Luscious Lemon Squares

Lemon squares-2a

Most of my close friends love to cook, and the ones that don’t at least love to eat, so it’s inevitable that no matter where our conversations start, we always end up talking about food. Whether we’re exchanging recipes, recounting meals at restaurants, griping over picky eaters, or getting to the root of why we ate all those brownies when we knew we shouldn’t, it never gets old.

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One of my dearest friends and cooking cohorts is Melissa. Melissa is one of those people who could take or leave chocolate, but give her lemons, limes or oranges and she’s in heaven. One day, we got on the subject of Lemon Squares. Neither of us had a perfect recipe so we decided to get in the kitchen and create one of our own.

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Well….we must have made at least 200 lemon squares. I don’t think our poor husbands, ever the willing taste testers, would care if they never ate lemon squares again! But finally, perfection: a crisp and buttery shortbread crust topped with a luscious, tart-yet-sweet lemon filling. Generously dusted with snow white powdered sugar, they’re as pretty as they are delicious.

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To make them, you start by lining your pan with aluminum foil and spraying it with nonstick cooking spray. This makes removing the baked square easy, so cutting is a cinch.

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For the crust, mix the flour, corn starch, confectioners’ sugar and salt in a bowl of a food processor. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal (think clumpy sand), then press into the prepared pan. Let the crust rest in the fridge for 30 minutes, then bake until lightly golden.

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To make the topping, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, and flour. As soon as the base is cooked, pour the lemon filling over top. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the topping is set and firm. It should look like this…

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Cool, then use the foil overhang to lift the square out of the pan and onto a cutting board. Trim the edges and cut into squares.

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Dust with powdered sugar and serve.

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Naturally, they’re best enjoyed over coffee or tea with a good friend, preferably discussing what you ate last night or what you’re going to eat tomorrow.

“One of the delights of life is eating with friends, second to that is talking about eating. And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends.”
Laurie Colwin, Home Cooking

Luscious Lemon Squares

Print Recipe
Servings: 16 2-inch squares

Ingredients

For the Crust

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup Confectioners' sugar, plus more to decorate finished bars
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

For the Lemon Topping

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest (be sure to zest before juicing the lemons)
  • 5 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 2-3 lemons)
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Instructions

Make the Crust

  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Cover a 9-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil. Push the foil neatly into the corners and up the sides of the pan, using two pieces if necessary to ensure that the foil overlaps all edges (the overhang will help removal from the pan). Spray the foiled pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  3. Place the flour, corn starch, salt and Confectioners' sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment and mix for a few seconds. Add the butter and mix to blend until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds. Sprinkle the mixture into the prepared pan and press firmly with your fingers into an even layer, building up a thin ½-inch edge around the sides (this keeps the filling from spilling beneath the crust). Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  4. Bake the crust until lightly golden, 15-20 minutes.

Make the Topping

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, and flour.
  2. When the crust is ready, give lemon mixture a quick final stir and then pour over top. Immediately return the pan to the oven and bake another 20-25 minutes, or until the topping is set and firm. Let cool on a rack to room temperature, or at least 30 minutes, then cover and chill in the refrigerator until cold -- the bars are much easier to cut when cold.
  3. To cut, use the foil overhang to lift the baked square out of pan and onto a cutting board. Loosen the foil from the edges of the crust, using a knife if necessary. Using a sharp knife, trim the edges off, then cut into 2-inch squares. Use a fine sieve to dust the squares with Confectioners' sugar. Store finished lemon squares in the refrigerator and serve chilled.

 

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  • Always in the mood for lemon squares. and Love the fact that we can make the crust in the food processor. Thanks for that info!

  • Winston

    These came out better than the Lucy’s Lemon Squares from one of my first cookbooks. I did add slightly more zest than the 1T in the recipe and the lemon flavor was really intense (which I loved).

  • Marji

    I’m an experienced baker, but a lemon square failure: too gooey, too crumbly, too burnt (oops, can’t blame that on a recipe). I had almost resigned myself to paying $2/bar at the bakery, but gave this recipe one last try. I don’t know if it is the cornstarch in the crust or the genius instruction to dust with powdered sugar after cutting, too hide ragged edges, but this recipe works. The topping wasn’t too tart or too weepy and the crust didn’t disintegrate during slicing. I am so glad to have this reliable and tasty recipe for lemon bars so I can have back my dignity and not feel like a simple bar recipe was always ready to beat me up.

  • Kim Pike

    Lemon lovers unite! A perfect and refreshing treat! Your recipes are always the best!

  • Sondy

    I’m a lemon, lime, citrus over chocolate any day of the week, and twice on Sunday girl… This recipe is the ultimate lemon squares recipe! Thank you Jennifer !!

  • Jennifer Smith

    I love these lemon squares and will be making some for my daughter’s wedding reception. I made no changes.

    Thanks for the great recipe!

  • Jennifer Smith

    Does anyone know how well these bars freeze? Are they as tasty as usual afterward?

    Thanks!

    • Jenn

      Hi Jennifer, They freeze beautifully.

      • Jennifer S.

        You were correct! They did freeze beautifully. Thanks!

  • I learned to make the Lemon Bar filling by beginning it as soon as the crust went into the oven and beating the egg mixture continuously, the entire time the crust is baking. When it is done, pour the filling over it immediately and pop it right back into the oven. This works best, I think–try it. Best wishes to all.

  • How Lucky I am to find your recipes page and the recipes being sent on email. I started with the Strawberry Yogurt and have made it many times. It called for 1 lb strawberries and I used 2 lbs. Raves!
    I am going to do the Thai Crunch Salad with Peanut Dressing next. along with the Homemade Caesar Salad Dressing.
    I am looking for your candied walnuts for green salads now.

  • Janet

    I have been in search of the “BEST” lemon bars recipe. I finally found it on your website. I made them last night and they are perfectly lemony and I especially like the shortbread crust. Thanks for the recipe.

  • Mary Redmiles

    these lemon bars are just perfect with just the right amount of lemon flavor. They are easy to make and will go fast so make a lot of them! Simply yummy!

  • Kim

    These turned out TERRIFIC! I brought them over to a friend’s house for dinner, and they were the best lemon squares any of us has ever had, and we’re lemon square connoisseurs. :) I added a raspberry (placed upside down) on top of each square to dress it up. Because the lemons I got weren’t overly tart, I had to decrease the amount of sugar. What I did was before adding the eggs, I taste tested the topping (with just the lemon juice, zests, and flour) and added sugar until it had the right sweet/tart balance. I ended up using only 1-1/4 cups instead of 1-1/2 cups of sugar. It was surprisingly easy to make! This definitely will be my go to recipe for lemon squares. Thank you so much, Jenn!

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