Back in the day lemon bars were probably my favorite dessert. The crispy and buttery crust. The smooth and tart filling. Not too sweet, not too rich. Absolutely perfect.
I think I'm still on the mission to find the perfect lemon bar recipe. Ina Garten has a pretty amazing one but I wanted to try out the recipe from my Luscious Lemon Desserts cookbook.
So how were they?
Depends on what part of the lemon bar you're asking about. (Edit: depends on WHO you're asking too...)
The filling was pretty amazing. I should make Ina Garten's recipe again to compare the two (its been years since I've made them). But from what I remember, the Ina Garten filling has a more gelatinous-y texture (likely due to the increased amount of eggs in her recipe). With this recipe you use fewer eggs, but you whip them first, so the filling was much softer and didn't quite "set" in the same way. Quite different from the typical lemon bar. But soooo deliciously tart and smooth.
Now onto the crust. When I first wrote this post I had originally typed this:
"...the crust was a total failure. I mean it tasted OK, but the texture was a bust. Pretty disappointing actually, especially since the crust from the lemon tart was soooooo freaking amazing. I prefer my lemon tarts to have a crispy, almost cookie-like bottom. This crust was very similar to a pie crust bottom. (And too high a ratio of bottom : top if you ask me... good on J Lo, but not on a lemon bar)"
And then I shared the lemon bars with some friends and coworkers. And people loved them. Everyone agreed the filling was delicious but some people actually PREFERRED the soft pie-like crust. I was shocked!
I guess this is what happens when you cook for yourself too often. You forget that other people out there have different taste buds and can have radically different opinions on the exact same foods.
So depending on how you like your lemon bars/ dessert crusts, either try out this recipe as-is or mix and match the filling with another crust recipe. Either way apparently you can't go wrong.
Classic lemon bars, from Luscious Lemon Desserts
1 cup + 2 TBSP flour
1 ¾ cups powdered sugar
2 TBPS lemon zest
1 stick butter, chilled, cut into small pieces
½ tsp baking powder
3 lg eggs
¼ cup + 3 TBSP fresh lemon juice
1. Place rack in middle of oven and preheat to 350. Butter an 8” square baking pan.
2. Whisk together 1 cup flour, ¼ cup powdered sugar, zest and salt. Cut in the butter with pastry blender or 2 knives used scissors-fashion, until coarse crumbs form. Knead the dough in the bowl until it begins to come together.
3. Transfer dough to baking pan and press evenly into the bottom. Bake for 25 minutes, or until light golden brown. Let cool while making filling.
4. Whisk together remaining 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, 2 TBSP flour and baking powder. Set aside.
5. Beat the eggs with mixer on high speed in medium bowl for 2 minutes, or until tripled in volume. Reduce speed to low, add the sugar mixture, and beat until just blended. Add lemon juice and beat until just blended.
6. Pour lemon filling over warm crust and bake 18 to 20 minutes, until filling is set in the center. Cool on wire rack.
7. Sift powdered sugar over cookes before serving. Store in airtight container.
Hot tip: Instead of putting the crust directly in the 8" pan, I used a nifty trick I learned from Cooks Illustrated to help get the bars out after they've cooled.
Place one piece of baking or parchment paper lengthwise to cover the bottom and at least 2" past the sides of the pan. Repeat with another piece of baking paper going widthwise. That way when the bars are cooled, you can just lift the baking paper and pop them out of the pan (instead of having to cut them while they are still in the pan).