The Best Lemon Bars

This is the BEST recipe for Lemon Bars I have EVER tried! The shortbread crust is thick and tender, and the lemon custard on top is super tart and creamy. You will never go back!! 

The Best Lemon Bars from The Food Charlatan

The other day I casually mentioned to my friend Tawna that I made gluten free lemon bars. “Oh really?” she said, “I’ve never had a lemon bar.”

And then my brain EXPLODED.

The Best Lemon Bars from The Food Charlatan

Okay not really, but GAH!!! The thought of life without lemon bars. If I could only eat one dessert for the rest of my life, it would be this recipe for lemon bars, no lie. (Okay. I’m lying. If in some sick world I really did have to choose, I would flip a coin between these lemon bars and The Best Chocolate Cake I’ve Ever Had.

The Best Lemon Bars from The Food Charlatan

The Best Lemon Bars from The Food Charlatan

Here’s what happens when your stack falls.

Tawna can’t eat gluten. I saw her again last weekend at a church breakfast event where I was loading up on doughnuts. She (again, so casually) mentioned that she’d never had a doughnut. I’M ON A MISSION, GUYS.

Although really I should just go to Sarah from Snixy Kitchen. Gluten-free baking definitely takes some practice and this girl has got it DOWN. Got any doughnut recipes up your sleeve, Sarah?? Spill!

But we can tackle doughnuts another time. Today I’m sharing this Lemon Bar recipe just for Sarah and her little #cheesebabygirl. A bunch of other bloggers and I are throwing a virtual baby shower for her today!! Woo woo partay! (Thanks Alanna and Todd for hosting!)

The Best Lemon Bars from The Food Charlatan

The Best Lemon Bars from The Food Charlatan

Sarah and I met at a blogging conference a couple years ago and since then she has literally saved my blog from the jaws of technical difficulties on a number of occasions. She also happens to be one of the most gifted photographers I know and even does food styling for the NY Times. She is crazy talented!!

I was at her house the other day and she showed me all the clothes that her mom has sewn for the baby. We are talking like an entire dresser-full, people, along with several blankets and knits. (Sherry, you are a master seamstress!) This kid is totally going to be better dressed than me, that is for sure.

The Best Lemon Bars from The Food Charlatan

This lemon bar recipe is an oooold favorite of mine. I perfected the recipe back in 2012 and published it here on the blog, but I love the recipe so much that I wanted to update the photos and tell all you lovely new people about it (since basically it was Eric and my mom reading back then.) I haven’t changed the recipe at all, and it’s too good to remain hidden in my archives.

But there’s a part of me that hates updating my old posts because I love to read the “old me.” It’s like reading pages from my own journal. So probably none of you will care, but for my own sake, here is the link to the original post, where you can read a story about the time I dropped my kid’s lunch on these lemon bars halfway through making them. (See who would want to forget that story?? wait..)

I will keep one of my old photos up though. I was soooooo proud of it. *pinches cheek of former self*

A few notes about the recipe: 1) you MUST make these in a 2-quart, 8×11 inch pan if you want the crust-to-custard ratio you see in the photos. It will definitely work in a 9×13 but the layers will be thinner, which in my opinion, ruins the lemon bars. I want a THICK layer of shortbread and a THICK layer of custard. If you do make these in a 9×13, make sure you lower the baking times.

2) I always make these lemon bars with regular all-purpose flour. But today, since Sarah does not eat gluten (and this is her baby shower after all), I tried these with a gluten-free flour blend. It worked beautifully! I didn’t change the recipe at all besides swapping flours. Score! I love having an easy and delicious recipe on hand for gluten-free friends. Here’s the kind I used:

The Best Lemon Bars from The Food Charlatan

Oh and on the right is how brown your crust should be.

You are going to be the best mom ever, Sarah! And not just because you will keep your kid dressed in something other than clothes that they have picked out themselves (always the stained hole-y ones, why, why??) Your cheesy little baby is going to be so happy in your family, because you are going to be an amazing mom.

(They call her cheese baby because Sarah has subsisted mostly on cheese throughout her pregnancy. I’m a little jealous. Can I go on a cheese diet?? No? How bout a lemon bar diet?)

If you try out this recipe (DO IT!), snap a photo and share on social using #TheFoodCharlatan. I’d love to see what you are making!

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Lemon Squares

Yield: Makes 1 8x11 inch pan (serves 10-20)

Recipe by The Food Charlatan

Ingredients

    For the crust:
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour OR a gluten-free blend (I used Bob's Red Mill), spooned and leveled
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (or a few shakes more, to taste)
  • zest of one lemon
  • For the custard:
  • 1 and 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour OR a gluten-free blend (I used Bob's Red Mill), spooned and leveled
  • 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 4 medium lemons)
  • 4 large eggs
  • zest of 2-3 lemons (more zest=more tart. I add tons.)
  • powdered sugar, for dusting

Instructions

  1. For the crust:
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare an 8x11 inch pan by lining it with parchment paper or spraying with nonstick spray. Or you could use foil, make sure you spray it with nonstick spray.
  3. In a medium bowl (or stand-mixer), beat together softened butter with 1/2 cup sugar, salt and zest.
  4. Add 2 cups flour, either all-purpose or a gluten-free blend. Make sure you use a scoop or spoon to place the flour in your measuring cup, then level it off. You don't want to pack your flour.
  5. Beat in the flour. It won't come together in a ball probably, but you want to get big clumps that are sticking together. Make sure the butter and flour are incorporated.
  6. Press into the bottom of the prepared 8x11 inch pan. Wet your fingers a little if the dough sticks to your hands.
  7. Bake at 350 for 24-26 minutes, or until golden around the edges.
  8. For the Custard:
  9. In a bowl (or using stand mixer), whisk together the remaining 1 and 1/2 cups sugar and 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons flour. You can use the unwashed bowl you just used for the crust, but only if you scrape it out pretty well. You don't want clumps in your custard.
  10. After whisking the flour and sugar, whisk in the lemon juice, eggs, and zest.
  11. When the crust is done, pour the custard over the top. You don't have to wait for the crust to cool.
  12. Bake for an additional 26-28 minutes in the preheated oven. The edges should be set with the center still a little wiggly (just a little). The bars will firm up as they cool.
  13. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours until they are cold, then dust with powdered sugar right before serving. Don't bother doing it before because it will just seep into the custard and you won't see it.
  14. Store covered in the fridge.

Notes

If you don't like your desserts extremely tart, (what is with you? :) decrease the lemon juice to 2/3 cup, and decrease the flour (in the custard layer) to 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon. Also decrease the zest, maybe do 1 and 1/2 lemons.

This recipe for lemon bars NEEDS to be baked in an 8x11 inch pan. You can absolutely make it in a 9x13 (adjust baking times-it will cook faster), but the bars will not be as thick, and in my opinion, that is what makes these the BEST lemon bars.

http://thefoodcharlatan.com/2016/01/20/lemon-squares/

Don’t forget to check out all the other recipes going up today for Sarah’s baby shower!

Cheesy Things

Sweet Things

Cheesy & Sweet Things

Here are some other lemony recipes you will love!

Meyer Lemon Tart << Have you tried Meyer lemons yet? They are a little sweeter and more orange-y than a regular lemon and have such amazing flavor. Try this one out!

Meyer Lemon Tart from The Food Charlatan

Here’s another recipe I should reshoot: Lemon Crinkle Cookies with Lemon Frosting. These are SO LEMONY! I love them:

Lemon Crinkle Cookies with Lemon Frosting from TheFoodCharlatan.com

^^Also, I should mention that the fabric in this photo is my shirt. A yellow button up shirt I used to wear all the time. I looked at all my normal food props and didn’t see anything yellow so I just went to my closet. I’m a normal person, I swear.

The Best Lemon Curd: << no lie, guys.

The Best Lemon Curd from The Food Charlatan

Here’s a recipe for Lemon Cake with Lemon Frosting. It’s one of my favorite cakes!

Lemon Cupcakes from TheFoodCharlatan.com

More lemon love from blog-land:

Lemon Bar Muddy Buddies from Lemon Tree Dwelling
Lemon Crumble Bars from House of Yumm << These look SO GOOD!!!
Lemon Ice Box Pie from Life, Love, and Sugar

Comments

comments

   

Comments

  1. says

    How many lemons would you say that you used? I have so many fond memories of lemon bar eating…with my grandmother; at a bakery in Amish country in Pennsylvania; with you…oh no wait, that was lemon slurp.

    • says

      Hmmm I think I used 3 or 4 very large lemons. Just buy a few, and if it’s not quite enough you could throw in a few squirts of refrigerated lemon juice to make up for it. Long live lemon slurp!!

  2. kris says

    Since your subbing stuff Karen, can you come up with a way to make these taste amazing with no carbs and no sugar? It’s really difficult reading all your delicious recipes, but knowing that i can’t make them and then stuff my face like when I was 30 and still keep my girlish figure. Getting old is the pits . . . I’m imagining eating these but it’s not the same. . .

    • says

      Oh yeah sure Kris I’ll get right to work on that. Be sure to stay on my good side, because you will want to be on my A-list when I make billions for finding the solution to life’s greatest problem: why can’t I eat whatever I want?

  3. says

    (I didn’t like the fact that I just weirdly left a Facebook comment on your post accidentally, so am re-posting here)

    I am such a bad blogger friend. I want to make a comment about how lovely your new blog layout is, but I haven’t been reading around the blogosphere in so long that this is probably like a year-old layout update.

    IT STILL LOOKS BEAUTIFUL!!!!

    Couldn’t resist. Also, these lemon bars. HOW HAD YOUR FRIEND NEVER HAD A LEMON BAR?! Thank the heaven she has you to enlighten/bake for her. She is a lucky duck. And now I want a lemon bar, thanks.
    Erika recently posted…Aquafaba Lemon Meringue Pie (vegan, gf)My Profile

    • says

      Aw thank you Erika!! My sister in law designed it, she is so talented. And the reason Tawna hadn’t had a lemon bar is because she has Celiac’s. She tried to bake her own but they didn’t work out. TRAGIC. so i fixed it. next im tackling donuts, she told me the only ones she’s had were frozen gf donuts that you microwave. shudder. wish me luck…I’m gonna need it.

  4. says

    i DID go on a lemon bar diet after you left the rest at my house this weekend and it was GLORIOUS! I’m glad I have you to answer my late-night “omg how do you organize baby clothes” calls and talk me down from the ledge! I think this lil’ cheesebaby will be super well dressed, but only because of my mama;) Thank you for making and SHARING WITH ME IRL these amazing lemon squares for my virtual baby shower! I must say that once again, your dessert was one of the top crowd choices…
    Sarah @ SnixyKitchen recently posted…Sweet Zing Ginger Oatmeal Green SmoothieMy Profile

    • says

      I was on a lemon bar diet too because I made these again after your party so that I could shoot them, and then there I was with an entire pan of bars and nothing to do but shove them in my face. Life is so hard.

  5. Laura says

    I made these yesterday. They really are the best!!! I find many other recipes to be thin, runny, and sad. These bars were firm and thick, something you could really sink your teeth into.

  6. says

    And MY head exploded! What?!?! What’s life without lemon bars?!?! Karen, I seriously love.love your writing style! You always manage to make me laugh ;). I’m seriously so jealous that you and Sarah are neighbors! Will you be at BlogHer in Austin this October? If so, can I be your sidekick? ;)

  7. says

    Okay, I love lemon bars and we have to get back to this in a second, but can we pause and talk about the fact that I have totally shot food on shirts (and skirts, and scarves…) too?? Sometimes it’s just the best fabric for tje job! HA.

    But back to the food, these look so delicious, and I love that it’s an easy gluten-free swap! I basically know nothing about gluten-free cooking so this kind of easy recipe is exactly what I need.

  8. says

    Looking forward to those doughnuts my dear! Headline “Karen saves the day with her GF doughnuts!” Hooray! Girl, these look divine. I realized its been too long since I had a lemon bar. They are one of the best sweet things ever! Love that you and Sarah have met…. Now… your old lemon bars don’t look bad, but your new ones shine like the sun! Gorgeous my dear!
    Traci | Vanilla And Bean recently posted…Mushroom Stuffed Cabbage RollsMy Profile

  9. says

    Come on Morgan, they re LEMON bars, and a lemon is a fruit, so you can totally consider them part of the fruit category and have them every day ??

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