Potluck Lemon Bars

Lemon bars are my nemesis. Correction: lemon bars were my nemesis. Let me explain.

I consider myself a slightly better than average baker. I’ve made some pretty mean tarts, cookies, biscotti, panna cotta, and even macarons. Many of my baking attempts have seen a deep inhalation as I pulled the tasty treat out of the oven in anticipation (and hope) that the treat came out OK. Most of the time, it works out.

With lemon bars, it never worked out. Either the crust burned quicker than it should have or the lemon topping remained thin and watery when it should have set. Why? I couldn’t tell you. After 3 failed attempts years ago, I resigned myself to the conclusion that lemon bars were just not my specialty.

This past weekend, some friends came over for a potluck that I planned. I knew other people would be bringing desserts, so I decided to give lemon bars one more go. If I failed, there would be other desserts available, so I wouldn’t have to worry about baking a back up item.

Wouldn’t you know it, they (almost) came out perfectly!

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I stuck to a super simple recipe, and I think these came out great.

Ingredients:

For the crust:
2 cups flour

1/2 cup powdered sugar

2 sticks butter

For the lemon filling:

4 eggs

4 tbsps flour

1 cup sugar

4 lemons’ worth of fresh lemon juice

zest of 1 lemon

To start, I let the butter and eggs come to room temperature. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees, then start making the crust. I put the butter, flour, and powdered sugar in my mixer and mixed for a couple minutes, until both ingredients are well incorporated and smooth in texture.

Spray a 9×13 pan with non-stick spray, and press the crust into the pan, trying to make the dough evenly distributed. Bake for about 18 minutes, until the crust starts to get a little golden in color. Remove from oven and immediately pour the filling over the crust.

While the crust is baking, start working on the filling. Using a mixer, beat together the eggs, sugar, flour, lemon juice, and zest. Mix for longer than you think you should, as this is how the filling will thicken up when baking. I saw some bubbles forming while it mixed, and that was normal. Mix for at least 2 minutes.

Once the filling is over the crust, immediately return the pan to the oven and continue baking for another 22 minutes. To test the bars, wiggle the pan a little bit. If they are done, the filling will remain firm and won’t wiggle along with the pan.
I think my misstep this time was waiting to pour the filling over the crust. Right when the crust was done baking, Dan arrived home with lunch, so I took a short break from baking. I think that letting the crust cool some caused the filling to not stick as well to the crust. Other than that though, these bars came out great, with just the right amount of tart and sweet, and the right consistency.
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I’m so glad I finally found a recipe that works for me. I’ll definitely be making these lemon squares as my go-to summer dessert.

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