Being a Californian means you get really spoiled when it comes to the abundance of amazing fruits offered here year round. When I’m hankering for something citrus-y I love to make meyer lemon bars. Lucky for me both of my brothers and my parents have meyer lemon trees on their property that are never in want of fruit. Buttery, crisp shortbread topped with refreshing and subtly-sweet curd filling….absolutely delicious!
You don’t have to use meyer lemons for this recipe but if you can find them you won’t regret it. The sweetness of the meyer variety is a nice change from the lip-puckering tartness that you’d find with a regular lemon.
Most recipes have you pour a concoction of lemon juice, eggs and sugar over a warm, partially-baked crust. Easy enough – but the problem I find with this method is that the filling never seems to set properly even after the bars are baked and cooled. Try slicing nice even squares and you get sticky and gooey pieces. Not ideal. What I love about this recipe is that the filling is pre-cooked, like a curd, and when baked further in the oven its silky smooth texture holds its shape beautifully.
If you like citrus you can’t go wrong with these meyer lemon bars.
Meyer Lemon Bars (adapted from Baking Illustrated)
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar, plus more to sprinkle on the finished bars
pinch of salt
8 Tbls unsalted butter, still cool and cut into 8 pieces
7 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
1 cup + 2 Tbls sugar
2/3 cup meyer lemon juice (from about 4-5 medium lemons)
finely grated zest from the lemons
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 Tbls unsalted butter, cut in to 4 pieces
3 Tbls heavy cream
For the crust
Cover a 9-inch square cake pan with two sheets of heavy duty aluminum foil, perpendicular to each other. Spray with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
Put the flour, powdered sugar and salt in a food processor and process briefly, about 2 seconds. Add the butter pieces and process to blend, 8 to 10 seconds, then process until the mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse meal, about three 1-second pulses. Sprinkle the mixture into the prepared cake pan and press firmly with your fingers into an even layer over the entire pan bottom. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the crust until golden brown, about 25 minutes.
For the filling
In a medium saucepan whisk together the egg yolks and whole eggs until combined. Add the sugar, meyer lemon juice, zest and salt until well combined, about 30 seconds.
Add the butter pieces and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the curd thickens to a thin sauce-like consistency (about 170 degrees on an instant-read thermometer), about 6 minutes.
Immediately pour the curd through a fine-mesh steel strainer set over a medium bowl. Stir in the heavy cream and then pour the curd into the warm crust.
Bake until the filling is shiny and opaque and the center 3 inches jiggle slightly when shaken, about 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack to room temperature, about 45 minutes. Remove the bars from the pan and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into 2 inch squares, wiping the knife blade clean between cuts as necessary. Sieve powdered sugar over the bars, if you’d like.