Lemon Bars


When Kam and I got married, we received a ton of cookbooks as gifts*, all of which we still have.  In fact, it started off my love of regional cookbooks, as my Apa and Daddy Don gave us a Taste of Carlsbad cookbook and two of Kam’s Aunties (Pretty sure it was Aunt Laura and Aunt Darleen) gave us church cookbooks from the Dutch community of Orange City in Northwest Iowa.  Kam’s entire family is from that area, both sides- and he has tons of aunts and uncles and countless cousins from the Orange City Area.  Oh, and they are ALL Dutch – VanderPloughs, VanderArdes, DeVries, DeJongs, Kennobies (NOT pronounced like Obi Wan), etc.  The only thing that saved us from having an unpronounceable or confusing last name was ONE German ancestor on his father’s side who passed on both the prominent nose and the last name of Hoffs. It was a Hoffs, in fact, that gave us the cookbook that this recipe comes from- Kam’s Uncle Vernon.  The cookbook is a classic, the Red and White Better Homes and Garden, this one published in 1996.  I still use it for some great basic things and have bought various versions several times over to give as wedding gifts.  This one was special, though, it came with a fairly thin cookie cookbook, one side of Christmas cookies from all over the world and the other with great year round cookies.  In side of it is a gem, one that I have not found anywhere else- the best tart lemon bars.  Actually, the recipe as written isn’t that tart, but I love my lips to pucker a little when I have a lemon bar, so I add a little extra zest and increase the lemon juice. These are great year round, I make them for special occasions like a Wednesday or bring them to work as bribes for our BA manager (not for workstuff, but because he paints really great miniatures), Yule, or for Santa’s plate of goodies to represent the sun.

One of the things that I love about this recipe is that you don’t have to set the butter out ahead of time, which is beneficial if you are baking them late at night for work.  And, if you don’t have a lemon zester. The smaller side of a good box cheese grater works just as well.

Lemon Bars

Set oven to 350

For the Shortbread crust

⅓ cup butter (Salted or unsalted stick butter, I normally use the unsalted, though have found no difference between the two in this recipe)

¼ cup sugar

1 cup flour

Zest of one medium sized lemon, finely zested

For the lemon filling

2 eggs

¾ cup sugar

2 tablespoons all purpose flour

Juice of two medium sized lemons (zest both first, one for the filling, one for the crust)

¼ teaspoon baking powder

⅛ teaspoon salt

Zest of one medium sized lemon, finely zested

Powdered sugar (optional, for the top)

Instructions-

Preheat oven to 350

First- zest both lemons.  You don’t want to try to zest a lemon after it has been cut, believe me!  It is a mess.  Split the zest in half.

For the crust- in a medium sized bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer on high speed for 30 seconds, add sugar, and beat till combined.  Add flour and beat until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.  Turn off the mixer and add the lemon zest, mixing together with a fork.  Press into an ungreased 8×8 baking pan (I use the cranberry coloured glass one we got as a wedding gift, but metal or silicon would work as well**).   Bake for 15 minutes- your crust will be slightly browned and smell like butter!

For the filling- While the crust is baking, make the filling

In the same bowl that you used to make the crust, beat the eggs with the electric mixer on medium, until they are slightly foamy.  Add the remaining ingredients (except for the rest of the zest and powdered sugar) and beat for three minutes, or until it is slightly thickened.  Stir in the zest.

When the crust is done, pour the filling over the crust.  Return to oven for 20-25 minutes (I normally rotate it half way through).  Let cool (the hardest part- and why I often make them late at night), sprinkle with powdered sugar, and cut into 24-36 bars.

*For some reason, my grandmother was astounded by the number of cookbooks we received.  Her comment was “Do these people think you know how to cook?”

**These make great gifts, bake in an 8×8 disposable pan, just be careful when cutting.

-Cyberwaif

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