Featuring a buttery shortbread base and a tangy, moderately sweet lemon curd topping, these Lemon Bars are incredibly simple to prepare. They offer the delightful taste of a Lemon Tart but in a much more uncomplicated package!
These Lemon Bars offer a more straightforward alternative to the intricate process of making a Lemon Tart. A traditional Lemon Tart involves preparing a chilled, rolled-out shortcrust pastry, blind baking it, cooling it, then filling it with lemon curd before baking it once more.
While Lemon Tarts exude beauty, elegance, and impressiveness, there are those days when time is of the essence, and that’s when Lemon Bars come to the rescue! The process is incredibly simple: the base is quickly prepared in a food processor, pressed into a pan, baked, and then you just pour over a uncomplicated lemon curd mixture and bake again.
The lemon curd itself is a delight – it has a jammy, slightly custardy texture, a tangy flavor, and just the right level of sweetness. It hits all the right notes!
Ingredients in Lemon Bars
Here is the list of ingredients required to prepare these Lemon Bars.
FOR THE SHORTBREAD BASE
The ingredients you’ll need are essentially the same ones used in my classic shortbread recipe, as we’re essentially making shortbread here!
- Flour – Just regular plain or all-purpose flour.
- Rice flour – This ingredient lends a crumbly texture to the shortbread. I don’t include it in my traditional shortbread cookie recipe because it doesn’t enhance the final result due to the specific method I use. However, for this quick and easy food processor blitzing method employed in this recipe, rice flour helps maintain the “short” (crumbly) nature of the shortbread base, which is the signature texture we all associate with shortbread. You can substitute it with cornflour or cornstarch, which will yield a very similar outcome. Even regular flour can be used, although the base won’t be as crumbly as classic shortbread; it will resemble more of a vanilla cookie.
- Butter – It should be cold and unsalted, cut into cubes to be blended into a sandy texture with the flour.
- Icing sugar or powdered sugar – The fine grains are essential for creating tender, crumbly, melt-in-your-mouth shortbread. Using regular sugar would result in a tougher texture, which is not what we desire!
- A pinch of salt – This is a standard practice in sweet baking, as it helps enhance the other flavors without making the end product taste salty.
LEMON CURD FILLING
In my traditional Lemon Tart recipe, I typically recommend separating the eggs and incorporating extra egg yolks into the lemon curd. However, today, we’re simplifying things by using whole eggs.
- Eggs – 3 large eggs, which weigh approximately 55 – 60g (2 oz) each and are commonly sold in cartons labeled as “large eggs.” There’s no need to bring them to room temperature, as is often required in baking recipes. These eggs play a crucial role in setting the lemon curd during baking.
- Caster sugar or super fine sugar is preferred if available because its finer grains ensure easier dissolution into the curd. However, regular granulated sugar works perfectly fine as a substitute.
- A small amount of flour is included to help ensure proper setting of the curd. We typically don’t use flour in the Lemon Tart filling because it’s made using a traditional method. But today, we’re simplifying the process!
- Fresh lemons! We’ll be using both the zest and juice for this recipe. Zest adds a delightful lemon flavor, while the juice contributes tanginess to the curd.
Making lemon bars
Promising simplicity, and indeed, it’s a breeze to prepare! Here are the straightforward steps to create these lemon bars:
SHORTBREAD LEMON BAR BASE
Back in my pre-appliance days, which is to say, during my university years when I was on a tight budget, I used to prepare shortbread by manually blending the butter into the dry ingredients using my fingertips. Nowadays, I’ve embraced my lazy side and opted for the food processor method. A few quick pulses, and the work is done. An added bonus: no need to worry about warm little fingers melting the butter!
Here’s the method broken down:
- Blitz – Place all the shortbread ingredients into a food processor equipped with the standard “S” blade. Pulse the mixture 5 to 10 times until it transforms into a loose, sandy texture.
- Press – Transfer this sandy mixture into a 20cm/8″ pan lined with parchment paper, ensuring some overhang to facilitate easy removal of the Lemon Bars once they set. Spread the base mixture evenly, and then firmly press it down using an item with a flat base, such as a measuring cup. Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until the edges take on a light golden hue.
- While the base is in the oven, whisk together the lemon curd ingredients to prepare the lemon curd mixture.
- Pour the lemon curd filling onto the baked base.
- Bake for an additional 20 minutes until the top is set but still slightly soft. Don’t be concerned if there are a couple of small cracks on the surface; that’s completely normal and will be concealed by a dusting of icing sugar!
- Cool – Allow the bars to fully cool on the countertop, and then refrigerate for at least 2 hours before slicing and serving.
- Optional – To add a touch of elegance, dust the bars with icing sugar just before serving. Keep in mind that the icing sugar may absorb moisture and form a slight “sweat,” so it’s best to do this right before serving.
Eat on the go.
I have a special fondness for these lemon bars, primarily because they’re incredibly easy to prepare, but also because I’m a great enthusiast of baked treats that can be enjoyed with one hand while on the move. Now, don’t get me wrong—I won’t decline a generous slice of cake, and I can never resist a freshly baked apple crumble.
However, those indulgences often call for plates, utensils, and sometimes accompaniments like ice cream and cream.
In contrast, lemon bars and similar treats require no such formality. I won’t even pause my stride as I casually snag one while passing by, indulging on the go.
They possess that unique blend of being both dangerously tempting and exceptionally convenient, all while maintaining their delightful taste.
This quality also makes them a fantastic choice for school bake sales, gatherings, and morning tea at the workplace. They’re simply easy to eat, boasting a high appeal factor that’s sure to please a crowd!