Lemon Bars: An Amalgam of Tart and Sweet
I don’t think about lemon bars that often, and I certainly don’t crave them like I do scones or apple strudel, but when you put one in front of me, I’ll eat it. I’ll eat two—no problem.
There are many variations on this classic recipe, which came around sometime in the 1960s and has been popular ever since. I personally like an even ratio between crust and custard. I want the crust to be flaky, soft and buttery, and substantial enough to hold the custard without crumbling in my hands. And I want the filling to be a perfect amalgam of tart and sweet, with silky-smooth texture and a hint of surface crispness. After testing a few recipes—with lime, with lemon zest, with extra egg yolks—I think this one is my favorite. It tastes great really cold, straight from the fridge.
- Yields 12 bars
- 2¼ cups all-purpose unbleached flour, divided
- ½ cup powdered sugar, plus extra for dusting the bars
- 16 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes (2 sticks butter)
- 4 eggs
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- ½ cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Spray a 9x13x2-inch baking pan with vegetable oil, and line with parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl, sift together 2 cups of the flour and the powdered sugar. Place the mixture in a food processor and add the butter. Pulse in 3-second intervals (don’t leave the processor running) until it resembles coarse meal with pea-size butter pieces.
- Transfer the flour mixture into the baking pan and press it down with your hands, making sure it is evenly distributed. Bake in the oven until lightly browned, about 20 minutes.
- While the crust is baking, prepare the filling. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs. Add the granulated sugar and lemon juice, and whisk until smooth and combined, about 2 minutes. Sift ¼ cup of the flour and the baking powder in a small bowl, and stir into the egg mixture.
- Take the prebaked crust out of the oven, pour the egg mixture over it, and carefully return back to the oven. Bake until set, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 60 minutes on the kitchen counter, and then chill in the refrigerator for another 60 minutes. Slice into individual bars and serve cold, dusted with powdered sugar. Store, loosely covered, in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
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