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Lemon Bars Recipe & Video

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I have been making these Lemon Bars for more years than I would like to count, yet I never tire of them. It is the combination of buttery shortbread and tangy lemon filling that makes them so irresistible. I love how the shortbread crust is all crisp and crumbly and how the lemon filling separates as it bakes. The top has a thin cake-like crust and underneath the lemon filling is all soft and yummy. Lemon Bars (some called them Lemon Squares or Lemon Slices) are instantly recognizable because of their liberal coating of snowy white confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar. They are wonderfully addictive and are best eaten the day they are made. That is when the shortbread is crisp and the lemon filling is tart and tangy. They can be covered and stored for a few days, but you will find that the shortbread's texture  softens and the lemon flavor is not as tart.

In order for these Lemon Bars to have a nice citrus flavor, you need to use fresh lemons, not the imitation lemon juice that comes in a bottle. When choosing lemons make sure to look for ones that are fragrant with bright yellow skins. They should be firm, plump, and heavy for their size. Try to avoid lemons that have blemishes, soft spots, green spots, or are hard and wrinkled. Lemons consist of a yellow outer rind (skin) that contains the fruit's oils and perfumes. This outer rind, of varying thickness and graininess, can have either a bumpy or smooth glossy texture that contains most of the lemon's wonderful tangy flavor. Before removing the outer rind (zest) make sure you wash the lemon thoroughly (soap and water is best). The rind (zest) can be removed using a knife, vegetable peeler, grater or zester. Inside the outer rind is a white membrane (pith) that is very bitter and should not be used as it is inedible. Small vessels called 'pulp vesicles' make up the inside of the lemon and contain the pleasantly acidic lemon juice and seeds. Squeezing the lemon by hand or with a lemon squeezer or reamer releases this clear tart juice. 

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Lemon Bars: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place the oven rack in the center of the oven. Butter, or spray with a non stick vegetable spray, an 8 x 8 inch (20 x 20 cm) pan.

Shortbread Crust: In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until creamy and smooth. Add the flour and salt and beat until the dough just starts to come together. Press onto the bottom of your prepared pan and bake for about 18 - 20 minutes, or just until lightly brown around the edges. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool while you make the filling.

Lemon Filling: In your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer,  beat the sugar and eggs until nice and smooth. Add the lemon juice and zest and stir to combine. Fold in the flour. Pour the filling over the shortbread crust and bake for about 17-20 minutes, or just until the filling has set. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. 

To serve: Cut into squares and dust with powdered sugar. These are best eaten the day they are made but can be covered and stored in the refrigerator for a day or two.

Yield: 16 - 2 inch (5 cm) bars

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Shortbread Crust:

1/2 cup (1 stick) (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature

1/4 cup (30 grams) confectioner's (powdered or icing) sugar

1 cup (130 grams) all purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

Lemon Filling:

1 cup (200 grams) granulated white sugar

2 large eggs

1/3 cup (80 ml) fresh lemon juice (approximately two large lemons)

1 tablespoons (5 grams) grated lemon zest*

2 tablespoons (25 grams) all purpose flour


Confectioner's (powdered or icing) sugar

*Lemon Zest - The yellow outer rind of the lemon that contains the fruit's flavor and perfume. 

TIP:  Always remove the zest first before halving and squeezing the lemon.  Use a fine strainer to remove the seeds and pulp from the juice.




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