Meyer-lemon-bars-shortbread-crust

Bars & Brownies

Meyer Lemon Bars with Shortbread Crust

January 18, 2021

These bright and tangy Meyer lemon bars with a shortbread crust are like a burst of sunshine. Made with an […]

These bright and tangy Meyer lemon bars with a shortbread crust are like a burst of sunshine. Made with an extra thick layer of silky smooth lemon filling atop a buttery pastry crust, these classic Meyer lemon bars are the perfect balance of sweet and tart. Betcha can’t eat just one!

Hand me a dessert menu and I can almost guarantee that I will never, ever, order anything of the fruity variety. Okay, maybe never sounds tad bit dramatic but the likelihood is slim to none. Strawberry shortcake? No thank you. Berry cobbler? Hard pass. I’m the girl that goes straight for all the chocolatey, caramely, peanut butter-y things. The more chocolate, the better. You could say I’m rather predictable when it comes to cravings but every now and then I surprise myself. While 99.9% of the time I believe a delicious meal should end with a decadent, chocolate laden dessert, there have been a handful of occasions when my sweet tooth wants nothing other than a tart and tangy, sweet and simple lemony custard treat.

Enter these Meyer lemon bars with a crispy, buttery shortbread crust. If I’m not eating chocolate, you bet I’m sinking my teeth into one of these lusciously bright and tangy lemon bars. I love the fresh, tart flavor of these bars in the middle of winter and I love them just as much straight from the freezer in the dog days of summer. They are easy to make, pretty as can be, and they are one of those desserts that keep people coming back for more. There’s lots to love about these Meyer lemon bars and I couldn’t be more excited to tell you all about them.

INGREDIENTS YOU NEED TO MAKE MEYER LEMON BARS

These classic lemon bars are easy to make from scratch with only 7 ingredients in under an hour. The hardest part will be waiting for them to chill. The perfect balance of tangy and sweet, these bars are the most delicious make ahead dessert.

  • Flour
  • Butter
  • Sugar
  • Eggs
  • Meyer lemons
  • Vanilla
  • Salt

WHICH LEMONS MAKE THE BEST LEMON BARS?

Many lemon bar recipes call for any type of lemon, or worse yet, artificial lemon juice from a bottle. I’ve made lemon bars every which way and I’m hear to tell you that not just any lemon will do for the very best lemon bars. Meyer lemons are the cream of the crop when it comes to lemon curds and custards and their lower acidity delivers a more vibrant flavor that really makes these bars shine. Meyer lemons are sweeter and more floral than the common Eureka lemons you most commonly find at the grocery store. In the height of citrus season you’re more likely to spot Meyer lemons at the market so if you see them, buy them. By the dozens! There’s always the option of raiding your neighbor’s tree of any low hanging fruit on your next walk around the block. Kidding. Sort of. If you are only able to get your hands on regular lemons, don’t despair. The bars will undoubtedly bake up a bit more tart, but that’s nothing that can’t be fixed with a little added sugar.

HOW TO MAKE MEYER LEMON BARS

Lemon bars might seem tricky to master at first but they are one of the easiest {and prettiest!} desserts to make. With a buttery shortbread crust and a luscious, extra thick lemon filling, these bars are the perfect balance of sweet and tart. Follow the steps below for the perfect lemon bars and then make two batches because they won’t last long!

Line the pan with parchment. To get those clean, sharp edges you’ll want to line the 8 x 8 pan with parchment paper. Allow the parchment to hang over the sides of the pan by two inches or so for easy release of the bars once chilled. This step takes just two extra minutes and makes clean up a breeze!

Chill the crust before baking. For best results, mix up the ingredients for the crust, press it into the parchment lined pan and then chill for 30 minutes before baking. The shortbread crust will bake up firm but tender if the butter in the dough is cold. Once the crust is baked, allow it to cool at room temperature before adding the lemon filling.

Bake at a low temperature. To prevent your bars from over browning, bake them at 325 degrees. The filling will be bright and smooth – perfect for garnishing with a sprinkle of confectioner’s sugar or a dollop of freshly whipped cream.

Chill overnight. Chilling the bars overnight is not a must, but if you can plan ahead, I highly recommend it. You will need to chill the bars for at least 3 hours to give the lemon filling time to set. It’s worth the wait as this gives the flavors time to marry together and results in an irresistible sweet and tangy bar full of fresh lemon flavor.

Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar. For the perfect ratio of sweet and tart, add a little sweetness to the top of the chilled bars. I love to sprinkle the tops with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar or pipe pretty swirls of freshly whipped cream for a little bit of fancy.

Cut with a clean, sharp knife. Those clean, sharp edges are as easy as can be. Just be sure to use a very sharp knife when cutting the chilled lemon bars. Run the knife under warm water and wipe clean with a dish towel between each slice. Easy peasy!

TIPS FOR MAKING THE BEST LEMON FILLING

Use lemon zest and juice. For the very best lemon bars it’s important to use both the zest and the juice from ripe Meyer lemons. Using a combination of both gives the lemon bars a more complex flavor profile and adds both tartness and aroma to these citrus squares. The flavor is pucker-up perrrfect!!!

Use a thermometer. Once you’ve made the lemon filling a few times you’ll be able to mix up a batch in your sleep. But if you are new to making lemon curd, break out an instant read thermometer {a candy thermometer works just as well} to be sure you are cooking the filling to right temperature and consistency. The filling should coat the back of a spoon but not appear curdled or lumpy. Stir consistently and don’t walk away from the stove as the curd cooks quickly and can burn easily.

Strain the filling for a silky smooth texture. Once the filling is cooked through, we’ll strain it through a fine mesh sieve to give us that silky smooth finish that is the hallmark of a classic lemon bar. Don’t skip this step – it makes all the difference!

Do not over bake. To prevent the bars from over browning or developing little bubbles on top of the filling, keep the oven temperature at 325 degrees and bake low and slow for about 20 minutes. Keep an eye on your oven and remove the bars if the edges of the pan are showing signs of browning or bubbling. The center of the bars will still be a bit jiggly, almost like jello. The filling should not look runny. Cool the bars for one hour on a wire rack at room temperature before placing in the refrigerator.

HOW TO STORE MEYER LEMON BARS

These lemon bars freeze beautifully which means you can stash away half the batch for a rainy day. I learned the hard way that you can’t just wrap these up and freeze them like you would any other one pan bar. The shortbread crust and the lemon filling freeze at different rates so you’ll want to spread the squares out on a cookie sheet and place them in the freezer for a couple of hours to set. Then wrap each square in a layer of plastic wrap and place all of the wrapped pieces in a large plastic bag. Store flat in the freezer for up to 2 months. Defrost at room temperature and sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar when you are in the mood for a fresh, sunshiney treat!

If you love these Meyer Lemon Bars with Shortbread Crust, you’ll also love…

Easy Lemon Bundt Cake

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Meyer-lemon-bars-shortbread-crust

Meyer Lemon Bars with Shortbread Crust

  • Author: Heather Mubarak
  • Prep Time: 25
  • Cook Time: 30
  • Total Time: 55 min + chilling time
  • Yield: 16 bars 1x

Description

These bright and tangy Meyer lemon bars with a shortbread crust are like a burst of sunshine. Made with an extra thick layer of silky smooth lemon filling atop a buttery pastry crust, these classic Meyer lemon bars are the perfect balance of sweet and tart. Betcha can’t eat just one!


Ingredients

Scale

For Shortbread Crust

For Lemon Filling

1 packed TBSP of Meyer lemon zest (from one large lemon)

8 TBSP room temperature butter, cut into 8 pieces

1 1/3 cups granulated sugar (add 2 TBSP more if using regular lemons)

1 cup fresh lemon juice, strained (from 46 large Meyer lemons)

3 whole eggs

2 egg yolks

pinch of fine sea salt

Confectioners sugar for dusting


Instructions

For Shortbread Crust

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 8 x 8 baking pan with parchment paper, allowing the paper to hang over all four sides by about 2 inches for easy removal of the bars once chilled

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. About 2 minutes.

Combine the flour and salt in a medium bowl and add to the butter mixture while mixing on low. Mix until just combined. Transfer the dough onto a well-floured surface and gather into a ball. Gently flatten the dough with lightly floured hands and press it into the prepared pan. Use your fingers to press the dough up the sides of the pan about 1/2 inch. Chill the dough for 30 minutes.

Bake the crust on the center rack of the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. The crust should be lightly browned at the edges. Do not over bake. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack while you make the lemon filling. If the crust has puffed up, use the back of a measuring cup or a flat spatula to gently press the crust down evenly. This will help it to hold together well once sliced.

Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees.

For Lemon Filling

Place the lemon zest and softened butter in a large bowl. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, eggs, egg yolks and salt to combine well. Slowly add the lemon juice. Continue stirring constantly over medium low heat until the mixture begins to thicken. For best results, use an instant read thermometer and cook the filling until it reaches 160-165 degrees. As it cooks, use a silicone spatula to scrape the sides and bottom of the pan to prevent the filling from burning. Lower the heat as it continues to thicken so as not to curdle the eggs. The filling should coat the back of the spatula. If the mixture begins to bubble or the eggs become lumpy, remove from the heat immediately.

Once the filling has reached the desired temperature and consistency, remove the pan from the heat and strain it over the bowl with the butter and lemon zest. Use a spatula to stir the mixture until all of the butter is melted and the filling is smooth and shiny.

Pour the filling over the cooled crust and return the pan to the oven. *Make sure the oven temperature was reduced to 325 degrees.

Bake for 15-20 minutes. The center of the bars should resemble jello and still have a slight jiggle when shaken. The bars should not be runny or look under baked. The filling will set as it cools.

Remove the pan from the oven and cool on a wire rack for one hour before placing in the refrigerator for 3 hours or overnight.

Use the parchment overhang to remove the bars from the pan once chilled. Slice into bars and dust with confectioner’s sugar before serving.

 


Notes

Substitute lemons with any other citrus fruit like blood or navel oranges.

Store tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. May be frozen.

**Lemon filling adapted from NY Times recipe. Styling inspired by The Bojon Gourmet.

 

  • Reply
    Rebecca
    April 29, 2022 at 3:26 pm

    These lemon bars are pure perfection! I’ve tried lots of different recipes and find that these have the perfect texture and such a special flavor from the Meyer lemons. Everyone loves them!

    • Reply
      Heather Mubarak
      April 29, 2022 at 6:49 pm

      Yay! I’m so happy to hear that you loved them!!

  • Reply
    Suzie
    January 21, 2022 at 3:39 pm

    These were so delicious and much easier than I thought to make! We had some lemons to use up and my son loved the tangy and sweet combination. Definitely will make again, thank you for the great recipe.

  • Reply
    Michelle
    June 6, 2021 at 10:38 pm

    Bright, tangy, and oh so perfect for our Saturday picnic! These were such a hit and a great way to use up my late harvest of meyer lemons!

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