I’m not a huge fan of lemon desserts. I like things sweet, and the tartness of the lemon can be a little overpowering. Give me chocolate any day over lemon. However, I started getting a taste for lemon bars when I served on a university search committee, and ate them at every candidate presentation. I think the key is to prevent the lemon curd-ish filling from tasting and smelling sulfurous and eggy, while maintaining some gloppy goodness.
This recipe produces a thin sugary crust on top of the bars, so the powdered sugar decoration doesnâ€™t get absorbed into the filling. When making both lemon and lime bars at once, I double the crust mixture, and then add the coconut to just half. While the crusts bake, I make the fillings one at a time so they are both ready to pour when the crust is done. I was tweaking this recipe all summer, so I want to try to get the right amount of filling for a 9Ã—9 pan in my next batch.
I put a generous sprinkle of green decorating sugar into the lime filling the first time, to better ensure that we could tell them apart from the lemon ones. (I didnâ€™t have food coloring, and this was a perfect substitute.)
Lemon (or Lime) Bars
1 C all-purpose flour
1/2 C confectionersâ€™ sugar
1/2 C butter, softened
1 C white sugar
2 T all-purpose flour
3 T fresh lemon juice (or lime juice) – about one squeezed lemon or lime
1-2 tsp minced lemon zest (or lime zest)
3 T desicated unsweetened coconut (for lime bars only)
confectionersâ€™ sugar for decoration
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease an 8Ã—8 inch baking pan.
Combine the flour, 1/2 cup confectionersâ€™ sugar, and butter. For lime bars, mix in desiccated coconut. Pat dough into prepared pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes in the preheated oven, until slightly golden.
While the crust is baking, beat together eggs and sugar; stir in lemon (or lime) juice and zest, then fold in flour. (If desired, add a drop or two of green food coloring to lime filling.) Pour this mixture over the hot crust. Return to the preheated oven for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, or until filling is set.
Cool on a wire rack. Dust the top with confectionersâ€™ sugar. Cut into squares when chilled.
Source: My own, after severe adaptations of several different recipes.
Update 1/5/07: I made these at Jeremyâ€™s request; we had been planning to make a batch of them in Colorado and didnâ€™t get to it. But we were shopping at Whole Foods on our return to the Portland area, and when I saw the pile of Meyer lemons, I knew what I had to do. These came out well, with good flavor from the Meyers, but my 8Ã—8 pan had been trashed for bleeding Teflon, so the amount of lemon filling was a bit lacking compared to the crust. Now if I could only remember that I really only need one lemon to get the right amount of juice and zestâ€¦ Of course that means I have three extra Meyer lemons waiting for attention in the fridge now, which canâ€™t be all bad. Time for a Meyer lemon tart!