Wicked Lemon Bars
I say these lemon bars are wicked because they are almost too much. The lemon tops would be too tart and sweet if not for the shortbread base that’s the perfect subtle counterpoint. Because they’ve got so much punch, one bar is the perfect amount. This girl could eat an entire lemon cake in one sitting, but these bars are compact little firecrackers. THEY’RE MY FAVORITE.
Can I tell you something? I moved recently. These three words rock my world to write. Perhaps that’s why I buried the lead? I’m not the type to delve publicly into very personal things. Yes, I’ve let you into my home and many many moments over the past few years, but I have also tried to stick to subjects that might inspire you or me when I look back at them. Not to say I don’t love me some self-help inspirational Deepak Chopra posts, but it’s easy for amateurs to appear whiny, preachy and rude online when they reflect on how tough life is treating them. RIGHT? I’m no self-help expert. I’m an LA entertainment and lifestyle reporter who often rudely posts too many cat photos, complains about the Bachelorette and whines when she’s sick so y’all send her sweet notes. Let’s just say life has changed a lot for me recently. I’m currently going through a divorce. I’m still rocking and the waves are still rolling and I’m still gaining control of this sailboat. And yes, I will enjoy this ride. It’s life. Hell, I am an optimist at the end of the day.
How did we end up on the water? Back to my home on solid ground. Can I tell you about my favorite thing at my new pad? There’s the most gorgeous lemon tree out front that greets me every time I come home. At first, I plucked a handful of lemons to place in a bowl I inherited from my Granny atop the table my mother bought me. It was a lemonade out of lemons kind of a moment. (I’ve never been one to overlook the dramatics.)
Then I started picking them to slice and squeeze over fish. Still not doing my little presents justice. So… the other day I decided I needed to pay tribute to my new giving tree with a proper dessert. It had been 8 months since I had made a dessert. Seriously. I used to bake all the time. Stella Marques needed her groove back and my little tree was just the ticket.
My epiphany came while watching Ina Garten on the Food Network. Ina is the warm-hearted, talented TV aunt we all wish we had (with a kick ass house in the Hamptons and restaurant to boot). Ina was making apple tarts, which happen to be my favorite dessert in the world. If only I had an apple tree. Of course, when I googled her name with lemon the following recipe popped up with rave reviews. It’s Ina for goodness sake. They were so good I’ve made them twice and I think I’ll make em again this weekend. And you know what’s great about baking? No matter how or where the you make your recipe, whether it’s in a brand-spanking new Viking oven or an OG O’Keefe & Merritt (yep.) the dessert will taste just as great as long as you make it correctly.
A few changes I recommend: Line the pan with parchment paper before baking the crust. After everything is cooked and combined, refrigerate the bars before slicing! It can be a few hours or overnight. You can then lift the giant bar out of the pan with the parchment. Just peel away the paper, slice into bars, then dust powdered sugar before serving!
For the crust:
- 1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 cups flour
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
For the filling:
- 6 extra-large eggs at room temperature
- 3 cups granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (4 to 6 lemons)
- 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 cup flour
- Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking sheet (that’s been lined with parchment paper!), building up a 1/2-inch edge on all sides. Chill.
Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.
For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature. (Then refrigerate!)
Cut into triangles or bars and dust with confectioners’ sugar.