Monday, January 30, 2012

Perfect Lemon Bars

I have heard it said when it comes to desserts, "People are either chocolate or lemon lovers."  Personally, as someone who is generally hard pressed to turn down either, I can't authenticate these claims, but might have to venture that even those who fall into the chocolate camp might be won over to lemon (if even just temporarily) with these lemon bars.

I hesitate to use "Perfect" when it comes to describing most things, but seeing as that's the original name and the result was pretty impressive, I'll keep the name.  And, having tried (and failed on) multiple versions of lemon bars, I am excited to say that these are by far the most luxurious and lovely I've ever come across.

I will note that the source, Cook's Illustrated, stresses that the lemon filling should be added to the crust when it's still warm and seeing as they test their recipes like, 989 times before publishing them, I would certainly listen to that advice!

Perfect Lemon Bars
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup confectioners (powdered) sugar (plus more for decorating tops)
1/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold butter, cut into 1" pieces, plus more for greasing the pan

Lemon Filling:
4 large eggs, beaten lightly
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons lemon zest, from 2 large lemons
2/3 cup lemon juice from 3-4 large lemons, strained
1/3 cup whole milk
1/8 salt


  1. 1. For the crust: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 13-by-9-inch baking dish and line with one sheet parchment or wax paper. Dot paper with butter, then lay second sheet crosswise over it.
  2. 2. Pulse flour, confectioners’ sugar, cornstarch, and salt in food processor workbowl fitted with steel blade. Add butter and process to blend, 8 to 10 seconds, then pulse until mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse meal, about three 1-second bursts. (To do this by hand, mix flour, confectioners’ sugar, cornstarch, and salt in medium bowl. Freeze butter and grate it on large holes of box grater into flour mixture. Toss butter pieces to coat. Rub pieces between your fingers for a minute, until flour turns pale yellow and coarse.) Sprinkle mixture into lined pan and, following illustration 2, press firmly with fingers into even, 1/4-inch layer over entire pan bottom and about 1/2-inch up sides. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, then bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.
  3. 3. For the filling: Meanwhile, whisk eggs, sugar, and flour in medium bowl, then stir in lemon zest, juice, milk, and salt to blend well.
  4. 4. To finish the bars: Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Stir filling mixture to reblend; pour into warm crust. Bake until filling feels firm when touched lightly, about 20 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack; cool to near room temperature, at least 30 minutes. Following illustrations 3 and 4, below, transfer to cutting board, fold paper down, and cut into serving-size bars, wiping knife or pizza cutter clean between cuts, as necessary. Sieve confectioners’ sugar over bars, if desired.
    Bars can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to two days.

    Recipe Source: Cook's Illustrated

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