When life gives you lemons… and eggs… and flour… bake lemon bars.
Like many kids, I went through a baking phase, but ran into a few obstacles along the way. Growing up in a traditional Asian household meant very limited access to conventional American ingredients and kitchenware. When I would ask my dad if we had any baking powder, he would hand me baking soda. “It’s the same thing,” he said. And when the baking soda we had was being used to soak up smells to keep the fridge scent-free, I would just omit it from the recipe.
The first time I saw a Kitchen Aid mixer was senior year of high school. I don’t even think I knew what it was. Until then, I thought the only way to combine ingredients was with a whisk, a fork, or a pair of handy dandy chopsticks.
When I moved into my first off-campus apartment in my third year of college, I made my official debut as a stress baker. Not only did my housemates supply a mixer, but also a cast iron pan, cake molds, and bread tins. To top it off, my housemate’s boyfriend had a huge, fragrant lemon tree in their backyard.
I started making lemon bars because of my housemate’s request that we have a cottage core-themed picnic complete with cute, summer outfits and dainty sweets. After one too many failed attempts at making scones, I thought lemon bars were the next best thing.
Without further ado, here’s my take on lemon bars:
Yield: 24 squares
Time: 1.5 hours to prep, bake, and cool (if you have the patience!)
Equipment: 9 x 13 in. baking pan, sifter or something to dust on powdered sugar
- 1 cup butter, room temperature
- ½ cup powdered sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for dusting
- 2 ⅓ cups flour, separated
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons grated lemon zest
- 6 tablespoons lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
- 4 large eggs
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- In a large bowl, mix butter and ½ cup of powdered sugar on medium speed until smooth.
- Add in ONLY 2 cups of the flour and combine until slightly crumbly.
- Lightly butter or spray pan. Make sure you get the sides and corners!
- Transfer mix into pan and press evenly into the bottom. The crust should be about one inch thick.
- Bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden. (I usually check it around 15 minutes and then keep an eye on it until it’s ready.)
- While the crust is baking, in a separate bowl combine the rest of the flour (⅓ cup), granulated sugar, eggs, baking powder, lemon zest, and lemon juice.
- Pour onto the hot crust.
- Bake for 35 minutes or until the center is no longer runny (check with a knife).
- Remove from the oven and dust remaining powdered sugar on top.
- Cool completely. (I have never done this.)
Note: As I said before, I grew up without a lot of traditional baking appliances, one being a lemon zester. For this recipe, I usually peel the skin of the lemon and then finely chop the pieces. I also like adding more than the recipe calls for if I don’t think the lemons are as fragrant as usual.
From my experience, making these bars is not only a great way to avoid studying, but also leaves you with a quick breakfast snack or light dessert. I have also added a blueberry compote and swirled it into the filling before, and have been wanting to experiment with substituting the lemons with oranges, or even limes. Hope you enjoy the recipe, and good luck!