I was inspired to make lemon bars after having one at my church’s bake sale. I hadn’t had a lemon bar in ages and the chewy bottom and sweet and slightly tart lemon top tantalized my taste buds – thus, the beginning of my lemon bar/tart quest. I had tried making a lemon tart before with a friend. We tried out Julia Child’s lemon tart recipe with so-so results. The filling was tart, but the glaze, well, let’s just say it didn’t turn out right and ended up becoming a sugar crust. I then tried Smitten Kitchen’s whole lemon tart recipe and well, didn’t quite like it. You can read my conclusions here. The next recipe I decided to try was this one. I wouldn’t say that this is “the one”, but it came pretty darn close. I suspect my filling wasn’t the best because the lemons I used weren’t super lemony – so kids, the quality of your lemons does count!. The ratio of crust to custard was great and overall, this is a great recipe. I still would like my crust a little more chewy (like the one I had at the bake sale), but I guess after trying out lemon tart/bar recipes a few times in a row, I need(ed) a break from all the lemons and sugar. The quest continues! But this recipe will suffice, for now.
Perfect Lemon Bars
(recipe taken from Mel’s Kitchen; click here)
For the crust:
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup powdered sugar, plus extra to sprinkle on bars
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 12 tablespoons butter (1 1/2 sticks), at cool room temperature, cut into 1-inch pieces (Mel used salted butter, I used unsalted and it turned out fine)
For the filling:
- 4 large eggs
- 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest, from 2 large lemons
- 2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, from 3 to 4 large lemons
- 1/3 cup milk
- Pinch of salt (about 1/8 teaspoon)
- Place an oven rack in the middle position and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9X13-inch baking pan with foil or parchment paper and lightly grease the foil/parchment.
- Stir together the flour, powdered sugar, cornstarch, and salt (this can be done in a food processor or in a large bowl by hand). Add the pieces of butter and cut the butter into the dry ingredients using a pastry blender, two knives or your fingers (taking care not to melt the butter too much – you might try freezing the butter and grating it into the dry ingredients on the large holes of a box grater) or process in the food processor for 8 to 10 seconds and then as needed until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
- Sprinkle the mixture into the prepared pan and press into an even layer on the bottom and about 1/2-inch up the sides of the pan. Refrigerate for 15-30 minutes.
- Bake until golden brown for about 20 minutes.
- For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and flour in a medium bowl and then stir in the lemon zest, juice and milk to combine.
- Pour the filling onto the warm crust. According to Mel, it’s important that the crust is still warm. Place in oven and reduce the oven temperature to 325°F. Bake for about 18-20 minutes until the filling feels slightly firm to the touch. Cool the bars to room temperature, sprinkle with additional powdered sugar and cut into bars.