Lemon Bars

Sometimes the dessert picks you.  I recently found myself in the following situation: 

  1. I was finally in possession of a proper lemon squeezer/juicer.  It was $1.99 at Marshalls (yes!) and the orange matches my Tupperware measuring cups, which cost way more than $1.99 on Etsy. 
  2. I had an upcoming dentist appointment, and my dentist is near my Nana’s house, and Nana loves lemony sweets. 
  3. I was the proud secondhand owner of Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Christmas Cookie Book.  It cost $1 and contained a recipe called “The Ultimate Lemon Butter Bar”.

Clearly it was time to make Lemon Bars…a wonderful combination of cool, citrus lemon curd and buttery shortbread.  No chocolate necessary, thank you very much.

The shortbread process was simple enough.  Butter, flour, sugar…blend, press, bake.  The lemon curd was trickier.  I needed my candy thermometer.  I needed two hands.  I needed to remember what hollandaise sauce looks like as a comparison.

But for once, getting and measuring the lemon juice was easy.

My shortbread was a little on the crumbly side so I am looking forward to another shot at that using my hands instead of a mixer, but I was very pleased with the lemon curd.  I think this could also be done very well with a pressed crust using Walkers shortbread cookie crumbs as a base.

Nana gave me her nose, so I give her lemon desserts made with love!

Lemon Butter Bars
Adapted from “Rose’s Christmas Cookies” by Rose Levy Beranbaum

Shortbread Crust
8 tbsp unsalted butter (1 stick) – room temp
2 tbsp powdered sugar
2 tbsp granulated sugar – superfine if possible
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

  • Place 1 oven rack in the middle of the oven.  Preheat to 325.
  • Line an 8×8 baking pan with nonstick or heavy-duty aluminum foil so the foil hangs over 2 sides.
  • In a large bowl, whisk the sugars until combined.
  • Add the softened butter and cream together until light and fluffy.
  • Using your fingers or a mixer, slowly add in the flour until incorporated.
  • Pat the dough into the lined pan and prick holes all over with a fork.
  • Bake for 30-40 minutes until edges are lightly browned.

And while it’s baking…

Lemon Curd Filling
4 large egg yolks (use the whites to make an omlette!)
3/4 cup sugar
3 fluid oz. lemon juice (2 1/2 large lemons)
4 tbsp unsalted butter – room temp
pinch of salt
2 tsp lemon zest

  • Before you begin, place a strainer over a large bowl near the stove.
  • In a heavy saucepan, blend the egg yolks and sugar with a wooden spoon.
  • Stir in the lemon juice, butter, and salt.
  • Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and resembling hollandaise sauce – around 6 minutes or to 196 degrees on a candy thermometer.  Do not allow mixture to boil, and if it begins steaming, lift it up from heat for a few seconds to prevent boiling.
  • Once thickened, pour the curd at once into the strainer and press it with the back of a wooden spoon until only residue remains.
  • Stir in the lemon zest.
  • When the shortbread comes out of the oven, lower the temp to 300.
  • Pour the lemon curd on top of the shortbread and return it to the oven for 10 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.
  • Once cooled, refrigerate for an additional 30 minutes to completely set the lemon curd before cutting into squares.
  • Lift foil to remove shortbread from pan and place on a cutting board.
  • Cut into squares and cover with sifted powdered sugar.

Man, that was a long one…but they were delicious!

6 thoughts on “Lemon Bars

  1. Monet says:

    What a beautiful picture of you and your Nana! I just found your blog tonight, and I’m truly delighted. Wonderful writing, great recipes and beautiful photographs! Lemon bars are one of my number one favorites…these look lovely!

    • Aimee says:

      Megan – I know! I come from a long line of bargain hunters so I have the patience to go to used book stores and library book sales (and Marshalls) and go through the inventory. Unfortunately this often leads to piles and piles of cookbooks taking over my apartment, but I don’t really see that as a problem! 🙂

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