Lemon bars and I go way back. I remember making them on many different occasions as a child, and they were always a huge hit. No surprise really – what’s not to love? Buttery shortbread topped with tart lemon filling and dusted with icing sugar…um, yes please! I haven’t made them in years – don’t worry, I’m exploring the reasons behind that in therapy – but now that it’s officially Spring again I figured it was time to dig out the recipe and remind myself why just about anything made with lemon is a good thing (in my books anyways). Spring = lemon. Well, Spring = tulips (my favourite flower, thanks for asking) as well but we can talk about that some other time. Regardless, these babies are tried, tested, and truly delicious, and so I want to share them with you.
Have you ever made lemon bars? If you have, you know that they are one of the easiest things to whip up EVER, and they never fail to impress anyone who takes a bite. If you haven’t (or even if you have), come join me on this culinary journey!
Gather up the necessities:
Butter (duh), flour, sugar, eggs, lemon, baking powder, and salt. Do you have all of those things in your possession? If not, can you beg, borrow, and/or steal to get them? Good – I want to share these with you already!!!
First things first: we need to make the base. It’s a pretty standard shortbread-type base, which means that we need to add some sugar to some softened butter…
…and beat it until it’s creamy. Bonus points if you do this by hand!
Next, go ahead and add some flour and a dash of salt for good measure.
Stir everything up until its crumbly. It may not look like much but this is the foundation on which all good things are built. Butter + Sugar + Flour + Salt = success. At least as far as baking is concerned. Your nutritionist may disagree, but I’m not here to rob you of your joy so please don’t attempt to rob me of mine. Do we have a deal?
Now, because you’re more responsible than me you’ve probably already planned ahead and greased an 8 x 8″ pan (or lined it with parchment) and preheated your oven. If you haven’t…let’s just say you may be in good company.
Dump the base into said pan like so:
And then press it down into an even layer.
Voila! It’s ready to be baked. I think 8- 10 minutes should be sufficient.
Now that that’s all taken care of, we can make the filling. However, before we do so, I have an important character-building question for you: will you use the same bowl that the base was mixed in to make the filling? Conventional wisdom might dictate that you use a different one (i.e. a clean one), but really, why must we do so? I racked my brain for exactly 3.2 seconds and found no good reason, so I used the same one. I encourage you to do an equal amount of soul-searching, and follow my path. There is no good reason to deviate from a designated good thing, my friends.
So, with that important life-changing decision behind me, I stared my destiny straight in the hips eye and took care of business. In other words, I added some sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt to the bowl. I was so ashamed, I couldn’t bear to take a picture…so please use your imaginations. It was riveting, let me tell you.
(Confession: Many, many moons ago I made these but accidentally added baking soda instead of baking powder. They were gross. I tried to feed them to my Mom’s friend, who politely tasted them for fear of shattering my fragile ego. I think that may have been the last time I made these. Suddenly, it all makes sense…I’m firing my therapist on Monday)
Next, we must zest and juice a lemon. My momma’s recipe for lemon bars never used zest, but I’m rebelling against tradition and adding some to mine. Now, in my Mom’s defense, I’m pretty sure lemon zest wasn’t in ANYTHING in the 80’s when she got the recipe for her bars. For all I know, they used the lemon juice that comes in a bottle (I just heard a collective gasp!). However, knowing what I know (and what I don’t know, for that matter), it was a no-brainer, really – I knew the zest would impart a really bright citrusy flavour to the bars since there is an abundance of aromatic oils in the rind. Besides, I’m Scottish and want to get as much value out of something that I can.
Go ahead and add all of that fabulous zest to the bowl with the other filling ingredients.
Mix everything up – the sugar will help the lemon zest release some of its oils. I think. Can anyone verify this?
We need to add an egg to help the filling set up. You can add 2 eggs, if you want, but I’m going to add one + an egg white. I’m health conscious, ok?
Remember the (naked) lemon that is on your counter? Juice it already!
Not to be overly helpful or anything, but please make sure you strain your lemon juice. I’m not sure about you, but seeded lemon bars just don’t do it for me.
With that PSA out of the way, add the eggs (lightly beaten…or not) and the lemon juice to the bowl that is starting you straight in the hips face.
Mix everything up, ok?
Looking good, looking good.
Let’s go check on the base, shall we?
Yes, I think that’s good enough – its slightly brown around the edges, so we should pour the delicious lemon filling on top…
Pop the whole thing in the oven for about 25 – 30 minutes. And then, before you know it…
They’re done! But you can’t eat them yet, sorry. They have to cool first – or else!!! So stop pouting and go do something else to occupy your time; they’re worth the wait, I promise.
Once they’ve cooled to room temperature, dust the top with some icing sugar…
…but try not to inhale.
Cut into 2, 4, 6, 8, or 12 squares – doesn’t matter to me.
And eat one. Then eat another. Then go get on the treadmill, and immediately realize you’re crazy to leave the rest of the pan in plain sight of your ravenous family so get off the treadmill and go hide the pan before getting back on the treadmill. Yes, they are that good. And yes, you’ll wonder why you haven’t made these in a really long time. You’re welcome.