Ultimate Lemon Bars

My obsession with lemon desserts (and citrus and orange and lime) is well documented on the blog. I've got cookies and cakes and curds and pies and tarts. I even have *two* lemon bar recipes (along with an awesome lemon tart).

So why in the world would we need another lemon bar recipe?!?

Because these are the lemoniest, most citrusy, amazing lemon bars you've had.

A few things in particular make these lemon bars stand out.

The filling-to-crust ratio was absolutely perfect. It wasn't one of those anemic lemon bars with a thin layer of filling on top of a giant crust. And the crust didn't crumble against the weight of the filling either. The crust was just thick enough to not only hold up to the lemon physically, but texturally as well. It was juuuuuust the right amount of fat to provide that deliciously buttery crust that compliments lemon so well.

My lemon bar creation in front of my painting creation
The lemon was LEMON-Y! This isn't one of those sickly sweet lemon bars that taste like a mouthful of sugar with a tiny hint of lemon. These are puckery deliciousness. Balanced with the perfect amount of sugar, but lemon is the star of this show. And if you want a touch more sweet, just pile on that powdered sugar.

And don't take my word for it. Seriously, this was the group text exchange after I brought these to a get together (where a few friends weren't able to meet up):

Aaaaaaand because this was a ton of fun to make, I've included below my Instagram stories the day I made these bars. But feel free to skip ahead to the end of this post for this recipe if you're ready to stop listening to me talk about these bars and make them for yourself.


Yours in fully giving in to her lemon obsession,


Ultimate Lemon Bars, from Cooks Illustrated
When reading the ingredients you may come across cream of tartar (tartaric acid) and think to yourself WTF? Who actually bakes with that? (Other than using it to stabilize egg whites.) I know, it seems bonkers. But it's basically like citric acid and gives the lemon bars a bright flavor that you can't get from the juice alone.


1 cup (5 ounces) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (1 3/4 ounces) granulated sugar
½ tsp salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Filling 1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
2 TBSP all-purpose flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
¼ tsp salt
3 large eggs plus 3 large yolks
2 tsp grated lemon zest plus 2/3 cup juice (4 lemons)
4 TBSP unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
Confectioners' sugar (optional)

  1. FOR THE CRUST: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Make foil sling for 8-inch square baking pan by folding 2 long sheets of aluminum foil so each is 8 inches wide. Lay sheets of foil in pan perpendicular to each other, with extra foil hanging over edges of pan. Push foil into corners and up sides of pan, smoothing foil flush to pan.
  2. Whisk flour, sugar, and salt together in bowl. Add melted butter and stir until combined. Transfer mixture to prepared pan and press into even layer over entire bottom of pan (do not wash bowl). Bake crust until dark golden brown, 19 to 24 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking.
  3. FOR THE FILLING: While crust bakes, whisk sugar, flour, cream of tartar, and salt together in now-empty bowl. Whisk in eggs and yolks until no streaks of egg remain. Whisk in lemon zest and juice. Transfer mixture to saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and registers 160 degrees, about 5 to 8 minutes. Off heat, stir in butter. Strain filling through fine-mesh strainer set over bowl.
  4. Pour filling over hot crust and tilt pan to spread evenly. Bake until filling is set and barely jiggles when pan is shaken, 8 to 12 minutes. (Filling around perimeter of pan may be slightly raised.) Let bars cool completely, at least 1½ hours. Using foil overhang, lift bars out of pan and transfer to cutting board. Cut into bars, wiping knife clean between cuts as necessary. Before serving, dust bars with confectioners' sugar, if using.


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