I just got back from dropping off a plateful of these lip-puckering lemon bars to my grandparents — my grandparents, who are both from Minnesota. So, of course we were standing around in the kitchen, giggling, saying “bars” with that distinctive Minnesota (Minne-SOH-ta) accent. Dontcha know that accent??
My grandpa has a major sweet tooth, and he is known for his love of chocolate, but his favorite dessert is “lemon pie” as he calls it — (lemon meringue pie) — so when I made these bars I knew I’d be surprising him with a delivery. The first thing he said when he took a bite was, “these taste just like lemon pie.” Mission accomplished.
This recipe is almost exactly The Barefoot Contessa’s lemon bar recipe, but I made a few tiny changes. The biggest change was to the crust. Not the ingredients so much, (although I did add vanilla; I am a vanilla-aholic), but the method. The way I do it is faster, since it doesn’t require you have the butter at room temp, but it also just creates a better texture in my opinion.
Here’s how I made them!
- 2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 6 eggs
- 3 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup flour
- zest of one lemon (zest it before you juice it!)
- 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 6 lemons)
- 1 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350.
Butter a 9x13x2 inch baking pan, or spray generously with cooking spray. For extra safety, line the pan with parchment paper (butter or spray the paper too!) so that the edges hang over each side. This will help lift the bars out later. The filling can get sticky, so the buttering and spraying is really important, even if you have a non-stick pan.
Place all crust ingredients in a food processor and pulse several times until combined. You will have a dry, crumbly mixture. It won’t come together like a dough, so don’t worry.
Dump this mixture into the prepared baking pan. Gently even out the mixture, and begin pressing into the bottom of the pan with your fingers and build up about a 1/2 inch edge on all sides. It doesn’t have to be perfectly even.
Bake the crust for 15-20 minutes until just beginning to brown around the edges.
While the crust bakes, prepare the filling:
Combine all filling ingredients in a large bowl and whisk to completely combine.
When the crust is done, pour over filling and return to oven for 25-30 minutes, until the filling is set.
Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature. You can also refrigerate them overnight, which makes them even easier to slice. Either way, when ready to slice, slide a thin knife around the edges to make sure the bars are loose, and if you’ve used parchment you should be able to lift them out in one piece. Place on a cutting board and slice into bars, squares, or triangles and enjoy.