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Lemon Shortbread Bars

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Yields 2 dozen 2-inch-square bars.

  • To learn more, read:
    Raising the Bar Cookie
  • by from Fine Cooking
    Issue 82

Making the crust of these classic lemon bars with melted (rather than softened) butter keeps it nice and crisp, in contrast to the creamy lemon filling.

For the crust:
  • Non-stick cooking spray, vegetable oil, or melted butter for the pan
  • 7 oz. (14 Tbs.) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to just warm
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • 9-1/2 oz. (2 cups plus 2 Tbs.) unbleached all-purpose flour
Tip:
For the best results, measure your flour by weight instead of volume. (1 cup of all-purpose flour equals 4-1/2 oz.) If you don’t have a scale, be sure to use the proper technique when filling your measuring cups.
For the lemon topping:
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 Tbs. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp. table salt
  • 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 3 to 4 lemons)
  • 1 Tbs. packed, finely grated fresh lemon zest (from 2 lemons, using a rasp-style grater)
  • 1 Tbs. confectioners’ sugar
Make the crust:

Line a straight-sided 13 x 9 inch metal baking pan with foil, letting the ends create an overhanging edge for easy removal. Lightly coat the sides of the foil (not the bottom) with nonstick cooking spray, oil, or melted butter to prevent the lemon topping from sticking.

In a medium bowl, stir together the butter, sugar, and salt. Stir in the flour to make a stiff dough. Press the dough evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Prick the dough all over with a fork. Refrigerate the pan for 30 minutes (or freeze for 5 to 7 minutes), until the dough is firm.

Lemon Shortbread Bars Recipe

Meanwhile, position a rack near the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F.

Bake until the crust is golden and set, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile,  make the lemon topping.

Make the topping:

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, flour, and salt together until smooth, about 1 minute. Whisk in the lemon juice and zest.

Lemon Shortbread Bars Recipe

Pour the topping over the hot crust. Return the pan to the oven and increase the heat to 350°F. Bake until the topping is set in the center (it no longer wiggles when the pan is moved) and the edges are golden, 20 to 25 minutes.

Lemon Shortbread Bars Recipe

Set the pan on a metal rack to cool until the crust is completely firm, at least 1 hour. (For faster cooling, put the bars in the fridge once the pan is no longer piping hot, or even outside in winter.)

When the bottom of the pan is cool, carefully lift the bars from the pan using the foil sides and transfer them to a cutting board. Separate the foil from the bars by sliding a spatula between them. Sift the confectioners’ sugar over the lemon topping. Cut the bars into 2-inch squares.

Make Ahead Tips

The bar cookies will keep, refrigerated, for 3 to 4 days. Serve at room temperature.

nutrition information (per serving):
Size : per bar; Calories (kcal): 170; Fat (g): fat g 8; Fat Calories (kcal): 70; Saturated Fat (g): sat fat g 4.5; Protein (g): protein g 2; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 2; Carbohydrates (g): carbs g 24; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 0; Sodium (mg): sodium mg 75; Cholesterol (mg): cholesterol mg 55; Fiber (g): fiber g 0;

Photo: Scott Phillips

Gooey deliciousness. I added about 1 tsp of ground ginger to my recipe, because I love ginger. Based on another reviewer's remarks, I used a glass dish and omitted the aluminum foil, which I hear isn't healthy for cooking anyway (if touching the food). I buttered the dish well as instructed and sliced the edges with a sharp knife after it had cooled for an hour. I measured and cut out 19 squares with a sharp knife -- dipping it in scalding water frequently, so as not to leave tear marks on the surface. I carefully lifted out one corner with said knife and a silicone spatula. The rest came out very easily with the spatula. I love lemon, and these bars are divine! Happy baking. (And thank you Fine Cooking for teaching me how to cook/bake. I’ve been a loyal subscriber for many, many years.)

Absolutely Amazing! Perfect for Lemon Lovers like myself. Did all the prepping of lemon rind and lemon juice and it took no time to whip these little beauties up.The longest part was watching them cool. Thank-you so much these are definitely a keeper.

Lemon shortbread bars have always been my favorite,this just proves it . Suggestions for the reviewer that didn't like the metallic taste his baking pan gave #1 use either a parchment liner or a silicon liner #2 some of the newer nonstick pans don't impart the metallic taste , if you use a glass dish don't forget to adjust the oven.... ...

Brought these to a party and got rave reviews. A little time consuming but worth it.

Found Lemon Nirvana!!!

I've made plenty of lemon bars in my years of baking, but the crust on this one is perfect. It doesn't crumble like other lemon bar recipes. The one change that I did was to substitute 1/4 cup of the flour with cornstarch, which makes the shortbread layer more tender. I also added 1/4 cup whole milk to the lemon-egg mixture for a bit more of a creamy taste. These little tweaks made the bar a five star recipe. My kids just cobbled them up, and they usually prefer brownies!

These bars are amazing. Everybody loved them.

I am a big lemon fan and have made many a lemon bar hoping to find tart lemon nirvana. I need look no further...these were amazing and so easy. They lasted in the fridge for longer than my waist line thought necessary. All I can say is DELICIOUS!

Took me about 2 hours to make the lemon bars, but it was worth it. I think I might use a glass dish next time, as I think I tasted a little bit of a metallic taste. I wonder if it might have been the lemon reacting with the tin foil. Wife and I agreed that they were excellent bars, way better than the stuff you usually get at a party. I'm also thinking about adding a little lemon zest on top of the custard for visual effect. The crust was great, and easy to make.

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