Recipes

Mama’s Lemon Bars

Last time I was back home in South Carolina, Mama had a batch of these waiting on me.  I’m pretty sure I devoured the whole plate within a couple hours.  For me, Lemon Bars will always taste like home.  Enjoy!

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Recently one of my gym friends gave me a bag of fresh picked lemons.  I LOVE lemons, but what in the world am I going to do with a grocery sack full of them?  Make tons of lemon bars, of course!  Last Saturday morning I took a batch of these to my gym, along with lemon cheesecake bars, and lemon cake.  Let’s just say after burpees and kettle bell swings, lemon bars were the perfect post-workout treat!

Lemon Bars.  Is there really anything else that needs to be said?  It takes a strong person to resist the flaky, buttery crust, sweet yet tart lemon filling, and the indulgent top layer of confectioners sugar.  Absolute perfection.  Best part?  These bars are not only delicious, but super easy to make!

First things first – go ahead and zest and juice your lemons.  This recipe calls for 1/4 cup of fresh-squeezed lemon juice, so it usually takes 2-3 lemons to get the job done.  The lemons I used were absolutely huge, so it only took two.  Be sure and zest your lemons before you start squeezing out the juice – those of you who have tried to zest a lemon after it’s been juiced know what I mean!

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These are fresh-picked lemons from right here in Ahwatukee. Although they could easily be mistaken for limes.

The best way to zest your lemons (or any citrus fruit for that matter) is with a microplane. This is also a great gadget for grating fresh nutmeg or hard cheeses like parmesan. It’s definitely one of my favorite kitchen tools.

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Once you get to the whitish-colored part on the lemons you can stop zesting – this part has a pretty bitter flavor which has no place in yummy lemon bars!

Now here comes the juicy part (ha-ha).  I don’t have one of those fancy juicers to get the most from my lemons, I just use a regular old citrus press.  Room temperature lemons yield the most juice.  If you stored yours in the fridge just pop them into the microwave for about 10 seconds and you’re ready to juice!

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Watch out for those seeds.  That’s the last thing you want to bite into!

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Now, let’s build the foundation: the buttery crust!  This is definitely a “go-to” crust recipe for any kind of dessert bar.  Two sticks of butter may sound a little Paul Deen-ish, but it gives the crust the amazing flavor while keeping it perfectly flaky.  You’ll start by mixing together your room temperature unsalted butter together with powdered sugar and all-purpose flour.  Once it comes together, add a pinch of salt to balance the sweetness.

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Once the mixture comes together it will start to form a ball of dough.

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The dough comes together very quickly.  Now, you’re ready to press it down into your 13″ x 9″ baking pan.  I always line my pan with parchment paper AND I spray the pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Overkill?  Perhaps.  But, nothing ruffles my feathers like having a perfectly good cake or dessert stick to the pan.  Do yourself a favor and grease that bad boy up and add parchment paper!

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Simply press down the dough as evenly as possible.  Don’t forget the corners!  It doesn’t have to be perfect, just make sure the bottom of your pan is evenly covered.   Time to pop that crust into the oven for about 5-10 minutes until it’s slightly golden brown but not fully cooked.  It will finish cooking once you pour the lemon and egg mixture over it and put it back into the oven.

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While your crust is in the oven, go ahead and mix together your eggs, lemon juice, zest, flour, and baking powder until it forms a frothy yellow mixture.  By the time your lemon and egg mixture comes together it will be time to remove your partially baked crust from the oven.

Now, you can simply pour your egg and lemon mixture directly over the hot crust.  Then you’ll put the pan back into the oven to finish baking until the edges are golden brown (like below).  Don’t panic if the center seems a bit soft.  Remember, these are lemon bars, NOT cake, so they are going to be more custard-like.  Once the bars cool off they will set.

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Voila!  Lemon bars are done!  Now, just give them a chance to cool slightly and then sprinkle lots of powdered sugar over the top.  I use a small pairing knife to cut the bars into small squares.  You can refrigerate them or leave them out at room-temperature.  The hardest part at this point is to resist eating an entire plate by yourself before anyone else has a chance to try them.

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For me, lemon bars are one of those things where once you bite into it you need a moment to yourself to close your eyes and savor that ooey-gooey, buttery, sweet, tart, yummy flavor!  Who knew lemon bars could be a cathartic experience?!

Mama's Lemon Bars
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
 
Ingredients
  • Filling
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 4 eggs
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Crust
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 2 sticks butter (at room temperature)
  • Powdered sugar (for sprinkling on top)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Zest the rind off your lemons using a microplane.  Then juice your lemons over a measuring cup until you get ¼ cup of juice.
  3. Make the crust.  Combine the flour, butter, and powdered sugar in your mixer on low speed until it comes together forming a loose ball.
  4. Transfer the dough into a 13" x 9" dish and press down the crust until the pan is completely covered on the bottom.  Bake at 350 degrees for 5-10 minutes until crust is partially baked, or slightly golden brown.
  5. Combine the ingredients for the filling and beat at low speed until they are evenly combined.  Be sure to scrape the bowl so everything is evenly mixed.  The mixture should become slightly frothy.
  6. Pour the egg-lemon mixture directly on top of partially baked hot crust and pop back into the oven.  Bake until golden brown at the edges.
  7. Once the bars are golden brown remove from the pan and allow to cool slightly.  Liberally sprinkle powdered sugar all over the top of the bars and then cut into squares.
  8. Optional: top with sliced strawberries, raspberries, or blueberries.

Hope y’all enjoy!

-Shug

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