*Video recipe* Calling all lemon lovers! Pucker up for some lemon bars! These have layer of crisp, buttery crust and a layer gooey, tart lemon. The best lemon bars ever? Yes.
I went to New York for the first time two, maybe three summers ago to attend a camp. It was a very strenuous trip for me because I was flying alone for the first time and about two weeks prior to the trip I had cut myself with a broken mirror resulting in a large sum of internal stitches (only like, 6 on the outside, though) on my right ankle. I couldn’t sleep at all the night before, I was so nervous. I cried a couple times, too. Nonetheless, I made it and (thankfully, I know. thankfully) since I was injured, I was one of those ‘wheelchair’ people- so I was wheeled through the security check and everything went so smoothly. I cannot tell you how relieved I was to see my aunt, uncle and little cousin at the opposite end. Wheew.
I was in the U.S. for a total of 5 weeks, 3 of which I was at the camp in Rhode Island. Because my aunt lives so far away from the actual city and because I was injured for the first part, I only remember going to the city once. But those couple of hours, I freaked out. We went to Times Square- Hanging from skyscrapers were posters of Wicked, The Phantom of The Opera- both musicals I was so familiar with. I saw women change from high heels to sneakers as they exited their offices. I saw so many people. I saw their excitement, I saw the atmosphere and I fell in love. I went to New York last summer as well, but Times Square wasn’t as exciting as it was that first time. In fact, I think it was probably a little smelly. I’d probably prefer a place less crowded place like Bryant park or something. But that first time- the excitement I felt just by being in the city was something I’ll never forget.
On our way back home, I remember passing Amy’s Bread. I screamed on the inside. I recognized the bakery from years ago, when I made a lemon bar recipe that Amy demonstrated on the Martha Stewart show. A year or so later, I saw the book she was promoting, The Sweeter Side of Amy’s Bread, at a Borders somewhere in Colorado. So I bought it (Duh). And naturally, I tried out a lot (a lot) of its content because hey, I was excited. And it was one of my first cookbooks ever. My all-time favorite brownie recipe comes from the book- you can see it here– which also happens to be my first youtube video on Hot Chocolate Hits (tear).
Now, if you lived at my house, you’d know that I rarely make the same thing again. I made these lemon bars a couple times after I got the book, but I haven’t made them since just because I haven’t gotten around to it- this was the first lemon bar recipe I tried and I’m pretty sure it’s the last. I haven’t cheated on it with another recipe in between. That good. I usually always cheat (I’m only talking figuratively, gosh!)- like, I feel so guilty about cheating on my best chocolate cake, because no other chocolate cake recipe I tried was as good. What I’m trying to say is that this is the only lemon bar recipe you’ll ever want to make because it’s so darn delicious. So pucker up. Literally.
Anyway back to the Amy’s Bread story. So my aunt and uncle are awesome, so they took me to the bakery. Unfortunately, I tried the cupcakes- which weren’t anything special- the bakery isn’t known for its cupcakes. I was still crazy excited, and I’ll go back there again to try something else. Like the lemon bars.
The reason I love these so much is mainly because of the crust. It’s so hard to find a decent crust recipe for any type of tart or pie. This is THE lemon bar crust. It’s crumbly, flaky- through using cold butter and full of flavor- you don’t just taste the fat. It’s got the perfect amount of sweetness and salt, and your fork glides through it with such ease. I don’t like crusts too hard- like, I want to be able to cut through them- the cornstarch, while it may seem strange to add in a crust, gives you this consistency. And this one allows just that. The filling compliments the crust so well- tart, tangy and not too overwhelmingly overpowering (that’s a lot of ‘over’). The only thing that’ll be over is these lemon bars once you make them. Ahaha. What I mean is that the ratio of crust to filling is balanced. Not too much crust, not too much filling. Keeps everyone happy. Also, these are lemon bars, so there is a depth of lemon flavor- it resembles a lemon curd.
All you need to do to create a perfect lemon bar is not over mix the lemon mixture (over mixing may lead to cracking on the surface) and monitor its baking after 10 minutes- you don’t want it to brown on top (been there, done that). It will firm up some more while cooling.
I prefer chilled lemon bars dusted with powdered sugar – it reminds me more of summer. I have made adjustments to the original recipe to make it easier to follow- let’s say the recipe has evolved over time. The original has crazy measurements that are waaay to precise- so I’ve rounded up slightly. I’ve also made the recipe half of what it was originally because it’s more easily manageable (and eatable). If you’re serving a large crowd, feel free to double it. I also added a little vanilla because I fear the smell of egg. You can omit if it you’d like. I only post what I really, really have enjoyed- what my family and friends have approved, so that should guarantee that these are good. Make them. You’ll thank me. Honestly.
- For the crust:
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup unsalted butter
- For the filling:
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 1/2 tbsp milk
- pinch salt
- Preheat the oven to 350 F or 180 C and grease a 9×9 inch square pan with butter.
- In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cornstarch and salt and whisk until combined.
- Cut in the butter using a fork or pastry blender. Alternatively use a food processor to prepare the crust.The mixture should resemble coarse cornmeal.
- Gently press the mixture onto the bottom of the square pan, firmly up the edges (make a slight ridge) and barely patting the center- pressing too hard will make for a leathery crust.
- Place the crust in the freezer for 15-30 minutes, then place into the oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
- While the crust is baking, whisk together the eggs, sugar and flour until incorporated.
- Add the vanilla, milk and lemon juice and continue blending just until combined- careful not to over mix.
- Pour the filling onto the crust and bake for 15-20 minutes or until set but not browned. Check after 15 minutes.
Adapted from The Sweeter Side of Amy’s Bread cookbook