Thursday, June 30, 2011

Double Take: Whole Lemon Bars

I love lemons! I don't like to eat them alone but if you put together a dessert with some lemony goodness, I'm most likely going to like it. Apparently, I'm not alone. This is evidenced by the variety of lemon recipes that exist: lemon bars, lemon meringue pie, chess squares...few of which are the same. Some recipes  have sweetened condensed milk, while others include fruits that bring it more sweet and sometimes more tart flavors. I've seen lemon cheesecake on a brownie crust. (I really want to try it.) Its evident that people also have difference preferences on the extent of lemon flavor in their treats. Most chess squares are light on the lemon and heavy on the creamy factors. Lemon bars come in a range of tartness but often can become less exciting after a few bites. For those seeking more excitement, I'd recommend the whole lemon bars recipe below. It uses one whole lemon and packs a ton of flavor. I liked having a few small bits of lemon within the filling to give surprise added punches of flavor. Taste tester responses follow the recipe.

Whole Lemon Bars (adapted from David Lebovitz)


8x8 baking pan
aluminum foil
2 medium bowls
food processor



1 c. (140 g) plain flour
1/4 c. (50 g) sugar
1/4 tsp salt
8 Tbsp (115 g) (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 tsp vanilla

Lemon Topping

1 lemon, medium sized, wash with soap and water before use
1 c. (200 g) sugar
3 Tbsp (45 mL) lemon juice
3 large eggs, room temperature
4 tsp corn starch
1/4 tsp salt
3 Tbsp (45 g) unsalted butter, melted
*1/4-1/2 c. powdered sugar for serving

How To:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C)

2. Flip your 8x8 baking pan upside down on the counter and wrap the outside with foil. Remove the foil, turn the pan right side up and fit the foil into the pan as smoothly as possible. Alternately, you can just fit the foil smoothly into the pan inside in the first place. (Use whichever way is easier for you).

3. In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients for the crust and stir until it is smooth.

4. Place the batter in the bottom of the pan and smooth it out to create a level surface. I like to drop 4-6 blobs of the dough into the pan in different spots to help balance the dough distribution. Then I flatten the dough with my fingertips.

5. Bake the crust for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

6. While the crust bakes, begin the topping preparation. First, use a microplane (or tool of choice) to zest the lemon into a medium bowl.

7. Next, cut the lemon in half and remove the seeds. Cut the lemon up a bit more and toss it in the food processor. Process it with the sugar and the added lemon juice until the lemon is completely broken up. (You may be wondering why I had you zest the lemon before hand if you were going to food process it. This is a legitimate thing to wonder. The way the food processor slices the lemon does not release oils from the skin the way that the microplane does. Its worth the extra 1 - 2 minutes to zest the lemon to capture the full flavor.)

8. Add eggs, corn starch, 1/4 tsp salt and 3 Tbsp (45 g) melted butter and blend until almost smooth. (A few bits can add some fun texture. If you hate chunks of fruit, go ahead and pulverize it.)

9. When the crust is done, reduce the oven temperature to 300 F( 150 C). Pour the lemon filling over the hot crust and bake for 25 minutes or until the filling stops jiggling and is barely set.

10. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. (Yes, completely. If you add powdered sugar while its still warm, the bars will absorb it and it won't look pretty. It'll taste great though.)

11. Once cool, lift the bars out of the pan using the foil. Cut into squares, rectangles, diamonds, or whatever makes you happy.  Sift powdered sugar over the top just before serving, if desired.


I really liked it. This is now my favorite version of lemon bars. I took it to a picnic and 5 of us nearly wiped out the pan. There were a couple left so I shared them at work. Everyone enjoyed them. One person at work said she liked the sweetned condensed milk version a little better b/c its not got as much lemon flavor. She still enjoyed them though. I had a request from the host of the picnic for this recipe before we were done eating them. My mamaw has requested these for the family reunion this weekend! She likes her pound cake with extra lemon extract so I think she'll love these!


  1. I love the color of your bars!

  2. You even made me like lemon because they were so tasty! Kudos!

  3. Let's make them lemon and orange next time, or maybe just orange. That might be good too.

  4. I love lemon bars. I wish I had one of yours right now!