Is there a better flavor than lemon? Today, the answer is no. Not when you’re holding a square of sunshiny yellow lemon bar. The filling is tart and sweet and the addition of an whole lemon, pith and all, lends an additional flavor depth. Each bite is a little burst of happy days and sunshiny countries and the wild vigor of youth. The lemon filling dissolves in seconds but the memory lingers on.
Throw it in the freezer once cool to get beautiful clean cuts – Straight down through the filling, crunch through the crust and draw out the knife horizontally. Wipe the knife after every cut. I won’t judge if you do it with a finger that goes straight to your mouth. I like the bars cold from the fridge, as they tend to get a bit soft and the flavor less intense in Singapore’s real-life sunshiny weather.
Adapted from David Leibovitz
One 8-inch pan
1 cup (140g) flour
1/4 cup (50g) sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (115g) melted unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 lemon, organic or unsprayed
1 cup (180g) sugar
1 tablespoon (15ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 large eggs, room temperature
4 teaspoons corn starch
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons (45g) melted unsalted butter
Optional: powdered sugar, for serving
1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC).
2. Overturn an 8-inch square pan on the counter and wrap the outside snugly with foil, shiny side up. Remove the foil, turn the pan over, and fit the foil into the pan, pressing to nudge the foil into the corners. The smooth it as best you can.
3. In a medium bowl, mix the flour, 1/4 cup (50g) sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 8 tablespoons (115g) melted butter, and vanilla, stirring just until smooth.
4. Smooth the batter into the bottom of the pan, using your hands or a small offset spatula to get it as level as possible.
5. Bake the crust for 25 minutes, or until it’s deep-golden brown.
6. While the crust is cooking, cut the lemon in half, remove the seeds, and cut the lemon into chunks.
7. Put the chunks of lemon in a food processor or blender along with the sugar and lemon juice, and let it run until the lemon is completely broken up. Add the eggs, corn starch, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and 3 tablespoons (45g) melted butter, and blend until almost smooth. (A few tiny bits of lemon pieces are normal and encouraged.)
8. When the crust comes out of the oven, reduce the heat of the oven to 300ºF (150ºC). Pour the lemon filling over the hot crust and bake for 25 minutes or just until the filling stops jiggling and is barely set.
9. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Once cool, carefully lift out the bars grasping the foil. Place in freezer for 30 minutes. Cut the bars into squares or rectangles. Sift powdered sugar over the top just before serving, if desired.
Storage: The bars will keep in an airtight container at room temperature up to three days. You can freeze the lemon bars as well for up to one month, wrapped with cling film, letting them come to room temperature before serving.