Friday, April 27, 2012

Ultimate Lemon Bars

Though I'm a lemon lover, I'm not a lemon bar person. Generally I find the custard too sweet and cloying, aided and abetted by a mushy, sugary shortbread crust that tips the scales in the battle of tart versus sweet too far to the sweet side for my taste.

Then I tried these lemon bars with a brown butter shortbread crust. Now I'm a believer.

The extra step of browning the butter gives the crust an added depth of nutty flavor. I suspect it may even help keeping the crust firm, so that it can stand up to the lemony custard that gets added on top.

You might be tempted to use Meyer lemons in these, which I've never liked. To me they taste more like oranges than lemons, which perhaps explains why they were considered garbage years ago.  

Stick with the real thing. You'll be handsomely rewarded.

Lemon Bars with a Brown Butter Shortbread Crust
(via Martha Stewart)


For the Crust

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
Pinch of salt

For the Filling

6 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Zest of 1 small lemon, finely grated

For Serving

Confectioners' sugar, for dusting (optional)


Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan; line baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a 3-inch overhang on all sides.

Make the crust: In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat until barely browned in color. Remove pan from heat and pour butter into the bowl of an electric mixer, leaving any burned sediment behind. Transfer butter to refrigerator until solidified. When solidified, remove from refrigerator and let soften slightly.

Transfer bowl to electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; beat until butter is smooth. Sift flour, confectioners' sugar, and salt into bowl; mix on low speed until combined.

Transfer dough to prepared pan and press evenly into bottom of the pan using the back of a measuring cup; it should be about 1/4 inch thick. Transfer to refrigerator; chill until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Transfer baking pan to oven and bake until crust is golden brown, about 20 minutes. If crust appears to be browning unevenly, rotate pan.

Make the filling: Meanwhile, whisk together eggs, egg yolks, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour and sugar. Add lemon juice and zest; whisk to dissolve granulated sugar. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and whisk until well combined.

When the crust is golden brown, pull out oven rack and evenly pour filling mixture directly over hot crust (if crust has finished baking before filling has been made, return crust to oven for a few minutes so that it is hot). If air bubbles appear on the surface, remove them using a kitchen torch held 4 to 5 inches from the surface, moving in a slow even motion. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees and bake until center is set, 30 to 40 minutes.

Remove baking pan from oven and transfer to a wire rack. Let lemon bars cool completely before covering and transferring to refrigerator until chilled.

Using a sharp knife dipped in hot water and wiped dry, cut lemon bars into twenty-four 2-inch squares and dust with confectioners' sugar just before serving, if desired.

Lemon bars will keep in an airtight container for up to 4 days.