When I asked Ben what treat he wanted me to make for him on Father’s Day, I knew that he would say one of three things. He knows I am capable of making anything from cheesecake to molten lava cakes but no matter the occasion, he’ll always request one of these three things. Last Sunday, lemon bars won out.
Which actually made me laugh a little bit. My dad is the same way and I think if I’d been in town to ask him what treat he wanted for Father’s Day, he would have responded with the same…”Lemon bars!”
This particular recipe comes from one of my mom’s old neighborhood cookbooks. It’s the kind of cookbook that’s been turned through so often that the cover has fallen off. And the lemon bar recipe has been accessed so many times that the sticky and crusted pages automatically fall open right to it.
These lemon bars are light and delicate, melt-in-your mouth delicious. I’d say that they’d be perfect for your next girls-only get together…but the guys love them too (as made apparent by Pa and Ben). So, I guess what I’m trying to say is that there’s never not a reason to make them. The pan size feeds a crowd, but they’re so light it’d be easy to sneak a few (and then some) without feeling a bit of guilt.
Here’s the recipe!
Preheat oven to 325°.
For the crust:
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Mix all the ingredients and press into a standard size cookie sheet (i.e. a jelly roll pan). Use a fork or a toothpick to poke a hole every couple of inches across the bottom to prevent the crust from bubbling. Bake at 325° for 15-20, or until the crust just barely starts to color. Meanwhile, mix the filling.
For the filling:
2 cups sugar
4 Tablespoons flour
6 Tablespoons lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon
Whisk all the filling ingredients together. When the crust just barely starts to color, remove it from the oven. Stir the filling as you pour it into the crust (so that it distributes evenly; the sugar has a tendency to settle at the bottom). Return the pan to the oven for another 15-20 minutes, or until the edges start to golden and the middle is no longer jiggly. As soon as it’s been removed from the oven, use a mesh strainer, a spoon or just your hand to lightly sprinkle powdered sugar over the top (very lightly…ain’t nobody wants to inhale that stuff, delicious as it might be). Let cool at least 30 minutes before slicing into squares.
*If I’m making this for Ben, I always half it. We could eat a whole cookie sheet…but that doesn’t mean we should. When I half it, I use a half sized cookie sheet, or a 9×13 inch pan.
*When you start pressing the crust you’re going to think, “There’s not enough dough to cover this whole pan!” I think this every time I make these! But just be patient and keep pressing-it’ll do the job, I swear!
*I’m sure a real food blogger would disinherit anyone who didn’t use lemon juice from an actual lemon…but the truth is, I think I’ve only used real lemon juice once, and I’ve made this recipe countless times. The bottled lemon juice works great! And, you guessed it, if I’m using bottled juice, I simply omit the zest. Feel free to add up to 2 Tablespoons additional juice if you’re using bottled.
*I’ve always been curious to see how these would turn out being baked in a smaller pan. You’d get thicker bars…but would they turn out better? Worse? Ben says there’s no reason to mess with them (truth) but maybe one day I’ll give it a try…