Easy Lemon Bars

My dear sweet mother-in-law surprised me the other week with a big bag full of Meyer lemons. I didn't realize a difference even existed between lemons until this year. I mean, lemons are lemons, right?

So wrong.

Native to China, the Meyer lemon is believed to be a cross between a true lemon and a mandarin orange.  It would make sense then that Meyer lemons are sweeter and less acidic than the more common, year-round lemons and taste amazing in everything.

Including lemon bars.

However, before I could dive into my new bag of beautiful yellow lemons there was one thing I needed to do first. I HAD to buy a Microplane grater.

For years, I used a cheese grater (a cheese grater!!) to zest citrus; as a result, I dreaded (and even avoided) recipes that called for citrus zest. You guys, when you dread doing something so much in the kitchen that you actually avoid it, it usually means you're doing it wrong or there is something out there to help. In this case, I was doing it all wrong and there was an easier way.

The solution? a Microplane grater. Yep, the best $15 I've spent in a very very long time, and I'm not even exaggerating.  The first time I used it, I couldn't stop thinking, umm, this is magic! 

So all you frugal bakers out there (yes you!) with bloody knuckles, put the cheese grater down and buy yourself a present. Or don't. It's up to you.

With my fancy new grater and pile of lemons, one of the first things I wanted to make was lemon bars. These bars have a rich buttery crust and a sweet bold tart filling. 

I couldn't stop eating them.

But, you must love lemon. After all, these are lemon bars and these are bursting with beautiful lemon flavor.

Speaking of lemons, use real lemon juice, not the concentrated bottled stuff. While I can't say how it would turn out, fresh is best. And, if you can find Meyer lemons, I highly recommend using those.

If you have the time (and patience!), cover the pan with plastic wrap after baking and allow your lemon bars to cool in the refrigerator overnight. I did this with a second batch of bars and the flavors seemed much more pronounced when chilled (vs. warm). It's also easier to cut lemon bars that have been thoroughly cooled. This step is definitely not necessary, but recommended if you have the time (you could always cut one piece out, right?)

Easy Lemon Bars

Prep Time:  15 minutes / Cook Time: 55 minutes / Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

Ingredients

Crust
1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt

Filling
6 extra large eggs, at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
4 tablespoons lemon zest (less if you prefer a less bold lemon flavor)
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup all-purpose flour
Confectioners' sugar for dusting

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

  2. First prepare the crust.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy with the paddle attachment (approximately 3 minutes).  In a separate bowl, combine the flour and salt. Turn the mixer on low and carefully add the flour to the butter until just mixed.  Gather the dough onto a floured board and gather it into a ball.  WIth floured hands, flatten dough into a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking pan and build a 1/2-inch edge up on all sides.

  3. Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes or until just turning golden. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack; leaving the oven on.

  4. To make the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the cooling crust and bake for approximately 35 minutes, or until the filling has set.  Remove from the oven and cool at room temperature.

  5. Cut into square and dust with confectioners' sugar.

Enjoy!

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