Monday, May 6, 2013

Lemon Bars for a Lasting Mother’s Day Impression

Mother’s Day is coming up, and since so many of you brave souls will be attempting a celebratory brunch, I thought I’d post this much-requested lemon bars recipe, in case things don’t go as smoothly as anticipated. 

Preparing brunch can be tricky anytime, let alone under mom’s watchful (aka “extremely concerned”) eyes. Can someone please get her a mimosa and walk her into the garden?

So, even if a few poached eggs break, or the toast gets a little too golden-black, no worries! If you finish the meal with these gorgeous, and absolutely impossible to mess-up lemon bars, she'll be as proud as she will be impressed. Our moms may have taught us the importance of a good first impression, but its America’s restaurateurs who discovered the importance of a delicious last impression. There's nothing like a well made pastry to make one forgive a tough steak.

Other than a baking dish, there’s no special equipment or techniques required. Both the shortbread base and the lemon custard take only minutes, and are simply hand-mixed in a bowl. 

Basically, if you can move your arm in a circle, and effectively set a timer (there’s one on your phone), your lemon bars should look just as good as these (maybe better – see meringue note below). Anyway, whether you’re going to make these for Mother’s Day or not, I hope you give them a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 16 Small Lemon Bars:

For the shortbread crust:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup room temp unsalted butter (1 stick)
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
Bake crust at 350 degrees F. for 22 minutes

For the lemon layer:
2 large whole eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp grated lemon peel
Bake at 350 degrees F. for 25 minutes
Garnish with powdered sugar; or top with *meringue (the extra egg white whipped with 1 tablespoon of sugar) and brown with torch.

*My Meringue
If you decide to turn these into lemon meringue bars, do yourself a favor and actually measure the sugar. I couldn’t be bothered to check a recipe, so I only tossed in a teaspoon of sugar, and it should be closer to a tablespoon. The technique is the same; beat the extra white to the ribbon stage (where drips of white stay on the surface for a few seconds), and then add the sugar and continue whipping until you have nice, glossy peaks. My “by eye” batch worked fine, but it was a little too dry, and not quite sticky enough. Be advised.

View the complete recipe

62 comments:

Wayne Rock said...

Hey Chef John, thanks for the simple, amazing recipe and demo.

Can the same meringue effect be achieved with a broiler?

Wayne Rock said...

Hi Chef John, thanks for the recipe and demo. As always it was simple and I look forward to trying it.

One question though, can the meringue effect be achieved using a broiler or will there be... complications?

Thank you!

Paola Camilo said...

Hi chef, amazing recipe I've like to give it a try. Can I was lime instead of lemon?

Thank you!

Eric Pepple said...

Oh my goodness, those are some beautiful looking lemon bars! Great job chef! :)

Zombie Timelord said...

To everyone looking to ask about browning the meringue... Yes, you can brown it in the oven. Just move your oven rack to the top and then broil it for 30 second to 1 minute. Just keep an eye on it and take it out when it's browned.

Chef John said...

Yes, broiler will work!

And yes! Of course you can use lime if you like!!

Ms Lemon of Make Mine Lemon said...

Oh, Chef John, I did not know lemon bars could get better. I have made these, but not with meringue. I am always looking for a way to kick it up so I will be trying this next time I make lemon bars.

I love when you speak about cooking bowls and utensils, and gadgets. I love any tip that makes a better product.

Sandra Schultz said...

Wow, my mouth was TOTALLY watering watching this. MMMMmmmmm!

Megan Ogo said...

I'm making these for mother's day for sure!!
As a poor college student, I usually don't have all the ingredients necessary for some recipes. But this is so dang simple!
Who's about to be the favorite child again?! THIS GIRL!

whtnz said...

Hello Chef John! I have a question regarding the "crust" (cookie) portion of this recipe... mine came out very crumbly and powdery... even though I mixed very thoroughly... I did have to cook it a bit longer as my lemon layer was a bit thick. Could that have been the reason for the crumbly/powdery-ness? Thank you!

Nick Thompson said...

Hey Chef John, would this work in pie format? As in a variation of lemon meringue pie?

Chef John said...

Sure!

Gretchen inNOLA said...

Wow! Wonder if I could make a combo lemon/blueberry bar. Will have to go back and review the blueberry shortbread numminess you posted a while back. Me mum loves both flavors

throwradios said...

Hi Chef John, I'm definitely making these for mother's day! Just 1 question though. Your recipe requires 1/2 cup or 1 stick of butter. Is that 250g? Seems like more than 1/2 cup. Sorry if this is a dumb question :(

Chef John said...

Yes, a 1/2 cup is correct!

Karen said...

Love these bars! (Hey, I could see you in the reflection in the bowl! Very "art-sey" effect.)

Thanks!

Joasia Pyrkosz said...

made it today. tasting great bu the top is a bit too dry and pulls off while cutting a slice. what did I do wrong??

Chef John said...

The top is supposed to be dry and crackly, but never seen it "pull off" Maybe just cut more carefully, or with a thinner knife.

Bethany said...

I made these the other day. Thank you so much!

Christine said...

I'm definitely gonna do this for mothers day!
One question though. Can I make it a day ahead?
And if so, how should I store it?
Thanks!

whatever852 said...

Chef John, why does you 8x8 baking dish looks so much bigger than mine 8x8 baking dish? I tied making your mint brownies recipe and my brownies came out really thick, not like the thin ones you have in your video.

liz burdzy said...

Hi Chef John, love the recipe! One quick question, can I use salted butter? I can't imagine it makes that big of a difference, but I don't want to take any chances.

Max Anderson said...

Hi This is really a great gift to give my mother on this mother's day. Thanks for giving this wonderful idea.

Ana said...

Hi Chef John, made it yesterday and just tasted it, it's awesome, definitely a recipe to repeat! Even though I switched things up a little, used whole wheat flour and brown sugar because it was what I had at home.

Chef John said...

Yes, you can make a day ahead!

Yes, salted butter is okay!

Yes, that was an 8-inch dish (it has an inch wide rim, so maybe that's why it looks big.

Lindsay Ebata said...

I made these today, they are super easy and absolutely divine! Thank you so much Chef John! I have made several recipes from your blog and have had lots of compliments on each and every one!

Rach Remly said...

Hi all! is there a way to make this recipe work using a 9x13 baking dish?

Chef John said...

You could double for that, but it will be a little thicker, and need to cook a little longer probably.

Rob said...

I made these with my daughter tonight, but our lemon portion of the bar was much less than in your video. We followed the measurements exactly, but they came out 75% cookie to 25% lemon mixture. The taste was still good, but were very dry because of the dense crust. (We did use an 8x8 pan.) Anyone else have this problem?

Sweet Abbey said...

Hello Chef John, I'm Yasmina and I'm from Spain. Since a few month I follow you amazing blog. It's an inspiration for me and I'm just a student that take pleasure in your meals. This lemons bars will serve to surprise my friends (We're a students, like I tell before, and We don't cook too much, We haven't enough time!!) Sooo... the question why I write you for the first time It's to thank you for putting so much effort into each of your meals and show us. I learned too much with you!!

Chef John said...

Thanks!

Jeremy said...

@Rob, had a similar issue, not sure why I followed the measurements exactly as well and my cookie was much thicker than the ones you see in the video/picture. I think maybe he did some camera trickery or something?

Luciana Brochmann said...

Hi Chef John. I've tried 2 times to make this recepie and with 1 stick of butter (mine was 100g) the whole crust became a sticky mess and took a lot longer to cook and didn't even looked like your. What could have gone wrong?
Thank you!

Chef John said...

I never do any camera trickery since that wouldn't be too smart for something that thousands of people will reproduce. Having said that, it hard to see in the pictures since the lemon top smears into the shortbread cookie when these are cut or bitten. This is a cookie, not a pie, so the ratio of lemon to cookie is about 50/50. There should be just as much shortbread as filling basically. Also, the bottom is never going to me pressed in perfectly even, so you will get some think and thin spots.

Chef John said...

Luciana, there are no ingredients in this crust that would ever get "sticky" so I have no idea! The only thing that makes a sticky crust is water, and there is none in this.

Chef John said...

Btw, 4 oz of butter is more like to 115 grams than 100, but still this doesn't cause stickiness.

Unknown said...

Hello Chef John,
I was just wondering if I could reduce the sugar in the recipe. Will it affect anything? If I can reduce the sugar though how much would you recommend?

Chef John said...

Sorry, I don't know! Never tried with less, and yes it will effect the taste and texture.

Faith said...

Made these, and just wanted to issue a warning to those who try the broiler method.. mine burned in 15 seconds. Luckily, it was such a thin layer that we couldn't taste it at all, it just affected the presentation, which everyone couldn't help but rib me about. Oh well. They did taste absolutely delicious, and they were a breeze to make! Also, this was my first time whipping up a meringue!

Luciana Brochmann said...

Hi again! I never said that you did any camera trickery, I was only wandering why mine went wrong. But I think may be the butter that melted during the process... I don't know. Sorry if I've ofended you in any way...

Georgia Milton said...

Thanks for sharing! It looks very simple and easy to make. I'm not very good in the kitchen, but I will definitely try it. I only hope that I won't have to clean after that.

ToddGBaker said...

How do you get the first square out without mangling it?

Chef John said...

You don't! ;) actually a small flexible palette knife worked well.

frouleau said...

I doubled the lemon layer portion since I'm more of a topping person and wanted something more like a lemon tart and it came out amazing. They disappeared in a few hours.

I also pre-cooked the filling in a bain-marie with the lemon zest of all lemons used (roughly cut) to enhance the lemon flavor.

Sajjan Sarkar said...

Made this yesterday..i think I overcooked the shortbread crust slightly because i didnt realize my oven rack was near the bottom coil.. but other than that this was so delicious.. perfect recipe..so easy and foolproof.. i used lemon and lime juice/zest.. thank you so much chef John! will definetely make again and add my own twist! You touch our lives in such simple and meaningful ways Chef John, thank you!!

Bobby said...

Can I use freshly squeezed orange juice and orange zest? Don't think I have lemons in the house, and I KNOW these are amazing, as I've made them before...

Bobby said...

Can I use freshly squeezed orange juice and orange zest? No lemons in the house, and I have made this before and know it's AMAZING...

Chef John said...

of course you can, but oranges are MUCH less tart, so really not close to the same taste.

Jester Henderson said...

Hey CJ! I'd just like to know if its okay to double the amount of lemon juice in this recipe or cutting the sugar. Or is there any other way to make the lemon bars less sweet and more lemony

Chef John said...

You could do both, but without testing I can't tell you what would happen! Sorry!

Carlos Rengifo said...

Thank you. This lemon bars, were so easy and yet so delicious, percect with Cofee

NinjaEd said...

I made the lemon bars last night and they where great thank you Chef John you made it easy.

Αστεροσκονη said...

Hi Chef,

Could you please give the volumes you use into weight measures ?

and BTW....you do a great job here!!!

Wren said...

Thanks Chef John. I had some meyer lemons that were really close to being composted that instead made nice lemon bars. I just couldn't get any zest off of them because they had gone soft. I had to resist the temptation to put the zester to a plastic lemon in the back of the fridge.

Moni Hasnone said...

Hey Chef John! Quick question. My family loves lemons, but my dad can't eat eggs... is there any possible way to bake this with any substitute?

Thank you so much!

Chef John said...

Sorry, but no!

LuluLemon said...

Hello Chef John. I'm always enjoying your wonderful recipes. They are always wonderful. I have a question though. I want to substitute virgin coconut oil for butter when making the shortbread. Is the conversion 1:1? I heard you should use 90% coconut oil and 10% liquid because butter has a lot of liquid.

Chef John said...

Sorry, I don't remember talking about coconut oil in this! I assume it would be 1 to 1.

Khushil Bhavsar said...

Hi..Chef this is awesome and incredible recipe and cookies. My mother like lemon flavor and you bring up here that. Thank You for post it.

Shanelle said...

Hi chef! Thanks for the awesome tutorial and recipe! Lemon bars is a good change in mothers day :) what can i use as a substitute for the white egg then blowtorched on the top? Because i dont own a blowtorch...

giota van said...

Hello from Greece!!! For fluffier meringue I mix 1/8tsp cream of tartar in sugar for every egg white. We can also put Vinegar or lemon Instead. Never add salt in meringue.I Hope to help!

Justin Butterfield said...

Hi Chef John, I tried your recipe today and everything look like it was coming out perfect, except when i pulled the bars out of the oven after baking the top was a golden brown. There was no white sugary crust. Any idea what may have happened?