Lemon Bars

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To make the perfect lemon bars, use a smaller pan. This ensures you get a thick, bakery-style lemon bar every time. No one wants a thin lemon bar!

Growing up, our yard was filled with Meyer lemons from our small, potted trees. The branches would droop under the weight of dozens of lemons. We’d gather them in a fraying wicker basket and bring it into the kitchen. Mom used these lemons for everything from salad dressings to gift baskets. But our favorite was always a lemon-scented baked good. She made lemon loaves, lemon cakes, and lemon custard, but nothing compared to her lemon bars.

Biting into mom’s lemon bars, our teeth would sink through the soft lemon layer to the delicious shortbread beneath. Our hands would get sticky from the sweet lemon filling, and powdered sugar would freckle our noses and cheeks. These lemon bars were always a treat, and they still remind us of mom’s kitchen. Over the years, we’ve perfected our recipe and love these lemon bars with browned butter shortbread.

Lemon Bars

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Course Dessert
Servings 12


**For the crust:**

  • – 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • – 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • – 3/4 cup salted butter at room temperature
  • – 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste
  • – 1/4 tsp kosher salt

**For the filling:**

  • – 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • – 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • – 1 cup plus 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • – Zest from 1 small lemon
  • – 6 large eggs
  • – 1 large egg yolk
  • – 1/4 tsp salt

**For topping:**

  • – Confectioners’ sugar


**Preheat the Oven:** Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter an 11 3/4-by-7-inch glass or ceramic baking pan. If you only have a 9×13-inch pan, that will work, but the bars will be thinner.

    **Make the Crust:**

    • – In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the powdered sugar and flour. Add the butter and vanilla bean paste, and beat on low speed until a smooth dough forms.
    • – Press the dough evenly into the pan. Use a piece of plastic wrap to help smooth the dough. Line the crust with parchment paper and fill with baking weights.
    • – Bake the crust until it’s a deep golden brown, about 40 minutes. Bake for the first 30 minutes with the pie weights, then remove the weights and parchment. Bake for an additional 10 minutes until lightly golden. (For a 9×13 pan, adjust total bake time to 30-35 minutes.)

    **Make the Filling:**

    • – While the crust is baking, sift the flour into a mixing bowl and whisk in the sugar. Add the lemon juice and zest, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
    • – In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and egg yolk with the salt, then add this to the lemon juice mixture and whisk until well mixed.

    **Combine and Bake:**

    • – Once the crust is ready, pour the filling directly into the pan. Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F and bake until the center of the custard is set, about 35-40 minutes. (For a 9×13 pan, adjust bake time to 30-40 minutes.)
    • – Let cool completely on a wire rack. Cut into squares and dust with confectioners’ sugar. They will keep in an airtight container or well-covered in the baking dish for 3-4 days.

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