Published May 1, 1998.
Most lemon bars are too sweet and have a thick, soggy crust. We developed a recipe that delivers a fresh, lemony filling paired with a thin, crisp crust.
Lemon bars are a casual treat to make without a lot of fuss. Still, they have their requirements, and we wanted to learn how to make the best lemon bars possible with a simple and straightforward recipe.
The filling should be light and very lemony, the crust tender, ready to melt in you mouth. We also wanted everything to come together in a way that made it possible to cut up the bars cleanly and serve them neatly.
We tackled the crust first, knowing that our basic ingredients would be flour, butter, and sugar and that the outcome should be more like a cookie or a shortbread than a pastry-type crust. White granulated sugar is often the first bakers turn to for the sort of crust we were after, but we discovered that confectioners' sugar gave us the most tender texture. The addition of a little cornstarch also helped move the crust in the melt-in-your-mouth direction. To ensure an evenly baked crust and prevent sogginess, we found it necessary to prebake before adding the filling. To make the filling lemony enough to satisfy us, we ended up using the juice from three or four lemons, plus some zest. Arriving at a smooth and pleasant texture involved eggs, a little flour for thickening, and, somewhat unexpectedly, milk, which seemed to balance the flavor with the texture.list of recipes