It’s spring, and one of the most cheerful and spring-like things I could think of to take to a recent party was the Lemon Bars recipe from Smitten Kitchen. I’ve made them before, but years ago as part of my 365 recipe challenge, and I didn’t have the recipe actually written here on the website. It’s time to fix that, particularly since they’re so delicious and so easy to make.
These lemon bars are incredibly bright and citrusy. They’re nicely tart, definitely sweet but not overwhelmingly so. The base layer is a simple shortbread that comes together very easily with an electric or stand mixer, and the extra-thick layer of lemon curd is easily whisked together. The most time consuming part of making these bars may be juicing the lemons! These bars are great for a potluck or party, because one batch yields a full 9×13 inch pan that will feed a lot of people, especially if cut into 64 two-bite bars (a perfect serving size that lets you get seconds or thirds!). Mine were a little softer than they probably should have been, as I baked them on the shorter end of the time, but the filling still stayed in place except when jostled.
Tips for Baking Lemon Bars
If you don’t have quite enough lemons or don’t have a juicer, you can peel them (after you zest them) and blend the pulp, then strain it through a sieve. I did this when I made them in 2010. It worked rather well, and I used bottled lemon juice to make up the rest of what I needed.
One trick to these: use a metal baking pan that’s lined with parchment paper along the bottom and sides. This keeps the bars from sticking horrendously to your baking pan and allows you to pull them from the pan for easy cutting. Skip it and you’ll be sorry.
Seriously, make these. The last time I made these and shared, I was lucky to come home with any.
The brightest and most lemony Lemon Bars I know - a shortbread crust topped with a sweet-tart thick layer of goo. Deliciously tart and not toothachingly sweet.
- 16 tablespoons butter (2 sticks), at room temperature
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 cups flour
- 1/16 teaspoon table salt (a dash if you don't want to measure that little)
- 7 large eggs
- 2 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 tablespoons lemon zest (4-6 lemons per Smitten Kitchen, but I zest differently and only needed 2 big ones)
- 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (I needed 4 lemons)
- 1 cup flour
- powdered sugar for topping
Line a metal 9x13 inch baking pan with parchment paper, covering the bottom and sides. (If not using parchment paper, grease your pan well and cross your fingers.) Preheat oven to 350F.
Cream butter and 1/2 cup sugar until light and fluffy with a stand mixer or handheld electric mixer. Add 2 cups flour and salt and mix at low speed until just combined. Mold dough into a ball, then flatten into the bottom of the prepared pan, forming a 1/2-inch edge along the sides. Chill briefly. (I forgot to chill this, and they turned out fine.)
Bake for 15-20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Set aside to cool for a few minutes, but no need to cool completely.
While your crust bakes, prepare the lemon filling. Whisk together eggs, 2 1/2 cups sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and 1 cup flour. (A wire whisk works fine for this.) Pour into warm crust. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until filling is set. Filling will not jiggle when done.
Cool at room temperature. Dust with powdered sugar, and cut into small bars. A bench scraper cut these well for me. Store in the refrigerator.
If you don't have a juicer, you can peel the lemons (after you zest them) and blend them, pith and all, then strain them through a sieve. I've supplemented the juice with a little bottled lemon juice in the past as well.
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
(Updated in March 2018 with notes from when I made it in 2010.)