Lemon Bars are my culinary way of letting Mother Nature know that I am over this winter. So over it. I needed something bright and zingy to cheer me up and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about lemons this entire week. Something about their bright color (contrasting with the shades of grey outside) and tart flavor kept calling my name.
So…I bought double my usual amount of lemons at the farmer’s market with no plan for what to do with them. Generally my motto is “No plan is a bad plan”, which is totally true unless the lack of plan ends in Lemon Bars!
This lemon bar has the perfect amount of tartness to balance the sweetness. The tops have the perfect custard consistency without being too runny or too dense. The bottom crust is thick and chewy with a little crispness. I’ll have none of those over done, dry lemon bar crusts of my Youth in this kitchen, thank you very much!
I like my lemon bar crust less dense and crunchy, so I followed in the footsteps of Averie at Averie Cooks and added a tablespoon of cornstarch to the dough. In addition to the cornstarch, I baked my crust in a parchment lined pyrex baking dish, which also produces a softer, less crispy crust. I always bake my brownies, blondies and layer bars in glass – foods cook slower in glass, so I have found that the whole bar will be done at the same time and you never cut into them to find that the top is perfect but the bottom is overcooked.
Ah the power of pyrex!
My Husband claims that part of the charm of the Lemon Bar is the contrast between a dense crust and the custard topping. I can see that. If you, like my Husband, are a fan of a denser, crispier crust, simply omit the cornstarch and bake in a metal baking dish.
I (clearly) have very strong opinions about my lemon bars, so I read a bunch of recipes online and in my personal hoard of cookbooks (the first reference was in 1984, for the curious ones out there) and developed my own. Three of my blogger influences were Epicurean Mom, Averie Cooks and Baked Bree.
I found that the crust recipes were generally very similar but the number of eggs and ratio of sugar to lemon juice varied widely. In search of my perfect balance of tart to sweet, I added my lemon juice in by the tablespoon and tasted. I would use no less than 3 tablespoons of fresh juice and 1 ½ teaspoons fresh lemon zest in this recipe.
In any other recipes calling for lemon zest I have made a passing note about zesting carefully to avoid the bitter pith, but I feel that it is important to expound on that tiny note here. Be extra careful to zest only the sweet, dark yellow skin and none of the white, bitter pith below it. I am probably overly cautious in my zesting, but I have tasted baked goods, in which too much of the pith has been included, and they are disgusting. It will ruin your treats. And that would be sad. So if a few extra lemons have to be sacrificed to the zesting process, it seems a small sacrifice to make.
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