light and lemony bars

Is there anything more promising than a bowl of lemons?

People like to equate a good life to a bowl of cherries, but I think they should start using lemons. We’ve all bought cherries at the grocery store or farmers market and brought them home all excited, only to be disappointed when they turned out to be sour, or mushy, or hard. Like many fruits, cherries can’t always be counted on. But lemons, lemons never let you down.

What other fruit has so many practical applications?  From drinks to desserts to salad dressings, the lemon always comes through. It’s zest is as good as its juice. They last longer than other fruits too… You could forget about a lemon and find it weeks later in the vegetable drawer, perhaps a bit soft and wrinkled, but useable and tasty nonetheless. Can’t do that with a cherry. Definitely can’t do that with a banana.

And lemons are perfectly happy not to be the center of attention. They’ll play a supporting role, gladly livening flavors and making things pop like a little bit of liquid sunshine.

When lemons do take center stage, their bright acidity energizes. Their sourness is an antidote to the heat of a summer afternoon, yet also seems to illuminate the dreary, rainy days we’ve had way too many of lately. Hence today’s recipe.

I’m always pleased to find recipes, especially dessert recipes, that can be made from pantry staples. An impromptu dessert is one of my favorite kinds, and these lemon bars certainly do the trick. They are also light enough that one doesn’t have to feel badly about the indulgence.

Light and lemony bars
(Adapted from Cooking Light)
for the crust:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 Tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup flour

for the filling:
3 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (rind)
1/3 cup lemon juice (fresh!)
3 Tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons powdered sugar

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the crust by beating 1/4 cup granulated sugar and the butter in a bowl at medium speed until creamy. Add flour to the sugar mixture, beating at low speed until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Press mixture into bottom of an 8-inch square baking pan (it will be crumbly). Bake for 15 minutes and then cool.

To make the filling, beat the eggs at medium speed until foamy, about 30 seconds. Add 3/4 cup granulated sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, flour, baking powder and salt and beat until well-blended. Pour mixture over crust and bake 20 to 25 minutes, until set. Sift powdered sugar evenly over the top and cut into squares. Makes 16 small lemon bars.


9 thoughts on “light and lemony bars

  1. I love this ode to the lemon, one of my favorite fruits! And this recipe looks lovely — one of the few lemon bar recipes I’ve seen without condensed milk, so, perfect for the lactose intolerant (and the spouses who bake for them). How long *do* lemons last? I’ve often wondered.

    • Daphne, I hadn’t even thought about the lactose-fee aspect. But you are right!
      I don’t know how long lemons last… sailors used to take them on their round the word voyages to prevent scurvy, so my guess is a pretty long time!

    • Great point, Shelby! I ran a butter knife around the edge when they first came out of the oven and that seemed to do the trick. Some cooking spray probably wouldn’t hurt though.

  2. I agree that a little lemon zest can brighten up so many dishes! I recently made some sugar cookies with lemon zest and loved how it changed the whole flavor of the cookie.

  3. I completely agree – lemons are a total staple of my kitchen – they are so versatile. These lemon bars sound great….most recipes call for entire sticks of butter!!

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