Lemon bars are simply luscious. Rich shortbread, smooth, tart and tangy lemon filling and a nice sweet dusting of powdered sugar. I know it's cliché to say that your mother makes the best this or that. I do love these though. I'm sure the recipe came from a good friend or relative back when I was knee-high to a grasshopper. And they are wonderfully easy to make. Just mix up a simple shortbread, pat it in a pan, bake it off, top it with the filling, bake again and dust with sugar. Lemony heaven in a little handheld package. These are not the sickly sweet, barely citrusy lemon bars that come out of a box. They have a great pucker to them like a lemon tart. This particular recipe is not made with sweetened condensed milk in the filling, I don't really go for those kind myself: not tart enough. Growing up, we would often make them with a batch and a half of filling to yield a mouth puckeringly lemony bar. If you are a serious lemon lover, feel free to try them that way. I like them with slightly more filling than cookie. Just don't double the filling. It is too much and will slide off when you cut them. (Ask me how I know.) ☺ Depending on the type of crust you prefer, you can either cream the shortbread with a mixer, or pulse it in a food processor. Creaming gives a result similar to a Russian Teacake - rich and melt in your mouth. Blitzing with a food processor to small pebble texture will give a slightly more crisp shortbread/cookie crust. I like both kinds and it really depends on what I care to wash up after I've made the crust. Of course fresh lemon juice is better and gives the opportunity to add some zest either to the filling or the crust as you see fit. I zest one lemon into the filling mixture with a microplane grater. Be sure to mix the filling gently and by hand. Using a mixer whips in too much air and you won't get that beautiful, gem like yellow filling. That clear, brilliant color is another thing I love about this recipe. Give it a try, it always goes fast and gets repeat requests for recipes and "please bring it again!"
Mom's Lemon Bars
1 cup butter
½ cup powdered sugar
2 cups flour
6 tbsp lemon juice (fresh squeezed is better - save some zest for the filling)
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 cups sugar
¼ cup flour
Extra powdered sugar for dusting
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a 9x13" pan with parchment or tin foil and lightly grease. This makes removing the bars to cut SO much easier. Cream butter and powdered sugar and mix in flour just until blended. Or cut butter into flour mixture with a pastry blender or rub in with your fingers until clumps start to stick together. You can also combine flour and powdered sugar and pulse into butter using a food processor until pebbly. Press into the pan. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until light golden brown. Meanwhile beat eggs and lemon juice together in a medium bowl with a fork. Combine the ¼ cup flour and sugar and beat in gently with a fork. Try not to whip any air into the filling mixture. Pour onto crust, (doesn't matter if it's hot right out of the oven) and bake for another 20 minutes. The edges will be bubbly and the center will have just a slight jiggle but will be set. Cool on a rack for a few minutes and then dust with powdered sugar to your liking. Let the bars cool halfway before trying to remove or cut and they will hold together much better.
For presentation, cut off the bubbly edges as they are somewhat chewy and serve the perfect squares to guests and so forth. Save those trimmings for yourself or your family. Or yourself. Yes, yourself should do nicely. (Seriously, we always fought over the edge trimmings growing up.) Depending on how you line the pan, you may need to cut off the short edges to get the rest free to lift out. Ask me if there are any edges left of the batch I made a few hours ago... ☺