It’s been quite some time since I made a batch of lemon bars. Lemon bars are a classic bake-sale item, like brownies and chocolate chip cookies, and because they seem like such a staple of homemade baked goods, I think I overlook them a little too often in favor of more unusual recipes. It’s too bad because good lemon bars are really delicious. A slightly crisp shortbread crust is the perfect contrast to a creamy sweet-tart filling.
This lemon bar recipe uses buttermilk, as well as lemon juice, in the filling. The buttermilk mellows the lemon filling a little bit, taking the edge off of the tartness usually associated with lemon alone. As a result, the bars have a wonderful lemon flavor, but seem to taste a bit sweeter and richer than some other lemon bars. The filling recipe is very simple and there is no flour or cornstarch included in it, so the filling is very tender, more like a lemon curd than the chewy lemon topping I’ve encountered in some variations.
For the crust, I used a simple shortbread recipe that I turn to again and again. The filling is poured onto the crust while it is still hot from the oven, so there is no down time waiting for the crust to cool before completing the recipe. The bars are good at room temperature, but also taste good chilled. Dusting the tops with powdered sugar is a nice finishing touch for the bars. Remember to do it right before serving so that the fine sugar doesn’t absorb too much moisture from the bars.
Buttermilk Lemon Bars
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp lemon zest
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
4 large eggs
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 tbsp lemon zest
Preheat oven to 350F. Get out a 9×9-inch baking pan, or a Baker’s Edge, if you have one, and set it aside.
Make the crust. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt and lemon zest. Cut butter into chunks and add to flour mixture. Blend in with an electric mixer at low speed until mixture forms coarse, sandy crumbs. Pour into pan and press mixture down (with your fingers or the back of a spoon) into an even layer.
Bake for 16-19 minutes, until just lightly browned around the edges.
While crust is baking, make filling. Whisk together all filling ingredients in a large bowl.
When the crust comes out of the oven and is still hot, pour in filling mixture.
Bake for about 20 minutes, or until filling is set and does not jiggle when the pan is gently shaken.
Cool completely before slicing.
Top slices with confectioners’ sugar to serve.
Makes about 24 bars.