It’s nearing the end of a mild winter here in Memphis. You never know what temperature you’ll get for any given week. Regardless of the temperature, you don’t see many lemons during this time. Dessert tables at holiday dinners and events have been filled with warm spices, pumpkins, sweet potatoes and my beloved chocolate. These flavors can make a person feel so satisfied and cozy, which is perfect for the winter.
The spring and summer months are now right around the corner. If you’re like me, you want to let go of those winter meals in exchange for some lighter dishes. One of my favorite seasonal transition desserts is lemon bars. I’ll share with my lemon bar recipe that’s just perfect for fighting off those winter blues.
Before I jump into the recipe, I am going to start with a fun fact about lemons. For me, lemons are more widely associated with the summer. Lemonade, lemon cupcakes, and lemon popsicles remind me of my fondest summertime memories. However, some lemons are harvested during the winter.
There are two well-known types of lemons. They are named Eureka and Meyer lemons. Eureka lemons are available all year. They are the basic lemons that you can find at the grocery store at anytime. Meyer lemons are more available and at their best from December to early March. These lemons have a tart flavor, just like Eureka lemons, but they are slightly sweeter. This is because they are a cross of lemon and tangerine. I like to use Meyer lemons when baking because they give that tart lemon flavor without being overly bitter. When it comes to my lemon bars, you can use whichever lemon you choose or that’s available. Let’s get to the recipe!
Traditionally lemon bars start with a tender shortbread crust. You want the crust to be sturdy enough to hold all of the lemony goodness but soft enough to easily bite into with a nice texture. Everything needs to “flow” when eating it. The first step to creating this shortbread is making sure that your butter is room temperature. This is the only ingredient that contains moisture in the shortbread recipe. Keeping the butter at cool room temperature provides just enough moisture to bind the ingredients without causing it to get too soft, which could make the shortbread spread.
I recommend sifting and whisking all of the dry ingredients together before mixing the butter and granulated sugar. This just helps me to stay organized.
Parchment paper is essential if you plan on taking the lemon bars out of your pan and cutting them evenly. Line your baking pan parchment paper, up to the rim and slightly over the edges. Once the lemon bars are cooled, you can easily grab the overhang of the parchment paper and slip the entire lemon bar out of the pan.
The next important tip is to have all the ingredients for the lemon curd measured and prepared before you start making it. Having everything prepped will reduce the urge to overmix, which causes visible air bubbles on top of your finished product.
In my opinion, this is one of the best lemon bars I’ve had. I know you are thinking that is easy for me to say about my own recipe but I truly feel that way. The lemon curd is so smooth, with just the right amount of tart lemon and balanced well with just enough sweetness from the sugar. The shortbread cookie complements the curd with its subtle sweetness and tender bite. Again, it all just flows so well together. Lighten up your winter blues and enjoy these lemon bars!
2 sticks butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour 1/4 cup sifted powdered sugar
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
6 large eggs plus 1 yolk
3 1/4 cups sifted granulated sugar
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 6 or 7 lemons)
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Prepare baking pan by lining it with parchment paper. The lining should hang over the rim of the pan for easy removal.
Prepare the shortbread:
Cream together the room temperature butter and granulated sugar in the mixer. While the mixer runs, sift and mix together the dry ingredients: flour, powdered sugar and sea salt, in another bowl. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the mixer until everything is well-combined.
Roll the shortbread mixture into a ball and place in the pan. Press the mixture down with your fingers until it covers the entire bottom of the pan evenly. It may seem difficult to cover the entire bottom of the pan but keep smoothing and pressing until the dough completely covers the surface.
Refrigerate the dough for 15 minutes.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, until lightly golden brown. Let the shortbread cool completely.
Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F
Once the shortbread is cool, prepare the filling:
Whisk eggs in a large bowl. Then, whisk in the granulated sugar, and lemon juice. Once the wet ingredients are combined, whisk in the sifted flour. Be sure not to over mix: stop whisking as soon as the mixture is combined.
Pour the curd mixture over the cooled shortbread. Place the pan back into the oven and bake for about 30-40 minutes or until the curd sets.
Let the lemon bar cool completely before cutting them into squares. Place the lemon bar in the refrigerator if you don’t want to wait too long. Enjoy!