This lemon bar recipe is the result of some. Making them requires only eight ingredients (including salt) and about an hour of your time (not including chilling). I wanted to create a lemon dessert recipe you could return to, so it’s extremely simple to make. Potlucks, picnics, dinner parties, , Monday nights—most things are better with a lemon bar in hand, and with this easy recipe, you won’t have to be without one again.
My ideal lemon squares are anchored with a buttery shortbread crust that’s just sweet enough. The dry ingredients come together quickly in a food processor; after pulsing in the butter (plus an egg yolk for richness), the mixture will look powdery but should hold together when you squeeze a handful. (If it doesn’t, add cold water 1 tsp. at a time, pulsing between each addition.) This is just the right consistency for pressing into the bottom of a parchment-lined baking dish (I prefer 8×8″ for thicker layers, but 9×9″ works too).
For maximum lemon flavor, you’ll rub the lemon zest into the sugar with the tips of your fingers, extracting the lemon oils and allowing them to permeate the filling. But what really sets these lemon bars apart is that the filling doesn’t require precooking, just a gentle whisk. And gentle is the key word here: Whisk too vigorously and you risk creating air pockets inside the curd.
You’ll pour the tart lemon filling on top of the still-warm shortbread, then continue baking until the curd is set and the crust is crisp. Set a timer for 5 minutes after pulling the crust from the oven to ensure it doesn’t cool too much—if the shortbread is allowed to reach room temperature, the uncooked lemon curd will slip off the top and pool in the bottom of the dish, turning your lemon bars upside down (sounds bananas until it happens to you!). After pouring in the lemon mixture, tap the baking dish on the counter to pop any lingering bubbles before transferring the lemon bars to the oven.
A final dusting of powdered sugar adds a nice touch, but hold off until you’re ready to serve, lest the sugar disappear into the lemony depths.
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