E.Lee's Lemon Bars

By Ernest Lee
Date posted: 1/19/2017
Lemon bar
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Lemon bars are an absolute treat! How can you resist biting into a nice tangy, lemony dessert that ends with the crunch of a crisp crumbly crust? Once you take a bite into this dessert, you'll realize that lemons aren't just for making lemonade.

The problem is, lemon bars normally get a bad reputation of being too sour or having too much sugar. Some may even shy away from this dessert because of its gooey gel like texture. It also doesn't help if the crust is too soft and falls short of expectations. So how do we make a better lemon bar that can be enjoyed by those who don't normally enjoy this treat? The answer lies in the ingredients and the technique.

This lemon bar recipe was developed to keep the flavor of the filling balanced and to give it some texture. It uses lemon zest and lemon juice to really bring out the flavor of the lemon. Cream cheese is also added to help balance out the tartness and to give the filling a nice firm texture. Lastly, the crust is processed using cold butter, which results in a nice crispy crumbly texture. As soon as you sink your teeth into this, you'll know that this is no ordinary lemon bar.

Category/Keywords

Lemon, Bar, Cookie, Dessert, Cake, Pie

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E.Lee's Lemon Bars

Make about 24 bars

Times:

Prep Time: About 30 Minutes
Cook Time: 35 Minutes
Total Time: About 3 to 4 hours, including time for chilling

Ingredients:

For the Crust

  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cold unsalted butter (about 2 sticks), cubed
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For the Filling
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of fine grated lemon zest (from about 2 large lemons)
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice (from about 2 large lemons)
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 8 ounces cream cheese (room temperature)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar (optional, for dusting)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together 2 cups of all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup of sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt.
  3. Add 1 cup of cubed cold butter and blend using a pastry blender until there are no large chunks of butter. The dough should look crumbly. (You can also use a food processor to do this.)
  4. Spread the dough evenly onto the bottom of a 9 by 13 inch non-stick baking pan, then press down evenly across the pan with the back of a tablespoon to compress the dough.
  5. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until firm and golden. Remove from oven and let cool. (While the crust is baking, you can start making the filling.)
  6. After removing the crust from the oven, turn the temperature down to 300°F.
  7. In a small bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons of sugar with the lemon zest. Smash the mixture together using the back of a metal tablespoon for about 2 minutes to get somewhat of a pasty mixture.
  8. Add the lemon juice and 6 tablespoons of flour to the lemon zest mixture and whisk together to get a smooth batter. Set aside.
  9. In a large bowl, cream together the cream cheese and the remaining sugar (about 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of sugar) using a wooden spoon or a mixer with a paddle attachment.
  10. Add eggs to the cream cheese mixture one at a time, mixing well until incorporated before adding the next egg.
  11. Add the lemon batter into the cream cheese mixture and mix until the ingredients are well combined.
  12. Pour the mixture into the pan over the baked crust. Shake the pan slightly to spread out the filling evenly and to get rid of any large bubbles.
  13. Bake in the oven at 300°F for about 35 to 40 minutes or until the mixture is set. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out slightly clean, but not wet. The bars will become more firm as they cool.
  14. Cool on a wire rack for about 1 hour, then cover and refrigerate for at least 1 to 2 hours.
  15. When ready to serve, cut the lemon bars and dust the tops with powdered sugar using a sifter, dredger, or a fine mesh strainer.

Helpful hints & tips

  • Using the zest of the lemon adds additional lemon flavor.
  • Using cream cheese at room temperature makes it easier to mix and less likely to form clumps.
  • If your cream cheese is cold, you can softened it in the microwave. First remove the wrapper and place the cream cheese on a microwave safe plate. Microwave for about 10 seconds and check the consistency. Continue to microwave and check at 10 second intervals until softened or at room temperature. (Microwave times may vary.)
  • Using cold butter to make the dough helps produce a crunchy and crumbly crust.

Equipment

Before you get started, here are some helpful items you may need. Click on each item for more details.

Ingredient List

  • For the crust
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup cold unsalted butter (about 2 sticks), cubed
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • For the filling
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of fine grated lemon zest (from about 2 large lemons)
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice (from about 2 large lemons)
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 8 ounces cream cheese (room temperature)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar (optional, for dusting)

Step-By-Step Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together 2 cups of all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup of sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Mixing sugar, flour, and salt.
  3. Add 1 cup of cubed cold butter and blend using a pastry blender until there are no large chunks of butter. The dough should look crumbly. (You can also use a food processor to do this.) Blending the dough with the flour mixture.
  4. Spread the dough evenly onto the bottom of a 9 by 13 inch non-stick baking pan, then press down evenly across the pan with the back of a tablespoon to compress the dough. Pressing the dough onto the bottom of a baking pan with a spoon.
  5. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until firm and golden. Remove from oven and let cool. (While the crust is baking, you can start making the filling.)
  6. After removing the crust from the oven, turn the temperature down to 300°F.
  7. In a small bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons of sugar with the lemon zest. Smash the mixture together using the back of a metal tablespoon for about 2 minutes to get somewhat of a pasty mixture. Mixing the lemon zest with the sugar.
  8. Add the lemon juice and 6 tablespoons of flour to the lemon zest mixture and whisk together to get a smooth batter. Set aside Mixing the flour and lemon juice with the lemon zest mixture.
  9. In a large bowl, cream together the cream cheese and the remaining sugar (about 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of sugar) using a wooden spoon or a mixer with a paddle attachment. Creaming the cream cheese with the sugar.
  10. Add eggs to the cream cheese mixture one at a time, mixing well until incorporated before adding the next egg. Mixing the eggs into the cream cheese mixture.
  11. Add the lemon batter into the cream cheese mixture and mix until the ingredients are well combined. Mixing the lemon paste with the cream cheese mixture.
  12. Pour the mixture into the pan over the baked crust. Shake the pan slightly to spread out the filling evenly and to get rid of any large bubbles. Pouring the lemon batter into the baking pan.
  13. Bake in the oven at 300°F for about 35 to 40 minutes or until the mixture is set. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out slightly clean, but not wet. The bars will become more firm as they cool.
  14. Cool on a wire rack for about 1 hour, then cover and refrigerate for at least 1 to 2 hours.
  15. When ready to serve, cut the lemon bars and dust the tops with powdered sugar using a sifter, dredger, or a fine mesh strainer.

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