Lemon Bars

Happy holiday season all!  I’m actually not doing much cooking for the actual holiday meals this year, but I couldn’t just do nothing.  I don’t know if Lemon Bars are Christmas-y or not, but I kinda feel like Lemon Bars, and I have 6 lemons in the fridge, so that’s what I’m making.  It’s a Barefoot Contessa recipe so its odds of being good are pretty high.

Lemon Bars

As per usual, no substitutions on baked goods.  Essentially what you’re doing here is making a shortbread and then topping it with a lemon pudding.  The key is making sure you cook the shortbread enough that it holds up when you pour the lemon goo on top and making sure that you did the lemon goo correctly so that it will set up when it bakes and cools.  You can do all of this with an electric mixer if you like.  That makes it a little faster.

What’s interesting about this recipe is the way the crust is done.  In most recipes for shortbread or lemon bars or anything that has a crust like this the instructions will say that you should cut cold butter into the flour.  In this recipe everything is room temperature and you cream the butter and sugar together.  When you add the flour you end up with the same crumbly dough as the cold butter method.  The other thing that’s a little different about this recipe is that it calls for a 9×13 baking sheet with 2 inch sides instead of a regular baking dish.  This is where I strayed from the recipe a little.  I don’t have a jelly roll pan like that.  I used to.  No idea what happened to it.  I planned to use my standard 9×13 glass Pyrex.  Turns out that was already in the fridge full of chicken enchilada casserole.  I ended up doing two 8×8 pans instead.

I had a little timing issue with these.  I’m trying to get a lot done in my time off so I didn’t want to spend the whole afternoon in the kitchen.  I made the crusts and put them in to bake.  While they baked I made the filling.  I think that was fine.  I made my mistake by filling the pans before the crusts were completely cool.  One of the pans ended up with mush on the bottom instead of crust.  Bummer.  Of course it’s also possible that I should have used the big oven.  My countertop convection oven isn’t big enough to put two 8x8s in side by side.  I had to put one on top and one on bottom and switch them half way through.  Not ideal, but it usually works ok.  Maybe that was a factor and maybe not.  The other thing to remember if you do two pans instead of one is that you’ll need to extend the cooking time.  Let’s say 40-45 minutes instead of 30-35.  Just keep an eye on the topping.  Let it brown, but not burn.

In the end I have one pan that has a yummy lemon custard that I should save if I can figure out how to separate it from the mushy bottom and one pan that turned out like it’s supposed to.  You’ll be tempted to cut these while they’re still warm, partly because you’ll want to eat one and partly because you’ll want to check and be sure they aren’t runny.  Guess what, they’ll be a touch runny until they’re completely cool so resist the temptation.  Just keep a box of brownie mix on hand in case they don’t turn out and you need to move on to plan B!

Good? Yep.
Easy? Yep, just follow the instructions.
Good for company? Desserts are for sharing.
Special shopping? Nope, just don’t try to substitute bottled lemon juice.

Lemon Bars


For the crust:
1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

For the filling:
6 extra-large eggs at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (4 to 6 lemons)
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup flour
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking sheet, building up a 1/2-inch edge on all sides. Chill.

Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.

For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature.

Cut into triangles and dust with confectioners’ sugar.

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