The classic Lemon Bar is the perfect tart alternative in a world dominated by chocolate desserts. It also happens to be one of my favorite desserts to make (and eat). I recently made a batch for a dinner and they went over so well that I knew it had to be one of the first recipes I posted when launching Bakes by Jason.
Like most classics out there, the number of recipes and techniques available to you seem endless. After testing out a few of them, I have come up with a recipe and technique that works best for me that it’s one I love making.
Choosing a pan
Before jumping into the recipe I just wanted to take a second and talk about the different kinds of pans that can be used. The pan you use doesn’t really change the method but different pans can give you different crust to filling ratios.
When making lemon bars, I like to use my 6×14 rectangular tart pan. I really love the look the fluted edges give the bars and the shape makes them nice and easy to portion. This pan also ensures all pieces are edge pieces giving you a little something to hold on to while eating.
If you opt to go for an 8×8 or 9×9 square pan you may want to double the amount of filling you will need. You may not use all of it but any leftovers can be used as a nice lemon curd.
One last thing about decorating. Most lemon bar recipes have you dust with powdered sugar because during the baking process bubble rise to the surface creating a lemony foam. While perfectly harmless it is not the prettiest and hence the need to cover it with sugar. In this recipe you precook the filling before baking which eliminates the foam. So if you like your lemon bars on the tart side, good news, they’ll still be gorgeous without the extra sugar on the top.
Crumbly shortbread crust with a tart yet sweet lemon filling
- Lemon Filling:
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3 Tablespoons corn starch
- zest of 1 lemon
- 3 large eggs
- 1/2 cup lemon juice
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups + 2 tablespoons flour
- Optional Decorations:
- Powdered sugar
- Candied lemon slices
Preheat oven to 325F
Make the Crust:
Melt the butter in the microwave or on the stovetop. Add the vanilla extract and set aside and allow to cool slightly.
Combine the sugar, salt, lemon zest, and flour in a medium bowl.
Add the butter and vanilla to the dry ingredients and mix with a spatula to combine.
Press the crust into the bottom and slightly up the sides of your chosen pan.
Bake for 20 minutes
Remove from the oven and, with an offset spatula, gently press down any areas of the crust that may have puffed up so that it is nice and even. Set aside until ready to fill.
Make the Lemon Filling: (see note about doubling filling for certain pans)
While the crust is baking, combine the sugar, cornstarch, and lemon zest in a medium heavy bottomed pan.
Add the eggs and beat together until well combined and a the mixture has gone a slightly pale yellow.
Stir in the lemon juice to combine, switch to a heat resistant spatula.
Over medium heat, cook the mixture stirring constantly with the spatula. Be sure to continually drag the spatula against the bottom and side of the pan to prevent the mixture from scorching.
Keep the mixture moving until it just starts to thicken (about 10 minutes or longer depending on how cold your ingredients were at the start)
Just as it thickens, pull the pan off the heat and stir vigorously. Return the pan to the stove over low heat and continue to stir for 30-60 seconds more until the mixture is similar in texture to a loose pudding.
Pour over the prepared crust spreading evenly with an offset spatula.
Bake for an additional 20 minutes to set the filling.
Cool for 1 hour at room temperature and 1-2 hours in the fridge before cutting
I prefer to make my lemon bars in my 6x14 rectangular tart pan. This recipe has just enough filling for this particular pan. If you are using something a bit larger, like an 8x8 or 9x9 square, I highly recommend doubling the filling recipe. There are many options for finishing off your lemon bars. A dusting of powdered sugar is one classic way to decorate.