lemon bars

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)

Ingredients:

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)

Method:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Bake until golden brown for about 20 minutes.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
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