cool completely before lifting out of the pan and cutting. You can cut these bars into 9 enormous squares or 16 reasonable ones. (Or you can make 18 lemon fingers by cutting the 9 huge squares in half after you take some glamorous photos. I’m just saying.)
Share with friends! Spread the Spring joy around.
Classic Lemon Bars
makes 9 or 16
from Joy the Baker
½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup sugar
1 cup flour
pinch of salt
Lemon Filling Ingredients:
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1–2 tsp. lemon zest
3 tbsp. flour
confectioner’s sugar, for dusting
Preheat oven to 350°. Grease an 8″ square baking dish; line with parchment paper, letting the paper hang over the sides of the dish; then grease the parchment.
Beat the butter and sugar for the crust in a mixer bowl on high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape the bowl well, then stir in the flour and salt. Dough may come together, but may remain shaggy.
Turn the dough into the prepared baking dish and press into an even layer at the bottom of the dish.
Bake the crust for 15–18 minutes, until set and lightly browned.
Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs and sugar for the filling until well combined. Add the lemon juice, zest, and flour and whisk well.
Remove the crust from the oven and pour the lemon filling over top. Return the dish to the oven and bake for 18–20 minutes, until lightly browned and set in the center.
Cool completely in the pan. Just before serving, run a knife around the edge of the pan and lift the bars out. Cut into 9 or 16 squares and dust liberally with confectioner’s sugar.