Classic Lemon Bars
MUSIC PAIRING: Beck, Morning Phase
I am not even kidding. Joy the Baker is unbelievable. Every single recipe of hers is killer and I feel like the most accomplished baker when I make her treats. I would love to say it’s because of my mad skills but really it’s because her recipes are literally no-fail gems.
Most lemon bars I’ve had in my life have been far too sweet, cloyingly so. I’ve never jumped on the lemon bar train because I really can’t stand that sugary aftertaste AND feel in your mouth when you’ve eaten something really off balance and overly sweet. I would much rather settle in with my bag of haribos and call it a day.
Lemon bars were the last thing on my mind today. In fact, I set out to make this Twix tart that’s been calling to me for months but right before I left for the store, Joy’s lovely cookbook caught my eye and I got distracted. I ended up sitting down and reading through it – again – and noticed her classic lemon bar recipe. I realized I had all the ingredients on hand (hooray for not having to climb my stairs after all!) and decided if ANYone could change my mind about lemon bars, it would be Joy.
Holy balls, are these fantastic. First of all, they couldn’t be easier to make yet they produce such a beautiful, vibrant treat that looks like you’ve been hard at work. Women in the 50’s surely knew this dessert trick. They had their fancy hair and lipstick and dresses and made everyone think they slaved all day but really, they whipped up lemon bars in about ten minutes flat. That left plenty of time for an afternoon martini before their husbands came home. I admire those ladies.
Ease in baking is always what I’m after. I want so badly to be a pie master or a croissant queen but it’ll never be in the cards for me. God knows I’ll try – and even succeed sometimes as my Snickers cake triumphantly showcases! – but I’ll nearly always aim for recipes like these lemon bars. Simple, delightfully tart, smooth as silk and just the right sugary snap. I will never look further for another lemon bar recipe and I’m proud to say I’ve been converted.
On top of everything, aren’t they the prettiest?
Why Beck? The Morning Phase album is quintessentially Beck but on the lighter, more mellow spectrum. The real reason though is I’ve always had a big crush on Beck so I baked these lemon bars for him in case he shows up at my door this evening.
Recipe by: Joy the Baker in Homemade Decadence
- 1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature plus more for pan
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- Pinch of salt
- 2 large eggs
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- Zest from one lemon
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- Powdered sugar for dusting
- Put a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 350. Grease an 8x8 inch baking pan with butter and line with parchment paper so that it overhangs the pan slightly and grease the parchment paper. Set aside.
- Make the crust. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add flour and salt and beat on low speed until incorporated. The dough may come together but if it remains shaggy, that's fine. Dump the crust into the prepared pan and using your fingertips, press it into the bottom of the pan evenly.
- Bake crust until it is just browned around the edges, about 15-18 minutes. Let cool slightly.
- Make the lemon bar filling. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until well combined and slightly thick. Add the flour, lemon juice and zest and whisk well.
- Pour the filling over the warm baked crust (it's ok if it overflows above the crust). Return the pan to the oven and bake until lightly browned on top and no longer jiggling in the center, about 18-20 minutes. Let cool completely in the pan.
- Run a knife around the edges of the pan and slice the lemon bars into nine squares. Use the overhanging parchment paper to lift the squares out. Dust with powdered sugar and serve. The bars will keep in an airtight container for one week.