I'm ashamed to admit it but I am a lemon bar snob. I'm not proud of it. Well, maybe the word snob is a bit harsh. Let's just say that I have very strong preferences when it comes to lemon bars.
I prefer a delicate, buttery crust with a slight "snap" to it. And the crust should never be more than half the overall height of the lemon bar. I don't want to chew endlessly on an overly thick and, inevitably, tough crust. Or even worse, mash my way through the gummy mess of an underdone crust.
I prefer a dominant lemon flavor untainted by the milkiness of cream, evaporated or condensed milk. It should be just tart enough to make my mouth pucker a teeny bit. Don't get me wrong. A creamy lemon confection has its place in my dessert kingdom, but not in the form of lemon bars. Sorry, milk, but tart is king.
I prefer my lemon filling to be smooth and soft, but not runny. When the filling hits my tongue it should be luscious. Overcooking the filling will turn the lemon bar into a sponge. No one wants to eat a lemon flavored sponge, least of all me.
I prefer my lemon bars dusted with confectioners' sugar. But not so heavily dusted that exhaling will shower the table (or your neighbor) with sugar.
And finally, I prefer to eat my lemon bars with a fork. That's not snobbish, is it?
(makes one 8-inch square pan)
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/8 tsp salt
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 large eggs
1 cup superfine or bakers' sugar
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
2 tsp finely grated lemon zest*
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice*
Preheat oven to 350F. Butter and line an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper.
To make crust:
Combine flour, confectioners' sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Add butter and pulse until the mixture is pebbly. Press evenly into the bottom of your prepared pan. Bake until lightly golden, about 18-20 minutes. Set aside crust.
To make filling:
In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, flour and salt. Whisk in lemon zest and juice until well combined. Pour over crust (it's okay if crust is still hot). Bake until filling is just set, about 15 to 18 minutes. Cool completely before serving. Dust with confectioners' sugar if desired.
* Note: I use meyer lemons (because we have a tree in our garden). Meyer lemons are less tart than the Eureka lemons found in the supermarket.