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Sour Cream Lemon Shortbread Bars

Since I love lemon, you might think that I love lemon bars. Unfortunately, this is not true. More often than not, lemon bars are just plain awful. The lemon filling is usually either gummy or too gelatinous and the base is almost always bland, soggy or both. The lemon flavor is rarely as clear as it could be and, while lemon bars shouldn’t be as tart as the filling for a lemon meringue pie, where the meringue acts to temper the semi-tart lemon flavor of the filling, it should still be bright enough that one bite sends the “this is lemon” message to your brain. In short, I usually pass on lemon bars.
Of course, if I make the bars myself, I have no problems eating them. This recipe seems to solve all the lemon bar problems that I just listed, turning out bars that are as close to perfect as I can recall having.
The base is a light and tender shortbread cookie, which crumbles gently into your mouth and retains some crispness in spite of the moist topping. The topping is just thick enough to hold together well and has a bright, but not overly tart, lemon flavor. In fact, the flavor is tempered by the addition of some sour cream, which gives the bar a great mouthfeel.
I used my Baker’s Edge pan to ensure even baking. Don’t have one yet? No worries – just use a 9″x13″ baking pan and plan to take a couple of minutes off the final baking time.
I topped these off with a sprinkling of powdered sugar, but that is entirely optional. The whole batch will be gone in a flash – with or without the extra sprinkle.

Sour Cream Lemon Shortbread Bars
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp lemon zest
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter, chilled and cut into several pieces

Lemon Topping
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
6 tbsp sour cream
3 tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup lemon juice
Zest of 2 lemons (1 generous tbsp)

Preheat oven to 350F.
In the bowl of a food processor, whizz together the flour, sugar lemon zest and sald. Add in butter and pulse until mixture reaches a crumbly, sandy (with some pea-sized chunks of butter remaining) pieces. Press evenly into the Baker’s Edge pan (or 9″x13″ pan) bake for 16-19 minutes, until just slightly golden at the corners.

While the crust is baking, beat together the remaining ingredients until smooth. When the crust comes out of the oven, pour in the lemon filling while it is hot, then return pan to the oven.
Bake for 25 minutes, until set and slightly browned at the corners.
Set pan on a wire rack to cool completely.
Makes 16 large bars.

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  • Helene
    February 10, 2007

    I am always on a quest for a good/great lemon bar out there but you are right unless we make it ourselves, we are unlikely to be happy. I will try your recipe very soon!

  • gigi
    February 10, 2007

    …mmm, the lemon bars/shortbread look so yummy I can’t wait to try your recipe. gigi

  • lucette
    February 11, 2007

    These look very tempting–I may have to put aside our no dessert rule (which has of course already been broken several times).

  • Chris (a.k.a. Pebbles)
    February 11, 2007

    These look great!

  • Caty
    February 12, 2007

    They look delicious!

  • Katie
    February 12, 2007

    Being one of my husband’s favorites, I am always on the hunt for the best lemon bar recipe…yours was wonderful! Enlisting the help of my Bosch mixer (which surprisingly I prefer over my Kitchen Aid), I got the perfect crumbly consistency and Waa La! Delicious lemon bars in no time! Thank you!

  • Katie
    February 12, 2007

    Being one of my husband’s favorites, I am always on the hunt for the best lemon bar recipe…yours was wonderful! Enlisting the help of my Bosch mixer (which surprisingly I prefer over my Kitchen Aid), I got the perfect crumbly consistency and Waa La! Delicious lemon bars in no time! Thank you!

  • Joe
    February 12, 2007

    You are certainly getting a lot of good use out of that edge pan… I’m so tempted to give in and buy it!

  • ThursdayNext
    February 12, 2007

    I am wondering if this would also work with Key Lime juice instead of lemon juice as well as with lime zest? 🙂

  • nicole
    February 13, 2007

    these are awesome…but mine are pale. they didn’t turn out as yellow-y as yours. ???

  • Jan
    February 18, 2007

    What do you do when you wake up at 3am and can’t go back to sleep? LOL, you make lemon bars! I used my 9×13 springform pan and they’re cooling now. I can’t wait to try them, but if the bowl is any indication, I’m sold!

    Nic, I left a question for you under the Lemon Pudding Cake recipe/comments if you get a chance could you check it out please. Thanks!

  • barbie2be
    February 26, 2007

    i made these last night for my monday treat day at work. they are AMAZING! and so easy.

  • Dan
    April 2, 2007

    I just made my first batch…I used a pyrex 9×13 and the top started to brown at 18 minutes so I grabbed them out of the oven… I hope they still come out okay…I am waiting for them to cool now…but my house smells great…. I never zested before…. now I know I need to buy a lemon zester tool…


  • Janet
    June 16, 2007

    I made these sour cream lemon bars last night and they are wonderful!! You are right….they are the best! Not only were these tasty but they hold together better than my favorite lemon bar recipe! Thanks for the recipe!

  • Jacqueline
    March 26, 2009

    Made these for a second time today. Amazing in everyway possible. The buttery shortbread is a perfect compliment to the lemon filling, which is not gooey or gelatinous. Thanks for this gem!

  • steph
    February 15, 2011

    i was so excited to find a baker’s edge recipe for lemon bars, i made these right away. i included the powdered sugar finish, and they definitely lived up to my expectations:


  • Leyla
    September 30, 2011

    I agree, im not a big lemon bar fan. They look purdy but I cannot stomach the taste. But these look real good and I enjoy the fact that the lemon filling doesn’t use a crazy amount of eggs (I stray from recipes that use 6 eggs for lemony filling *shudders*)

    I’ll be trying this tonight! My mom will be pleased, shes a huuuge lemon-anything fan! 🙂 Thanks@

  • Leyla
    September 30, 2011

    oh, naughty me, I totally scarfed down 2 of these before dinner 🙂

    They turned out real nice.I love how light and crumbly the base was, and the lemon filling was soooo good. I am NOT a lemon fan. I mean, pass me a lemon meringue pie and ill eat the meringue and nibble at the lemon.

    You have converted me into a lemonbar addict!

    OH! One question, in the step that says beat until smooth did you mean beat with a blender? Cause thats what I did cause I felt lazy but im always curious.,

  • Mike J D
    September 28, 2012

    A superb recipe , well worth seeking out. Today I shall make these for the fourth time. Time three I didn’t tamp down the dough very much, and it turned out 80% less crispy. I think next time I can get them perfect by using the lower shelf in the oven, and pressing the dough down harder as I did on time two. Those were the best by far, a crust browned and so crisp it was shiny on the bottom. That time,too, I used Baker’s Joy, and they barely stuck.

  • Chris
    September 17, 2014

    Thanks for this recipe, Nicole. Not a lemon bar fan, either, but was craving something lemon one day, had some leftover sour cream, and found this. I have been converted. And everyone else who’s tried them can’t get enough of them. One comment: the first time I made them, I didn’t have enough lemons for all the zest called for, so I used some diced candied lemon peel in the crust instead. (Buzzing it with the dry crust ingredients dices it even finer.) Have since tried it both ways, and really like the candied lemon peel. Adds an interesting texture and nice flavor.

    And one more comment: I make these bars in a glass pan. I’m about to throw my 8 x 8 Baker’s Secret cake pan into the recycling. It has burned *everything* I have baked in it. Everything. Even when I add non-stick spray, or actually grease the pan. And the 9 x 9 pan I also bought has about a 50/50 record of turning out roof tiles instead of pecan bars. Back to Pyrex for me…

  • […] found the recipe at Baking Bites- a great blog for a variety of baked goods. The shortbread crust was easy to make – just butter, […]

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