I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not that big a fan of lemon desserts. Now that’s not to say that I don’t enjoy the occasional lemon cake or some other dish with that tart, citrusy flavor. I just didn’t really grow up eating a lot of sweet things with lemon, and so they’re still such a novel concept. But as I started baking, I wanted to expand my repertoire a bit- which included making some desserts that I’m not too familiar with. One of those was lemon bars, which I’d only really had once or twice. I did, in fact, enjoy them, and so I wanted to try my hand at making them myself. There’s probably a million and one recipes out there for it, but in the end, I wanted to go with one from Preppy Kitchen because it seemed to be the most classic. I mean, if you’re going to make something for the first time, stick to the original before you venture off. So I gathered all my ingredients, and reached into the depths of my mind to remember everything I knew about what these tasted like.
Upon first look at John’s recipe, you’ll see that the ingredients list is pretty small– which is honestly a good thing. Less ingredients tends to allow for each of the flavors to shine. Plus there’s really nowhere to hide. I started off by making a simple shortbread-like dough by whisking flour, powdered sugar and salt together in a bowl. Melted butter then gets streamed in and stirred to make one of the easiest crusts ever. I dispersed that into a pan that was greased and lined with parchment paper. I should also note that I’m making a half batch- which is something I recommend when recipe testing. The last thing you want is to go all in for a recipe that may not even work. The crust gets baked for about 20 minutes until lightly golden. While that cooled, I moved on to the filling. In a large bowl, I whisked together the sugar and lemon zest before adding in the eggs and lemon juice. I do want to admit that I cheated and had to use some store-bought lemon juice to supplement the fresh juice that I had because it wasn’t enough. It’s probably some cardinal sin in the baking world, but hey, I wasn’t about to go to the store for a single lemon. Once that’s nice and combined, the filling gets poured into the cooled crust and baked for about 25 minutes or until slightly jiggly. Let that cool to room temperature and then stick it in the fridge to chill for several hours. The next day, I transferred it to a cutting board and was able to cut some clean squares before giving it a dusting of powdered sugar on a diagonal.
Overall, I was pretty pleased with them. The lemon flavor really packs a punch, triggering those glands at the back of your mouth whenever you eat something sour. The combination of tart lemons and sugar really works, but I’ll probably reduce the sugar by a bit for the next time. Probably my favorite part is the crust which is so incredibly buttery. It held together quite nicely and was a perfect vehicle for that filling. I did run into a few snags during the bake. After pouring in the filling, I noticed a bunch of bubbles at the top. When I checked the bars halfway, those seemed to harden up almost like a film of sugar just floating at the top. I pulled the pan out and scraped it off- thinking that it was probably some of the filling that hadn’t quite mixed in well. After that, the filling was good to go and baked up fine. As I lifted the bars out, I noticed some of that filling did end up seeping into the crust at one side, leaving it a little wet. Surprisingly, the crust was still firm and not soggy at all- just a little messier for some bars. Still, I feel like that’s something that could easily be fixed by packing in the crust or perhaps adding another egg to thicken up that filling even more. All in all, this is definitely one I’d recommend for all you lemon lovers. I can still feel my mouth puckering up just thinking about them.
Full Recipe | Method from Preppy Kitchen: