The Best Lemon Bars Ever

January 5, 2006 at 5:57 am (A (4 stars, love, favorite), Derek's faves, Dessert, Necessarily nonvegan, Other, Pies and custards, Spring recipes, Summer recipes, Winter recipes)

This is the recipe for Lemon Bars from Fine Cooking, Summer 2002. My friend Spoons made these lemon bars for us, and we quickly agreed that they were the best lemon bars ever. Unlike most lemon bars, they have an intense lemon flavor without being sickly sweet. Don’t get me wrong, they’re sweet, but the sweetness is balanced by the perfect level of tart/sour. We got the recipe from Spoons, and I’ve since made them a few times and they taste almost as good as his, although I’m sloppier and lazier so they don’t look as pretty. I haven’t made these recently but I came across the recipe in my email and thought I might as well post it here for safe keeping. I am sure I will be making these again sometime–with free-range eggs, of course.



  • 4 oz (8 T) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2 T granulated sugar
  • 1 T confectioners sugar
  • .5 t vanilla
  • 2.25 oz (.5 c) all-purpose flour
  • 2.5 oz (.67 c) cake flour
  • .25 t baking powder
  • .25 t salt


  1. Cream butter and sugars, add vanilla
  2. Sift together remaining ingredients in another bowl
  3. With mixer on low speed: blend dry into wet until completely blended
  4. Form .5 inch thick square, chill in refrigerator for 20 minutes
  5. Heat oven to 350 F (175 C)
  6. Roll dough between two sheets of parchment paper into a 8×8 inch square, .25 of an inch thick
  7. Remove top sheet of paper and place dough (with bottom parchment) into 8×8 inch pan
  8. Bake until golden on top, 25 to 30 minutes
  9. Remove the shortbread, but leave the oven on



  • 1 c fresh lemon juice (from 4-6 lemons)
  • 2 oz (4 T) unsalted butter
  • 2 T heavy cream
  • 1 c granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • .25 t salt
  • .25 t vanilla


  1. In medium sauce pan, heat juice, butter and cream until just under boil, then remove from heat
  2. In a bowl, whisk sugar, eggs and yolks
  3. Whisk in a bit of hot liquid, and then gradually add more (this process is called “tempering”)
  4. Once combined, pour the mixture back into pan, heat on medium until the curd coats a spoon thickly enough to leave a line when you draw you finger through it (approx. 5-8 minutes)
  5. Remove from heat and strain through a fine sieve, stir in salt and vanilla


  1. Pour curd over shortbread and smooth with a rubber spatula
  2. Bake until curd has set and jiggles like firm jello, 15 to 20 minutes
  3. Let cool to room temperature, remove from pan and cool 4 hours (or not) 🙂

My Notes

If you want to make these lemon bars, but you’re the laziest cook in the world, what do you do? First of all, you don’t have cake flour so you just use all purpose flour in the shortbread. So, it’s a bit more tough–but not as tough as making a 2 mile trip to the grocery store in the Pittsburgh rain. Next, you don’t even think about rolling out the shortbread, you just dump the dough into the parchment lined pan and push it down with your fingers. It’s not as even, and maybe a slightly different texture, but hey, you hate rolling stuff out. Next, the laziest cook in the world skips the sieving step. This step is perhaps more essential than rolling out the dough. The lemon bars will still taste great but the texture won’t be as decadently smooth. There will be little bits of firm egg whites mixed up in the curd–acceptable perhaps if it’s just for you and your equally lazy boyfriend, but not ideal if you’re serving to guests. And anyone who makes these lemon bars just for two people is pretty crazy, so probably the sieve should be returned to the recipe, alas. They’re worth it, in any case. Enjoy.

Rating: A-
Derek: A


  1. Robbie said,

    I dunno, Jess’s lemon bars are pretty good….

  2. captious said,

    Carabou (from my hometown of Austin, Texas) posted about this recipe on her blog.

    She seemed to have some unspecified issue with the crust, but appeared to agree with the “perfectness” of the curd recipe.

  3. pennylane said,

    Hey, I tried out your recipe a couple of days ago. I can see why you don’t bother trying to roll out the shortbread – it’s practically impossible! It tasted great, though it was kind of crumbly.

  4. Tri-color winter salad with kumquats « The captious vegetarian said,

    […] Four years ago: the best lemon bars ever […]

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