Lemon Bars

Perfect Lemon Bars

Is there anyone else out there who is a lemon convert? Lemon anything used to madden me. I just couldn’t make myself like anything that had that distinctive, puckering flavor in it. Maybe the things I tried were too tart or lacked something else, but until the last couple of years, I was never a fan. But now that I have done a lot of baking with it and tried it in a variety of ways, I absolutely love it. I think the conversion began with lemon meringue pie a couple of years ago, and now I enjoy the tart sweetness that lemon adds to such a variety of baked goods. I especially love it paired with fruit and well, everything is infinitely better in cupcake form, so these Lemon-Limoncello Cupcakes are an absolute favorite as well. Lemon bars were a new venture for me and these turned out better than I could have hoped – a thick, shortbread-style crust topped with a perfectly set lemon custard. A perfect balance of sweet and tart, crunch and silky smoothness.

Lemon Bars

One of my sister’s best friends has a mom who does a lot of baking, especially around the holidays. One of the things that my sister always raves about are this lady’s lemon bars. I felt that I needed to pass the Mrs. K test when I made them so as soon as they were ready to cut I had my sister test one to see how they stacked up. She said they were fabulous and definitely on par with Mrs. K’s famous bars. Success!

A note on serving these… I didn’t plan on actually cutting and serving these until the day after they were made so I covered the pan in plastic and refrigerated, then took them out and dusted with powdered sugar. As you can see, most of the powdered sugar got soaked into condensation on top of the bars. If you refrigerate these before serving them, I would recommend letting them come to cool room temperature, then blotting off any noticeable condensation before dusting with powdered sugar. If you are serving them the same day you are baking them, I would just let them cool on a rack and then leave them at room  temperature until you serve them.

One year ago: Potato-Bacon Torte
Two years ago: Cheddar Ale Spread

Lemon Bars

Yield: 24 bars

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Ingredients:

For the crust:
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup confectioners' sugar, plus extra for decorating finished bars
¼ cup cornstarch
¾ teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, at cool room temperature, cut into 1-inch pieces, plus extra for pan

For the lemon filling:
4 large eggs, beaten lightly
1-1/3 cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest, from about 2 large lemons
2/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup whole milk
Pinch of salt

Directions:

1. Adjust an oven rack to middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter a 9x13-inch baking pan and line with one sheet parchment paper. Dot the paper with a bit of butter, then lay a second sheet of parchment paper crosswise over it.

2. Pulse flour, confectioners' sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a food processor. Add the butter and process for 8 to 10 seconds and then pulse until the mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse meal, about three 1-second pulses. (To do this by hand, mix flour, confectioners' sugar, cornstarch, and salt in medium bowl. Freeze the butter and grate it on the large holes of a box grater into the flour mixture. toss the butter pieces to coat. Rub the pieces between your fingers for a minute, until flour turns pale yellow and coarse.) sprinkle the mixture into the lined pan and press firmly with fingers into an even ¼-inch layer over the entire pan bottom and ½-inch up the sides. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, then bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs, sugar and flour in a medium bowl, then stir in the lemon zest, lemon juice, milk and salt to blend well.

4. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees. Stir the filling mixture to reblend; pour into warm crust. Bake until the filling feels firm when touched lightly, about 20 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack; cool to near room temperature, at least 30 minutes. Transfer to cutting board, fold paper down, and cut into bars. Sift confectioners' sugar over bars, if desired. Leftover bars can be covered in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 2 days.

*Note: The filling needs to be poured into a warm crust straight from the oven, so once the crust is in the refrigerator chilling, prepare the filling so it's ready when the crust comes out of the oven.

(Recipe adapted from Cook's Illustrated)



53 Responses to “Lemon Bars”

  1. LimeCake on August 24, 2010 at 6:02 am REPLY

    i love citrusy lemony desserts! there’s nothing better than classic lemon bars. yum!

    Reply

  2. Aimee on August 24, 2010 at 6:37 am REPLY

    I am a lemon convert too, and it starts to make me wonder what other great things I have been missing out on! I made my first lemon bars recently as well and am now in love. These look excellent!

    Reply

  3. Joanne on August 24, 2010 at 8:18 am REPLY

    I am a convert! If by convert you mean lifelong addict. These look fantastic!

    Reply

  4. jaclyn@todayslady on August 24, 2010 at 10:07 am REPLY

    I am most definitely a lemon convert! When I was younger I never ate anything lemon. I just didn’t think it would taste good…. I blame lemon jujubes and lemon suckers. I still dont like them! But somehow I started to try lemon desserts and I love them!! Especially the lemon-raspberry combo! Or blueberry, or cranberry…..

    These look delicious! I really want to make my own lemon squares. I’ve only ever had one lemon square in my life, and loved it!

    Reply

  5. Betty @ scrambled hen fruit on August 24, 2010 at 10:14 am REPLY

    My boys always preferred lemon bars to brownies, but I am equal opportunity when it comes to sweets. I’ll have one of each, thank you! These look delicious.

    Reply

  6. Eliana on August 24, 2010 at 11:44 am REPLY

    Seriously – this could not look more amazing. Wish I had a couple of squares in front of me right now.

    Reply

  7. Kim @ Two Good Cookies on August 24, 2010 at 12:01 pm REPLY

    I have some lemons on my counter. Methinks they won’t be there long after this… :-)

    Reply

  8. Sues on August 24, 2010 at 1:08 pm REPLY

    Nothing better in the summer than lemon bars!! I just wish it FELT like summer here in Boston! These look delicious :)

    Reply

  9. madge @ vegetariancasserolequeen on August 24, 2010 at 1:25 pm REPLY

    Those look divine! I’ve been craving lemon bars lately, but I’m the only lifelong addict (like Joanne!) in my house so I don’t bother making them. Maybe its time I attempt to convert the husband…

    Reply

  10. Jamie on August 24, 2010 at 2:02 pm REPLY

    I have always loved lemon desserts, love them! I have a few great do-often recipes. These bars look so lemony luscious! Oh, I also love lemony savory dishes too. Yum!

    Reply

  11. Maria on August 24, 2010 at 2:43 pm REPLY

    I am a lemon lover! These look incredible! Perfect for summer too!

    Reply

  12. Barbara | VinoLuciStyle on August 24, 2010 at 2:46 pm REPLY

    One of my very favorite treats. I have a cookbook given to me for a Christmas present back when I first started baking called ‘The Artist in the Kitchen’ (copyright 1977!)and that’s when I first discovered lemon bars and have never wavered from that recipe. But I do love to see all the different variations on this theme…and I’ve even made lime bars once when I felt a desperate calling…they were good too!

    True confession. I made a pan once for a barbecue. Well, actually made it twice because I could not keep my sticky fingers out of the first pan and while maybe not finishing off the WHOLE thing…came close enough I didn’t want anyone to know. Til now.

    Reply

    • Barbara on January 8th, 2012 at 12:34 pm

      Hello and thanks for your quck reply…..I just thought before I try again I better tell you that I use Splenda due to being a diabetic. Could that be the reason My filling is rubbery? But in my 9×13 glass dish I have plenty of room for my delicious shortbread but my filling barley covers the shrotbread. If I sound frustrated…….I AM….sorry! maybe I should double the filling recipe???????
      Thanks so much. Barbara

      Reply

      • Michelle on January 9th, 2012 at 8:54 pm

        Hi Barbara, I don’t bake with Splenda, but would imagine that using a sugar substitute in a recipe such as this could certainly affect the texture of the final product.

        Reply

  13. May Ling WU on August 24, 2010 at 3:54 pm REPLY

    Love love love love lemon bars. Forgot about them for a while. I think the sourness is great becuase it helps the dessert not be too sweet. Yours look so good!

    Reply

  14. Sprinkled with Flour on August 24, 2010 at 3:57 pm REPLY

    I love lemon bars, and lemon anything. These look like the perfect lemon bar!

    Reply

  15. Kulsum@JourneyKitchen on August 24, 2010 at 3:58 pm REPLY

    I can literally live by citrus based desserts! Okay may be I can also live by desserts filled with nuts. TRUTH be told I can live by any kind of dessert. This surely goes on my must make list.

    Reply

  16. Natalie @ The City Sisters on August 24, 2010 at 4:13 pm REPLY

    I’ve eaten two desserts today already (I know!) and yet I think I could devour about four of these bad boys!! I love citrus. These lemon bars look fabulous!

    Reply

  17. Camala - CC Recipe on August 24, 2010 at 4:44 pm REPLY

    I have been seriously craving lemon bars recently, great, now I want them even more!

    Reply

  18. Melanie on August 24, 2010 at 7:19 pm REPLY

    I’ve never seen milk in a lemon bar recipe…maybe that’s why mine always come out so terribly!

    Reply

  19. Alison on August 24, 2010 at 7:39 pm REPLY

    These looks great and I’m always looking for a good Lemon Square recipe!

    Reply

  20. Kocinera on August 24, 2010 at 8:21 pm REPLY

    These lemon bars look so delicious! I love lemon desserts, especially in the summer when they add that bit of much-needed freshness.

    Reply

  21. Lynn @ I'll Have What She's Having on August 24, 2010 at 8:25 pm REPLY

    I’ve always been a lemon dessert lover. The sweet and tart combination are just like heaven to me. I can’t wait to try these bars!

    Reply

  22. Ali Cakes on August 24, 2010 at 9:32 pm REPLY

    I have a wonderful lemon bar too. However, I have tried many of your suggestions, like your blackberry pie bar, so I will have to just try this recipe too. I’ll let you know how they compare.

    Reply

  23. torviewtoronto on August 24, 2010 at 11:28 pm REPLY

    love making these looks delicious

    Reply

  24. Becky on August 25, 2010 at 8:16 am REPLY

    I’ve made lemon bars for a long time, but especially at the holidays. I love lemon and lime for the tart, clean taste they give food, and drinks! I have had to re-powder sugar my lemon bars, too, and they’re fine.

    Reply

  25. Lana @ Never Enough Thyme on August 25, 2010 at 9:56 am REPLY

    Lemon is one of my favorite flavors, both in sweet and savory foods, and Lemon Bars are always a big hit around here! Great, classic recipe. Thanks for reminding me that I haven’t made these in far too long.

    Reply

  26. Ivy @ My Simple Food on August 25, 2010 at 10:02 am REPLY

    Love sourness and tangyness of anything lemon. Never made these myself. Thanks for recipe!

    Reply

  27. Michelle on August 25, 2010 at 10:44 am REPLY

    Ahhhh…lemon bars are one of our all time favorites!

    Reply

  28. Tracy on August 25, 2010 at 12:48 pm REPLY

    I love lemon bars and any lemon dessert really. Yum!

    Reply

  29. Jen @ How To: Simplify on August 25, 2010 at 5:54 pm REPLY

    I love lemon bars. This is such a great recipe!

    Reply

  30. Cookin' Canuck on August 25, 2010 at 11:46 pm REPLY

    My dad has been asking me to make him lemon bars for ages. I will have to try this for him.

    Reply

  31. Trish @IamSucceeding on August 26, 2010 at 7:37 am REPLY

    LOVE LOVE LOVE Lemon bars!!!

    Reply

  32. Kim - Liv Life on August 26, 2010 at 3:18 pm REPLY

    I know what you mean… I’m a coconut convert. Two years ago I wouldn’t touch it, now I can’t get enough. These bars look great… I had a lemon bar failure a few years back and have never tried again. These might do the trick though!

    Reply

  33. The Mom Chef on August 26, 2010 at 5:46 pm REPLY

    I’ve been a lemon fan since day one. The more pucker-power, the better. Same with lime. Your bars look delicious. Lemon bars are a favorite in our house. :)

    Reply

  34. Maggy@ThreeManyCooks on August 27, 2010 at 7:31 am REPLY

    I love lemon bars! They are so light and perfect with a cup of tea in the afternoon :)

    Reply

  35. Avanika (Yumsilicious Bakes) on August 28, 2010 at 3:08 am REPLY

    I love lemon-y desserts, these bars look perfect. Yumm!

    Reply

  36. Alexandra on August 30, 2010 at 3:49 pm REPLY

    Well, I made them, and I liked them. Grating the butter was such a greasy, messy hassle, and I think you can get the same effect just cutting in the butter. I definetly will not grate butter again! But they did turn out excellent! Everyone enjoyed them, and I really liked them too (first time eating a lemon bar). I might tone down the lemon flavour slightly next time, for my family’s palette, but thats pretty much the only adjustment.
    Thanks for the recipe!

    Reply

  37. Glummy Mummy on August 30, 2010 at 4:33 pm REPLY

    These look absolutely heavenly and delightful. Going to give them a go soon, almost certain they’re going to taste as divine as they look! Just looking at the photos are making my mouth water :)

    Reply

  38. srithasan on September 7, 2010 at 3:41 pm REPLY

    Lemon & custard flavor give a perfect balance of sweet and tasty desert.

    Reply

  39. Danielle on April 17, 2011 at 10:46 pm REPLY

    Oh man, these were delicious! My Dad loves lemon so I made these mainly for him…but the entire family ended up loving them as well! Definitely will be making these bars again!

    Reply

  40. Barbara on April 28, 2011 at 1:45 am REPLY

    Please…..can someone help me with Lemon Bars?? I have made at least five, maybe six different recipes for Lemon Bars and NONE were any good!!!!! The shortbread has always been good but the lemon mixture is gummy,thin and just terrible.
    I appreciate any and all replies.

    Reply

  41. Shannon on January 7, 2012 at 6:50 pm REPLY

    My most favorite lemon bars recipe so far is from Ina Garten, but I reduce the sugar in the filling to 2 1/2 cups.
    http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/lemon-bars-recipe/index.html

    I am always searching for even better, so I made your recipe today. They were very tasty, had a strong lemon flavor, and were not too sweet. I liked the crust because it was a bit thinner and a little bit more delicate. My crust did not brown as you have pictured above (and maybe that is why it seemed delicate?). I followed your directions exactly. I cooked them in a glass pan. Do you have any suggestions? Perhaps I should try again without the parchment?

    Either way, I think that I now have two favorite recipes.

    Reply

    • Shannon on January 7th, 2012 at 6:54 pm

      Okay. I now see the problem. After 20 minutes my crust had not browned, so I should have cooked it longer. Duh! I was trying to do too many things at one. Oh well!

      Reply

  42. anne on August 10, 2012 at 1:01 pm REPLY

    I make lemon bars and while they taste great, I have a couple questions. Your recipe calls for milk, doesn’t that cut the tartness of the lemon? Also, a couple of times the filling has had a cratered type look to it after its baked. Do you know what would cause that? Thanks!

    Reply

    • Michelle on August 10th, 2012 at 11:50 pm

      Hi Anne, Yes, the milk does cut the tartness a bit, which creates a nice balance of flavor; it also helps to achieve the creamy texture. As for the craters, that could be due to some air pockets.

      Reply

  43. Jody Strickland on October 8, 2012 at 2:36 pm REPLY

    Could I use 2% milk without messing up the recipe? That is all I have and want to make these today!

    Reply

    • Michelle on October 10th, 2012 at 5:26 pm

      Hi Jody, Whole milk is best when working with custards, as it ensures a thick final product. You can try the 2%, but might find that the custard is a little thin.

      Reply

  44. anne on October 10, 2012 at 5:34 pm REPLY

    I’ve had the same problem twice when making lemon bars. I’m using the parchment paper and somehow the filling is getting underneath the crust?! It makes it a mess. Any help on why this is happening?

    Reply

    • Rebecca on February 4th, 2013 at 10:18 pm

      Anne- Are you building the crust up along the edge? That would be my first thought. Press the crust down good on the bottom and build up about the length of a fingernail (the bed part, not to include the free edge). The other thing to check is buttering the parchment paper. Using a whole stick I rub it all over the pan, rub it onto the first layer of paper & press it down to seal the edges. I repeat the process on the second layer of paper that goes cross-wise to the first.

      Reply

  45. Rebecca on February 5, 2013 at 12:02 am REPLY

    I would like to say…Oh my goodness. This is a fab recipe. I made the recipe twice. Once to try it and the second time for a Super Bowl party. Nothing is left from either pan. I made this for Pintrosity’s Pinstrosiversary and because I had some delicious lemons. Here is a link to my blog posting http://alaskanfamilylife.blogspot.com/2013/02/yum-yum-yummy-lemon-bars.html

    Reply

  46. Nova on March 23, 2014 at 9:28 pm REPLY

    Hi does 1-1/3 cups granulated sugar mean 1 and 1/3 cups of sugar?

    Reply

    • Michelle on March 24th, 2014 at 11:36 am

      Hi Nova, Yes, sorry for the formatting issue.

      Reply

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