Category Archives: Lemon Bars

How to Make Lemon Bars

When you’ve got a hold of a quality lemon bar, you know it. Last night the missus took a bite of one of these and said: “it’s like I’m sitting under a lemon tree in the springtime, and the sun is shining on me.”

That’s about the size of it.

Start by laying out all your lemon curd ingredients and having them ready by the stove top. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Combine your flour, sugar, butter and salt in a bowl or the bowl of a mixer and mix until you have a workable dough.

Transfer the dough to your baking dish (it doesn’t need to be greased)…

…and press it into the pan. Press well into the corners so you don’t get too much crust buildup there. Let the crust rest for about ten minutes at room temperature, then put the pan in the oven on a middle rack for 20 minutes.

Now for the tricky part. You want your curd cooked to 170 degrees right at the time the crust is coming out of the oven for the best possible texture. So, combine all your ingredients (save for the lemon zest) in a small saucepan about fifteen minutes into the baking. You’ll need 1 1/2 times the amount specified in the lemon curd tutorial in the Components menu to the right. In this case, you can simply scale the recipe up.

When the crust is lightly golden, remove the pan from the oven, stir the lemon zest into your lemon curd and pour it into the pre-baked crust. It will be quite soupy. Don’t worry about it. After another 12 minutes in the oven the curd should have heated to 196 or so and have thickened to the point that it jiggles when you jostle the pan. Note the dull yellow-white color of the very top of the lemon bars after they’re baked. This is caused by small air bubbles rising to the surface as the curd heats. it doesn’t look terribly attractive…

…so we cover it up with powdered sugar after the pan has cooled. Problem solved.

The uneven and/or broken crust on the edges isn’t a big deal either. Leave it for a nice rustic look, or just trim it off when you slice the bars, which is what I do. Not so much for looks, but because I want something I can eat by myself after everyone else has gone to bed.

I like to serve these chilled.

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Lemon Bars Recipe

A great lemon bar should have a no-nonsense tart-sweet curd filling above and a flaky-yet-firm short bread crust below. The two together create an experience that approaches religious.

The secret to lemon bars isn’t in the ingredients per se (a top-notch lemon curd filling is defined more by what you leave out of it than what you put into it), it’s in the technique. Too many lemon bar recipes call for a liquid filling to be poured into an unbaked crust. This simplifies the process to be sure, but creates a soggy, paste-like bar. Pre-baking the crust, then pouring on the warm curd while the crust is still hot creates the magic texture combo. You’ll need a candy thermometer to get the process just right. The ingredients are:

8 ounces soft butter
10 ounces (2 cups) all-purpose flour
3.5 ounces (1/2 cup) sugar
a pinch of salt
Lemon curd cooked to 170 degrees F (recipe is under the Components menu to the left, you’ll need 50% more than the recipe makes, but it scales up very easily)
Powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat your oven to 350 and have all the ingredients for your lemon curd laid out and waiting. Combine the crust ingredients in a bowl or in the bowl of a mixer and stir until a soft dough comes together. Press into a 9″ x 13″ baking dish. Let the crust rest for 10-20 minutes, then bake it for 20 minutes until it is lightly golden.

Meanwhile, prepare the lemon curd. Ideally, what you’d like to do is combine all the ingredients (save for the lemon zest) and start the cooking about five minutes before the crust is due to come out. Once the curd hits 170, take it off the heat. Remove the pan from the oven, stir the zest into the curd and pour it into the crust. Return the pan to the oven for 10-12 minutes, until the curd reaches it’s final temperature, 196 degrees F, and thickens.

Remove the pan from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 45 minutes, then refrigerate at least two hours or overnight. Slice and serve.

Filed under:  Desserts & Cookies, Lemon Bars | 8 Comments