I was very surprised to see a couple of less than glowing reviews of this recipe. This is by far my favorite version, although like some other reviewers I use a different pat in shortbread dough for the crust. The curd is bright tasting. I sometimes make extra curd to have on hand. Some version of lemon bar are so sweet that the lemon flavor hardly matters. If it's a Joanne Chang recipe you may be sure it's a good one.
These should really be called Lemon Tart Bars, to avoid confusing them with the expected luscious taste of the sweet confection Lemon Squares or Lemon Bars.
These have a bright unique flavor, and people who enjoy biting into lemons will die for them. Unfortunately, they weren't as universally loved as the traditional lemon squares. I placed a plate of these next to a plate of traditional lemon squares at a party. I got great compliments over them, but only a couple people went back for seconds. The traditional lemon squares vanished before the first hour.
The recipe is also more demanding and creates leftover dough and egg whites.
Traditional lemon squares are a great first recipe to teach your 6 year old. Very fast, safe, and easy, with little room for error. These have great room for error, from difficulties in rolling the dough to size, aligning it to the pan, potential for burning the egg mixture, and even scalding while working with hot liquids.
I highly recommend trying them, but only if you and your friends like really tart "pucker-face" flavors.
I made this recipe with the crust from a different lemon squares recipe (Company's Coming). The curd is very tart, and the reactions ranged from the best puck face I've ever seen, to highly complimentary. I'd do it again! The base I used didn't hold up well with the left over pieces, though, it did get a bit soggy.
As far as the filling goes, this is the only lemon bar recipe you'll ever need. It's beyond delicious and much better than all the other lemon bar recipes I've ever tried, such as, for example, the one in the 1980's Joy of Cooking. This one is creamy and tart while the Joy of Cooking filling is gritty and cloyingly sweet. The filling is also marvelous for lemon tarts, big and small, and for lemon layer cakes. I don't use the crust included in this recipe because I dislike rolling dough. Instead, I opt for a pat-in short crust that contains a bit of whole wheat flour.
There's a reason Joanne Chang gave these a money-back guarantee! The balance of sweetness, bright lemon flavour and buttery richness is seductive. They're the dessert I get asked to make most often, and I think they're the best thing of their kind. As a bonus, the recipe is completely foolproof. One key point is not to overwork the shortbread crust in rolling it out, and to make sure that the crust is golden before pouring on the hot lemon curd. It's doesn't need to be brown, but the bottom of the bars will be crisper and more flavourful if there's some colour on the crust before the filling goes in.