You know, I’ve never been a huge fan of lemon in desserts. I like for my lemon for lemonade, dressings, or in my water. Maybe a slight zip of zest in lemon quick breads is good, too. But a dessert where lemon is the showcase? I always felt like I was eating pinesol. That all changed when I tried these bars, though…..lemon opposition, officially out the window, and forever. These bars are a breeze to whip up. They have a shortbread crust, heavily infused with butter which makes it crumbly and seeping with butter flavor. That richness is a perfect match for the lemon layer, which has just the right amount of tang. It doesn’t make you pucker exactly, but it lets you know the lemon is there, in its bright and bold glory. It’s texture is thick, unctuous and velvety smooth. Make these for Easter. I hope they have the power to change your opinion about lemon desserts, too. I know I’ve never looked back.
Adapted from Ina Garten
Note: Depending on how large or small you cut your bars, this can make anywhere from 20 up to 50. I feel like these are best in tiny portions, because they’re very rich. Cut them any way you want.
For the shortbread crust
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
For the lemon layer
6 extra-large or (7 large) eggs, room temperature
2 1/2 – 3 cups sugar (use 3 cups if you like things very sweet, I opted for 2 1/2 cups instead, it brings out the lemon flavor to use a little less)
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (from 4 to 6 lemons)
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup flour
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
Set your oven 350 degrees F and generously grease a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking sheet.
For the crust
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. In a small bowl, combine the flour and salt. With the mixer on low, add the flour and salt mixture to the butter until just mixed. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into the greased baking sheet, building up a 1/2-inch edge on all sides. Chill it for a little.
Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let it cool while you make the lemon layer, but leave the oven on.
For the lemon layer
Whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or about five minutes beyond the point where the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature.
Cut into rectangles and dust with confectioners’ sugar.