Happy slightly belated 2016! Did you have a wonderful holiday? I hope hope hope so! Mine was uneventful and therefore perfect.
So . . . January. I hate January. It’s the Monday of the year. It’s just yuck. For my January grumpiness I wanted something to lift my spirits. And what’s more cheerful than a big bowl of lemons???
Probably nothing. . .except for maybe these creamy, dreamy lemon bars. They are both pucker- and cheer-inducing. They are just little bars of sunshine!
I adore lemon and have made countless versions of this lemon bar in my life: shortbread crust, tart lemon filling. So when I saw this version on The Kitchn I knew I had to try it. The almond meal intrigued me—and even with my compulsion for changing recipes, the only thing I wanted to add was a dash of vanilla to the crust. And guess what? They are incredible. The crust just crumbles in your mouth and the filling (which is delicious on its own) is sheer creamy perfection when paired with the shortbread’s crumbliness.
They taste like summer so if the short, wintry days are getting you down (they are sooo getting me down) these lemon bars are just the solution. Sunshine, or a lemony equivalent, is the cure for what ails you. Trust me!
But if you’re like me, custards and other egg-y things intimidate you. I’ve accidentally scrambled enough custards in my life to hesitate just a bit when I see a recipe like this one. You’ll see in the recipe you have to cook the lemon filling until it thickens slightly, just enough to “coat the back of a spoon.” What, exactly, does that mean? It means this: dip a spoon into the mixture, then run your finger in a line through it. If the mixture fills in the line, it needs to cook some more.
As I’m typing I realize I should have taken a picture to illustrate but I didn’t. Whomp whomp. So here you go! A picture. Notice that the mixture is not filling in the line on the spoon.
And now you’re all set to make these little slices of summer. You will not be sorry.
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces and at room temperature
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 cup flour
- 3/4 cup almond meal (or just use more all-purpose flour)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 eggs
- 4 egg yolks*
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 5-6 lemons)
- zest from 6 lemons**
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- More powdered sugar for dusting (if desired)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8x8-inch baking dish with parchment paper, letting the excess hang over the sides of the pan.
- For crust, beat together butter and powdered sugar in a stand mixer on medium-high speed until light, fluffy, and pale yellow, scraping down sides of the bowl as needed, 3-4 minutes. Add vanilla and mix to combine.
- Add the flour, almond meal, and salt. Beat to combine. The dough will be quite crumbly. Press into prepared baking dish, using the bottom of a measuring cup to ensure the crust is in an even layer. Prick crust all over with a fork.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the edges of the crust are a light golden brown.
- While crust is baking, make the filling. Whisk eggs, egg yolks, and sugar together in a small saucepan until well combined—you shouldn’t see big clumps of egg whites. Whisk in lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt. Set a small mesh strainer in a mixing bowl next to the stove.
- Cook lemon mixture over medium heat, stirring continuously, until mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon and registers 155 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Take care to scrape the bottom and edges of the pan as you’re stirring. If the mixture clumps up, immediately remove from the heat and strain.
- Once mixture has thickened, strain into mixing bowl to remove lemon zest and any clumpy eggs. While the curd is still warm, stir in butter until it melts completely.
- When the crust is done, remove from the oven and pour the curd over the top. Put back in the oven and bake until the edges of the filling are set but the middle still jiggles a bit, 10-15 minutes.
- Cool completely at room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours (overnight works, too). After they’re chilled, sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired. To slice into bars, run a knife around the edge of the pan and then use the parchment flaps to move cookies from the pan to a cutting board. They will keep for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.
- *Save those whites! They’ll last for a year in the freezer.
- ** Zest the lemons before you squeeze them. (Zesting lemons after they’ve been juiced is very difficult.)
TO DIE FOR!