I am a huge fan of lemon bars. So when I saw a recipe in the Smitten Kitchen cookbook for lemon bars not made with the juice of a million lemons but rather with one whole lemon- every part except the seeds- I knew I had to try it. That was almost a whole year ago. I know. Such procrastination.
A lot has happened this year. Perhaps most notable is that I’ve made huge strides towards becoming 100% gluten free. (Excellent bread still gets me sometimes though, I won’t lie.) I wrote my first gluten free post in May, and since that post was published, I have had the best time immersing myself in this new way of baking. There have been some failures, many successes, and much learning along the way.
Having said all of that, by the time I got around to finally trying these lemon bars, something was going to have to be done about the crust. I decided to start simply and substitute an equal amount of my favorite gluten free flour blend, which I’ve referenced here many times before. It worked! If you are gluten free, I highly suggest mixing up a jar of it to have on hand always.
The shortbread crust held up really well under the soft, fragrant filling. I will admit that I was concerned as it was pre-baking, but all was well in the end. If you normally use all-purpose flour, I would absolutely stick with that… there’s no sense in using the special flour blend if you don’t need to! However, should your diet require, I think you’ll be quite pleased with the results.
As for the lemon topping… it’s brilliant in method, hue, and flavor. Perfect, really, and it couldn’t be easier. No juicing or zesting involved. I used a Meyer lemon because I’ve been partial to them my whole life, though Deb declares to prefer the bars with plain grocery store lemons. Who am I to contradict her? No one. But I’ll still choose to make my lemon bars with Meyer lemons… at least for now ;)
Recipe adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
For the crust:
1 cup (125 g) flour (all-purpose or gluten-free)
⅓ cup (65 g) sugar
¼ teaspoon sea salt
8 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces,
For the topping:
1-2 lemons (to equal approx. 130 grams)
1 cup (195 g) sugar
8 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons (15 g) cornstarch
¼ teaspoon sea salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the middle. Line an 8×8-inch baking pan with parchment paper by cutting two strips and laying them perpendicular to each other in the pan. Press them into the bottom of the pan and up the sides, then coat the parchment with nonstick cooking spray.
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Then add the butter and pulse until the mixture is crumbly and the butter is in tiny pieces. If you pinch a small chunk of the dough, it should hold together. Press the dough into the bottom of the prepared baking pan and up the sides about ½-inch. Poke the dough with a fork all over, then bake for 20-30 minutes. The crust will be lightly browned. (I baked mine for closer to 35 minutes… perhaps it has to do with being gluten free? Keep an eye on it at 20 minutes, and judge by sight. Remember it is going to bake some more once the lemon topping is ready.) Set the crust aside and leave the oven on while you continue with making the filling.
Cut the lemon(s) in half. If the pith is more than ¼-inch thick, use a knife to remove the skin from one half of the lemon. If it’s ¼-inch thick or less, continue. Slice the lemon into narrow rings and remove all of the seeds. Add the lemon to the bowl of the food processor along with the sugar. Blend until smooth, about 2 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl, then blend in the butter until smooth. Add the eggs, cornstarch, and salt and pulse the mixture until well combined.
Pour the lemon filling over the partially baked crust and place back in the oven for 35-40 minutes. The filling should be set, yet barely jiggly, and the edges will have turned light brown.
Allow the bars to cool completely before using the extra parchment paper to lift from the pan to cut. If you’d like, you can dust the tops with powdered sugar before serving, but it’s not necessary.
Makes 16 squares.