We call them Lemon Lust Bars because once you have one you instantly lust for another—no joke!
Lemon bars are often made by making a lemon mixture, pouring it over a crust, and baking it in the oven. In this recipe, you first make a thick creamy lemon curd, which then allows you to pour a super tall layer of lemon on the crust allowing for lots and lots of lemon flavor. The buttery shortbread is the perfect match for the tartness of the curd. We call them Lemon Lust Bars because once you have one you instantly lust for another—no joke!
A note about the shortbread crust: Rick Katz was the first pastry chef I ever worked for, and getting a job in his bakery changed my life. After a few months in his kitchen, I knew I wanted to follow in his footsteps. He was detail oriented, incredibly passionate, and cared only about making sure our pastries were all amazing and perfect. To this day, when making a new pastry I ask myself, would Rick like this? His shortbread recipe has a mix of regular and confectioners’ sugar, as well as a combination of all-purpose and cake flour. This is typical of his recipes. He always adjusts his ingredients just so to create the best product possible.
Makes 9 large bars
© 2022 Joanne Chang / Chronicle Books · Reproduced with permission.
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You Will Need
To make the shortbread, using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a handheld mixer or a wooden spoon), cream together the butter, granulated sugar, and confectioners’ sugar on medium speed for about 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy. (This step will take about 10 minutes if using a handheld mixer or a spoon.) Stop the mixer a few times and use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and the paddle to release any clinging butter or sugar. Beat in the egg yolk and vanilla on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, or until thoroughly combined. Scrape the bowl and paddle again with a rubber spatula to make sure the egg yolk is thoroughly incorporated.
In a medium bowl, sift together the all-purpose flour, cake flour, baking powder, and salt. On low speed (or with the wooden spoon), slowly add the flour mixture to the butter-sugar mixture and then mix for about 15 seconds, or until the flour mixture is totally incorporated and the dough is evenly mixed. Stop the mixer and scrape the bowl again to make sure all of flour mixture is thoroughly incorporated.
Scrape the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap, and wrap the dough in the plastic wrap, pressing down to form a disk 6 to 7 inches in diameter and 1 inch thick. Refrigerate the dough for about 30 minutes, or until it has firmed up but is still somewhat pliable. (At this point, the dough can be stored in refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month. If the dough is frozen, thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then let sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes before using.)
While the dough is chilling, make the lemon curd. In a medium nonreactive saucepan, combine the lemon juice, butter, and cream, place over medium-high heat, and heat to just below a boil. Meanwhile, in a medium heatproof bowl, whisk together the eggs and egg yolks until blended, then slowly whisk in the sugar until combined. Remove the lemon juice mixture from the heat and gradually whisk a little of it into the sugar-egg mixture. Continue whisking the hot liquid into the eggs, a little at a time, until all of it has been incorporated. (This is tempering, described on page 000.)
When all of the lemon juice mixture has been incorporated, return the contents of the bowl to the saucepan, and return the saucepan to medium heat. Cook, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon and making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan frequently to prevent the eggs from scrambling, for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the mixture thickens and coats the spoon thickly. To test, draw your finger along the back of the spoon; the curd should hold the trail for a second or two before it fills.
Remove the lemon curd from the heat and strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl or pitcher. Whisk in the salt and vanilla. (The lemon curd can be made up to 4 days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. If using chilled curd, add 5 to 6 minutes to the baking time.)
Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Lightly flour the dough disk and 2 large sheets of parchment paper. Place the dough between the sheets of parchment, and roll it out into a rectangle 9 by 11 inches and about 1/4 inch thick. Carefully peel off the top sheet of parchment. (Place the whole thing in the fridge for a few minutes if the dough sticks to the parchment.) Transfer the bottom sheet of parchment with the dough to a 9-by-11-inch baking pan or baking dish with at least 2-inch sides. Press the dough to fit the bottom of the pan, and allow the parchment to come up the sides of the pan. Don’t worry if the dough is not perfectly smooth. It needs to be about the same thickness all around, but it does not have to be smooth.
Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the shortbread is light brown—about the same color as maple wood. Remove from the oven, pour the lemon curd on top, and smooth the filling evenly over the shortbread with a rubber spatula.
Bake for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until the curd has set and jiggles like firm Jell-O. Let cool to room temperature in the pan on a wire rack, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to overnight to allow the curd to set. If refrigerating overnight, lightly drape plastic wrap over the top to keep any refrigerator smells from seeping into your lemon bars.
Gently tug the parchment on all sides to loosen the shortbread from the pan, then slide it out onto a cutting board. Trim the edges, then cut into 9 bars.
The bars can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.