It may seem like a funny time of year to crave lemon bars. Spring is trying to get here, but aside from a few days of sunshine and almost-warmth, I am still waiting for shorts, tank top, and slipper (flip-flop) weather. Nevermind the fact that it’s always slipper weather for this still-an-island-girl-at-heart girl.
Regardless of time, lemon bars are one of my favorite desserts, hands down. I would happily pick them over some cake, or ooey gooey chocolate confection any day. When I was a freshman in college, it was a splurge: the grocery store in walking distance from my dorm room hosted a decent bakery filled with all sorts of treats, including $1.75 lemon bars that were about 3×3-inch squares. When you’re poor and living on a cafeteria based meal plan, that $1.75 lemon bar easily becomes a meal in and of itself. Let’s not talk about those “lunches.”
A lemon bar really doesn’t need a whole lot of fancy-frilly-extravagant ingredients. A classic lemon bar, featuring a good shortbread crust, is delicious simplicity. Personally I like a substantial lemon layer, not one that is equal in depth as the crust. I used Joy the Baker‘s classic lemon bar recipe, but doubled the filling. The result was a tart, sweet, slightly gooey lemon bar with a perfectly balanced shortbread crust. These are wonderful at room temperature or cold (the latter being my preferred way to eat them!).
Classic Lemon Bars
Yields one 8-inch square pan (9-12 lemon bars).
For the crust:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
a pinch of salt
For the lemon layer:
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F, placing the oven rack in the upper third portion of the oven. Grease a 8×8-inch baking pan, lining it with parchment paper so the parchment over hangs slightly from the pan. Lightly grease the parchment paper. Set aside.
Make the crust: in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the softened butter and sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy (3 to 5 minutes). Scrape down the sides of the bowl then add in the flour and salt. Beat on low until the dough is incorporated. Dough may come together, but may also remain a bit shaggy, which is okay.
Dump the crust into the prepared pan, using your fingertips to press the dough into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes until just browned around the edges.
Prepare the filling while the crust is baking: In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until well combined. Add the flour, lemon juice and zest, whisking until blended.
Pour the filling over the still warm, baked crust. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until lightly browned on top and no longer jiggling in the center.
Allow the lemon bars to cool completely in the pan. Run a knife around the edges of the pan. Slice lemon bars into squares. Use the over hanging parchment paper to lift the squares out. You can lightly dust the top of the lemon bars with powdered sugar if you’d like.
Store leftover lemon bars in an airtight container.