Would you like some bright tart lemon bars? Yes, I know we’re smack-dab in the middle of Fall and everybody’s hugging their sweaters, walking through crunching leaves and imbibing in pumpkin-spiced everything but this is exactly when I crave bright lemony flavors the most. Don’t get me wrong, I love fall. Halloween is my birthday, for chrissakes, but there’s only so much pumpkin, butternut squash and apple a girl can handle before she starts craving citrus.
As you can probably tell, I really like lemon. And when I eat something that claims to be “lemon”, I want to taste actual tartness, not just sugar that a lemon once sat next to in a grocery aisle. So to these lemon bars (or lemon squares, depending how you slice them).
I also think these are just really pretty and would be a lovely addition to any holiday party. In fact, Matt and I usually make them for our Christmas tree-trimming party which is useful since that’s when everyone is most in danger of getting scurvy from lack of sunlight and vitamin C.
I based these lemon bars on a Barefoot Contessa recipe but I kicked up the lemon and cut down on the sugar a bit. They’re definitely still sweet so I like to cut them into little one inch squares. I also have the easiest possible method of dealing with the crust which requires no rolling out at all. It does require man-handling, and as you can see in the photos below, Matt is doing a very capable job, as a man, of handling the crust.
You could alternatively make a graham-cracker crust for these, as we do for cheesecakes or tarts like this Vanilla Custard Tart. (Click through to the recipe to see the process for making the crust.)
Once they’re made, keep them chilled, as the lemon filling may become a little fragile in a warm room.
Seriously Lemony Lemon Bars
For the crust:
- 1/2 pound unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cups flour
For the lemon layer:
- 5 lemons peeled with a sharp vegetable peeler (avoid the white pith)
- 2 3/4 cups granulated sugar divided
- 6 eggs extra-large, room temperature
- 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice strained (about 5-6 large lemons)
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking sheet with parchment. Lightly butter the parchment.
For the crust:
- Cream the butter, sugar and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. It should look a few shades lighter than when you began. With the mixer on low, add the flour until just mixed.
- Sprinkle tablespoon-sized chunks of dough all over the bottom on the pan and then press down to flatten and even it into the bottom, building up a 1/2-inch edge on all sides. Chill for at least 20 minutes. Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.
For the lemon layer:
- In a food processor, combine all of the lemon peel and one cup of sugar. Process until completely combined, scraping down the bowl and pulsing a few more times until you can’t see anymore bits of peel. (if you don’t want to use a food processor, you could zest the lemons with a microplane and just add it to the sugar. It won’t be quite as lemony but will still be good).
- In a large bowl, whisk together the processed lemon zest/sugar, the remaining 1- 3/4 cup sugar, eggs, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes until filling is just set. Let cool to room temperature.
- Cut into 1″ squares (or whatever size bars you like) and dust the lemon bars generously with confectioners’ sugar. If the sugar melts on top, just re-dust it and it will stay.