Thursday, January 6, 2011

Lemon Lust Bars

My parents’ friend, Tommy, brought over a bag of citrus fruit while I was home for the holidays. Tommy’s yard is full of citrus trees and he had a banner crop this year. I quickly swooped in and claimed the bag of Meyer lemons and grapefruit as my own. Mom protested a bit but I didn’t take no for an answer. I figure she has easy access (he lives in the neighborhood) and can always stop by and pick more fruit so I didn’t feel too bad.

With extra large, beautiful Meyer lemons on my hands, the hardest part was figuring out what to make with them. I had a number of ideas but finally settled on lemon bars and preserved lemons to ensure maximum usage and no waste. I’m still reveling in Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Café and Joanne’s recipe for Lemon Lust Bars jumped out at me- in no small part because I love any and all lemony desserts and I’m a sucker for marketing. Adding “lust” to the title was a brilliant move on her part. Of course I had to make them just to see if, indeed, they were lust worthy.

People, they are!

Now that I’ve put the Meyers to good use, I’m searching for recipes in which to use the grapefruit. I never took to grapefruit and don’t usually eat them, however, I don’t want Tommy’s hard work and such beautiful specimens to go to waste. If you have a dessert recipe you like that uses grapefruit, shoot it my way. In the meantime, I’m still digging…

Lemon Lust Bars
adapted from Joanne Chang’s recipe in Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Café

Because I had to ration my Meyers, I made a smaller pan of bars than Joann’s recipe calls for. I used an 8 x 8 inch pan and halved the ingredient quantities, which worked fine. I’ve included the quantities here per the original recipe because these babies are so good, you’ll want all you can get! The shortbread crust is rich and buttery and the sweetness of the Meyer lemons mellows the tangyness just a bit but not too much. These bars are still pucker worthy- so much so, you'll want to kiss Joanne for her delicous recipe.

1 c (2 sticks/228 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
6 T (75 grams) granulated sugar
2 T confectioners’ sugar
1 egg yolk
1 t vanilla extract
1 c (140 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 c (120 grams) cake flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t kosher salt

Lemon Curd
2 c plus 2 T (500 grams) fresh lemon juice (I used 4 extra large Meyer lemons)
1/2 c (1 stick/114 grams) unsalted butter
1/4 c (60 grams) heavy cream
8 eggs
4 egg yolks
2 c (400 grams) sugar
1 t kosher salt
1/2 t vanilla extract

confectioners sugar for dusting, if desired

1. Line a 9 x 11 inch baking pan with two pieces of parchment paper, cut to fit and overlapping the sides of the pan. To make the shortbread, cream together butter, granulated sugar, and confectioners’ sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy (approx. 5 min) in a stand mixer using a paddle attachment. Scrape the paddle and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula to ensure all ingredients are mixed in. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and beat on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes until combined. Again, scrape the sides of the bowl to make sure all ingredients are thoroughly incorporated.
2. In a medium bowl, sift together all-purpose flour, cake flour, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low, gradually add the flour mixture to the butter-sugar mixture. After all flour has been added, continue to mix briefly to ensure that the dough is evenly mixed. Don't forget to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
3. Remove the dough from the bowl, form into a disk approximately 1 inch thick, and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough for about 30 minutes until chilled. The dough should be firm but still somewhat pliable before working with it (dough can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month).
4. While the dough is chilling, make the lemon curd. In a medium nonreactive saucepan, combine the lemon juice, butter, and cream and heat to just below boiling over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, in a medium-sized heatproof bowl, whisk together the eggs and egg yolks and then slowly whisk in the sugar until combined.
5. Remove the lemon juice mixture from the heat and begin gradually whisking it into the sugar-egg mixture, a little at a time, until all of it has been incorporated.
6. When finished, return the mixture to the saucepan, and place over medium heat. While stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, cook for 5 to 8 minutes until the mixture thickens and coats the back of the spoon. When cooking, be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan frequently to prevent the eggs from scrambling. To test to see if the curd is done, draw your finger along the back of the spoon; you should be able to see your finger mark for a second or two before it fills in.
7. Take the curd off of the heat and, over a heatproof bowl, pour through a fine-mesh sieve to strain. Whisk in the salt and vanilla. (Curd may be prepared up to 4 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator. If using chilled curd, add 5 to 6 minutes to the baking time.)
8. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit with the rack positioned in the center. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to approximately the size of the parchment lined baking pan. When the dough is the desired size, roll it over the pin to transfer to the pan. Use your fingers to press the dough into the corners of the pan, if needed. The dough should be approximately the same thickness all around.
9. Bake the shortbread until light brown, approximately 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and pour the lemon curd on top. If needed, smooth the curd with a spatula.
10. Return the pan to the oven for another 15 to 20 minutes, until the curd has set and is firm when jiggled. Allow the pan to cool on a wire rack, then place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or up to overnight to ensure that the curd is fully set. Place plastic wrap over the top so that the lemon bars don’t take on any refrigerator smells.
11. To cut the bars, lift up the overhanging pieces of the parchment paper to loosen the shortbread from the pan and transfer to a cutting board. Remove the parchment paper. For a cleaner look, trim off the edges. Cut into 9 bars. Dust with confectioners sugar, if desired. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
* To make the preserved lemons, I used Elise's recipe from Simply Recipes


  1. I love lemon bars! We've a neighbor who grows Meyer lemons at her weekend home on the California Central Coast. She has so many that she gives us large bags full. I made some lemon bars with her lemons from the Joy of Cooking 1997 that were very tasty, though a little too sweet for me. Also I had problems removing them from the dish without mangling them. Yours looks really good.

    I love the name for your blog and completely get what you're talking about. In high school I studied French for a few years then Latin. Whenever I was stumped in Latin, I'd recite French. It was a disaster!

  2. We served lemon bars at our wedding, so I always get a little emotional when I eat them. Looking at these makes me hungry for them, too! Have you every tried making grapefruit bars? I wonder if the fruits could be interchangeable in this recipe.

  3. Not only are you an amazing baker, but you cut ridiculously straight lines! Woman, is there anything you CAN'T do?

    I lust after these bars...

  4. I'm loving that book, and this looks like another winner of a recipe from it! Now, I'm really wishing my meyer lemon trees had produced this year. Hopefully, I'll have lots next year.

  5. Thanks all! And Katherine- I've seen recipes for grapefruit bars but always shied away since I'm not a huge fan of the fruit. I did stumble upon a chocolate cookie recipe with grapefruit zest that I made today and they're awesome. I'm now rethinking my stance on the fruit. May even look into making some grapefruit bars!

  6. Omigosh, those look amazing! Justin loooooves lemon bars, but I've never been able to make them look remotely like yours. Maybe it's worth another shot.

  7. THe name alone makes me want to eat these, but that delicious picture seals the deal daaaaaahling.
    *kisses* HH

  8. Thank you for a recipe from this wonderful book! The pic of those bars is absolutely awesome!

  9. perfect to start a good day with this bars.
    sunny and yummy
    bises from France

  10. Crystal, HH, UrMom, Delph- Thanks, ladies, for your kind words. These bars are especially a treat with this dull, dreary winter weather setting in. Nothing like the brightness of citrus to help with the doldrums.

  11. I love following your blog-beautiful pictures and delicous results.

  12. Yum yum! Lemon bars are so difficult to get just right - where the crust isn't soggy and the lemon is just the right balance of sweet-tart...and yours looks perfect!
    And my parents have a Meyer lemon, I think I know what I'm making next with those gorgeous fruits.

  13. I love Meyer lemons. They are so hard to find around here. Enjoy them. Happy New Year. Lovely recipe and photos! xo

  14. i am loving this recipe. your pictures are just gorgeous:) thank you for sharing this.

  15. Shelley, I love everything that has lemon...specially lemon bars...and yours look just perfect. Beautifully done! The photos are awesome as well ;-)

  16. @Seattle Pastry Girl, Indie, RedMenace, Blackbook, and Juliana- Thanks all! Aren't desserts with Meyer lemons are such a treat? Such a gorgeous and tasty fruit!

  17. I just saw this via David Lebovitz on FB, what a great post!
    I am a huge fan of Lemon Bars and I make them all the time. I am curious if you have a tip regarding the confectioners sugar. Once the bars are cooled and I powder them, the sugar always gets absorbed into the bar before it even reaches my guests, any thoughts I would LOVE to hear, especially if storing up to 2 days. Thanks

  18. @Cynthia- Yeah, I have the same problem. Since I like my bars on the sweet side, I just keep a sifter can of confectioner's sugar handy and re-dust before serving. Obviously, if you didn't want the extra sweetness added by re-dusting, just hold off on dusting until right before you serve. I would bring them back up to room temp and not dust right out of the refrigerator, though. I've always wondered how bakeries keep a nice coating on their bars when I see them in a case. I think I'll ask next time. If I get any useful info, I'll update my post. Thanks for stopping by!

  19. Hi, I'm new to your blog via David Lebovitz and wanted to tell you that there is such a thing called snow sugar or non-melting powdered sugar. Here in LA I've seen it at Surfas, a local restaurant supply store and Surfas sells it on-line as well. I am awaiting my copy of Flour in the mail and happen to have some Meyer lemons so yay! Cheers.

  20. @Shirley Thanks so much for letting me know. I had never heard of snow sugar- now I've got to check it out. And you'll love Flour! Happy Baking!

  21. Thanks Shelley and Shirley, great suggestions from both, I really appreciate it. I have never heard of snow sugar, I am fascinated! ...and I can't wait to try it. You both made my day. ~Cheers, Cynthia

  22. I also found your blog via David L.,and love all things lemon. These look too irresistible to not bake immediately! I'd like to make them for a Super Bowl party and need a comparable pan size to the 9X11 without cutting down on the quantity. Any suggestions? Thanks!

  23. @Lynn- The recipe as written on my blog is per the original recipe from the Flour cookbook and the ingredient quantities are for a 9x11" pan. As I noted, I halved the original quantities and used an 8x8" pan. Joanne notes in the cookbook that her recipe makes a bar with a thick layer of curd. I would think you could use a slightly smaller or slightly larger pan than 9 x 11" and not have to change quantities to adjust. If you're going much larger or smaller, I would adjust the quantities. I would always rather err on the high side when adjusting and have more shortbread or curd than needed than to come up short. Have a great time at the Super Bowl Party!