Who IMG_1754doesn’t love lemon bars?  But just to be sure, I do have two recipes for lemon bars to cover just about everyone.

For the longest time my favorite lemon bar recipe was from Michael Bauer’s column in the San Francisco Chronicle.  A classic lemon bar with a meltingly tender crust topped with a sweet lemon curd dusted with powdered sugar.  These bars were the hidden gems in a summer picnic basket or the citrus foil to the chocolate cookies on the holiday cookie tray.

Then along came Alice….Medrich that is, the chocolate maven. She penned a wonderful little cookbook simply titled Cookies and Brownies (still available luckily).  Fifty recipes of classic cookies to cookies with a twist.  Hands down the best snickerdoodle, delicious butter cookies with pecans and cocoa nibs and Steve’s brownies, fudgy and decadent.  For years I shied away from the bar cookies in her book.  The recipe started with melting the butter for the crust.  Whaaat?  Melted butter for a shortbread crust?  Just didn’t seem right.  I finally gave in and I am glad I did.  These lemon bars are a party in your mouth, the classic lemon bar amped up.  The crust is buttery and crispy crunchy not soft, the perfect foil for the filling which is sweet but tart enough to make your tastebuds stand up and take notice.  The next time you make lemon bars, if you are feeding a swarm of little kids make the classic bars.  They’ll love them.  But if you are taking them to your friends, make Alice’s version, all grown up with attitude, just like us!

Alice's Lemon Bars

Ingredients

  • For crust:
  • • 8 tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • • 1/4 c. sugar
  • • 3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • • 1 c. flour
  • For topping:
  • • 1 c. plus 2 tbsp. sugar
  • • 3 tbsp. flour
  • • 3 eggs
  • • 1 1/2 tsp. finely grated lime or lemon zest
  • • 1/2 c. strained freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice
  • • Powdered sugar for dusting, optional

Instructions

  • Position a rack in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line bottom and sides of 8- by 8-inch baking pan with aluminum foil.
  • To make crust: In a medium bowl, combine melted butter with sugar, vanilla and salt. Add flour and mix until just incorporated. Press dough evenly over bottom of pan. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until crust is fully baked, well-browned at the edges and golden brown in the center.
  • To make topping: While crust is baking, stir together sugar and flour in a large bowl until well-mixed. Whisk in eggs. Stir in lime or lemon zest and juice. When crust is ready, reduce heat to 300 degrees, slide rack with pan out and pour filling onto hot crust. Bake 20 to 25 minutes longer, or until topping no longer jiggles when pan is tapped.
  • Remove from oven to a wire rack to cool completely. Lift up foil liner and transfer bars to a cutting board. If surface is covered with a thin layer of moist foam (not unusual), blot surface gently with a paper towel to absorb excess moisture; repeat with a fresh piece of paper towel if necessary.
  • Using a long, sharp knife, cut bars into 16 or 24 daintier bars and sift powdered sugar over bars, if desired. Stored in an airtight container, bars can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
  • I bake my lemon bars in a rectangular tart pan with removable bottom. It gives the bars a nice side crust and a nice finished look. The idea came from the blog Baking Obsession Check it out for instructions to bake in a rectangular pan.
  • Classic Lemon Bars from the SF Chronicle
    Shortbread crust
    1 cup flour
    1/4 cup powdered sugar
    1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
    Filling:
    1 cup sugar
    2 T flour
    1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    2 T lemon juice
    2 teaspoon lemon zest, finely grated
    2 large eggs
    Adjust the rack in the lower third of oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 or 9 inch square pan.
    To make crust: Briefly blend the flour and sugar in a medium bowl to combine. Cut in butter until the mixture resembles oatmeal. Using your fingertips, press the mixture into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 15 minutes or until pale gold.
    To make filling: briefly blend flour, sugar and baking powder to combine. Blend eggs, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a medium bowl. Add the dry ingredients and blend until thoroughly combined. Pour filling over partially baked crust and bake 25 minutes. Cool, sprinkle powdered sugar over top and cut into bars.
    Options: Can add additional 1/2 T lemon juice or substitute 1/3 of juice with orange or lime juice and zest. Cut down on baking time ( 25 minutes to 15-20 minutes depending on pan size.)
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Thanks for reading, comments welcomed!