Lemon bars were always a favorite of mine growing up. I can remember elementary school bake sales when my mom would make lemon bars, and they'd be the first thing to sell out. They definitely stand out from the masses of brownies, cookies, and cupcakes, and bring a strong bittersweet flavor to the table. On a recent trip, my mom surprised me by baking the old favorite using a new recipe. My friend, Annie, and myself were instantly drawn. I got the recipe from my mom and we set out on making a batch to have of our own.
When my mom made the batch, her lemon topping was glossy and smooth. Mine ended up looking a bit more like a meringue on top, but hidden underneath was the gooey glossy good stuff. I think I overmixed the filling and ended up whipping in a bit of air, so make sure you don't stir the filling too fast.
2 sticks butter, room temperature
3 1/2 c. granulated sugar, divided
3 c. AP flour, divided
heavy pinch of salt
6 eggs, room temperature
2 T. lemon zest
1 c. lemon juice (about 6 medium lemons), strained
Center a rack in the oven and heat to 350ºF. In a stand mixer, cream the butter until smooth, then add 1/2 c. sugar and mix on high speed until light in color and soft. On low speed, add 2 c. flour and the salt. Mix this until it's just come together, you don't want to overmix it. Place the dough into a 9x13-inch buttered baking pan (I like using glass) and spread evenly. Bake this for about 15 minutes, or until it's barely browned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. In a stand mixer bowl, add the remaining 3 c. sugar and lemon zest and pinch together until fragrant. Add the eggs and whisk together. Add the lemon juice, then slowly add the remaining 1 c. flour. Whisk until the mixture comes together (be sure there are no clumps of flour left), and then pour on top of the baked crust. Place back into the oven and bake 30-40 minutes, until the filling has thickened. Cool to room temperature before cutting so the filling has a chance to set. Yield depends on the size of bars you want - I got about 20, but those could have easily been halved to yield 40.
These are always a great treat, and they were devoured quickly enough at work. If you want to decorate them a bit more, you can easily dust some powdered sugar on top. Good luck in pharm. school, Annie!