It happened about a year ago. I made a life changing discovery. I discovered that I like lemon... no, I LOVE lemon. I have no logical explanation but for some reason I had always avoided lemon flavored desserts just assuming that I wouldn't like them. Then, I was visitng a friend in Virginia who claimed there was a bakery nearby that made "the best lemon bars". Realizing that I have never actually had a lemon bar I figured why not? I took one bite and I was hooked!
In the year to follow I couldn't get enough lemon. I had lemon ice cream, lemon cookies, lemon muffins, lemon tarts. You name it...if it was lemon, I wanted it! And I was happy to learn there are fellow bloggers out there that share the same obsession.
Since that day I, like many others, have been on a quest to find the recipe for the perfect lemon bars. And let me tell you, there are A LOT of recipes out there to try. To me, a perfect lemon bar is more tart than it is sweet. It should have a very lemony taste as soon as you bite into it, not just a hint of lemon behind all the sweetness. It should definitely have more lemon filling than it does crust; the 50:50 ratio is not for me. The crust should be buttery and have a firm bite to it. Not too soggy or not to hard. And it should be finished with a generous dusting of powdered sugar.
Following the advice I read at My Baking Addiction (a wonderful blog!), who followed the advice she got at The Repressed Pastry Chef (another amazing blog!), I decided to try the America's Test Kitchen recipe for the crust with Ina Garten's recipe for the filling. I can definitively say that my search is half over. The crust is perfect! It has the perfect bite to it. The filling is another story. I thought the flavor was great (although I decreased the sugar from 3 c. to 2 c.). It has the perfect amount of lemon flavor and sweetness, and I will not change the amount of lemon juice or sugar that I used. However, the texture was a little stiff to me. Perhaps next time (and yes, there will be a next time) I will try it with a little less flour or one less egg.
Recipe: Crust from America's Test Kicthen & Filling from Ina Garten
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter -- (1 1/2 sticks) at
- very cool room temperature, cut into
- 1-inch pieces, plus extra for greasing pan
- 6 extra-large eggs at room temperature
- 3 cups granulated sugar**
- 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (4 to 6 lemons)
- 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 cup flour
- Confectioners' sugar, for dusting
- For the crust: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 13-by-9-inch baking dish and line with one sheet parchment or wax paper. Dot paper with butter, then lay second sheet crosswise over it.
- Pulse flour, confectioners’ sugar, cornstarch, and salt in food processor workbowl fitted with steel blade. Add butter and process to blend, 8 to 10 seconds, then pulse until mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse meal, about three 1-second bursts. Sprinkle mixture into lined pan and press firmly with fingers into even, 1/4-inch layer over entire pan bottom and about 1/2 inch up sides. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, then bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.
For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature.
Cut into squares and dust with confectioners' sugar.
* According the America's Test Kitchen the filling needs to be poured onto a warm crust so the filling cooks evenly. There should be plenty of time to make filling while the crust chills and cooks, but be sure to plan ahead.
** I only used 2 c. of sugar and this was plenty sweet for me. I cannot imagine using the whole 3 cups!