When your beautiful friend in California sends you a box of lemons 🍋 (🤩we know right?!) from her backyard, the backyard which was victim to the recent wildfires but whose citrus trees survived, when this happens, you cherish those lemons. You put them on display and savor every sprinkle of zest and every drop of juice, and marvel at Mother Nature 🌱. These lemons had a wonderful aroma and a perkier and fresher flavor than those we’re used to. They were beautiful for weeks and we used them with ❤️. The last ones we used for lemon bars, because when life hands us lemons, we bake.
Our go-to recipe is from @epicurious and is an original @roselevyberanbaum recipe, (the queen of baking right up there with Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood). We’ve tried and tested many lemon bars over the years, but this one outshines the others by far. It does take a bit of time, and a candy thermometer is a useful but not necessary tool. You’ll learn something new 🤓 and have these delicious bars to help you countdown to the weekend.
For the shortbread base:
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons (140 g) cold, unsalted butter cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 -1/4 cups flour (180 g)
Pinch of salt
For the lemon curd topping:
4 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar (150 g)
6 tablespoons (90 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 tablespoons (60 g) unsalted butter
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons powdered sugar for dusting
Prepare an 8”x8” (20x20 cm) baking pan by lining the bottom and sides with a strip of aluminum foil or parchment paper. Make sure there is a little overhang so that you can easily life the entire shortbread out at the end.
Preheat the oven to 325F (160C) if you’re using a metal baking pan, and 300F (150C) if you’re using a glass dish.
For the shortbread: Combine the sugars, salt and flour. Add the small pieces of butter and use your fingers to rub the butter into the flour mixture. Keep rubbing until it feels like wet sand, without any visible larger clumps of butter. You can also use a food processor for this step: pulse all the ingredients, but don't over-do it or your shortbread won't have a nice crumble.
Pat the dough into the prepared baking pan. Use a fork to prick the dough all over. Bake for 40 minutes, until the top is a pale golden color. While the shortbread is baking, prepare the Lemon Curd Topping.
For the Lemon Curd: Have a sieve suspended over a bowl ready near the stove.
In a heavy non-reactive saucepan (stainless steel), combine the egg yolks and sugar with a wooden spoon. Stir in the lemon juice, butter, and salt. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, for about 10-15 minutes, until thickened and resembling hollandaise sauce. It should thickly coat the back of a wooden spoon, but still be liquid enough to pour. (A candy thermometer will read 196F/91C.) The mixture will change from translucent to opaque and will acquire a deep yellow color. It must not be allowed to boil or it will curdle. (It will steam above 140F/60C. If this happens, remove the pan briefly from the heat, stirring constantly to prevent boiling.)
When the curd has thickened, pour it into the strainer. Press it with the back of a spoon until only the coarse residue remains. Discard the residue. Stir in the lemon zest.
When the shortbread is baked, remove it from the oven, lower the temperature to 300°F (150C), pour the lemon curd evenly on top of the shortbread, and return it to the oven for 10 minutes. You'll wonder whether it's done, but it is!
Remove and allow to cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to set the lemon curd completely before cutting into bars or triangles. Place the powdered sugar in a small sieve and sprinkle a thick, even coating, all over the bars.
Run a knife around the sides of the pan. Use the foil to lift out the lemon shortbread goodness onto a cutting board. Use a long, sharp knife to cut them however you like. We like to cut them into small triangles as small pieces and crumbs barely count 😉.