In the Midwest, September and even now in October has felt more like summer than fall. Think high heat, humidity, and occasional thunderstorms. The Chicago marathon on October 8th event hit 80 degrees! Weather like this is delightful for spectators but a nightmare for runners. Even looking around outside, the lush grass is still bright green and few trees are showcasing their vibrant fall colors typically seen this time of year.
However, today things have changed! The cooler weather seems to maybe be settling in. However, I still cannot take the full leap into fall baking quite yet (ie everything apple, pumpkin, soup, squash, etc…). Instead, I wanted to share one of my favorite “summery” desserts – lemon bars! (Lemons also happened to be on sale at a local retailer—3 pound bags for $1.99—so that may have also influenced this post!)
Lemon bars are sweet, tart, and addictive! The shortbread crust paired with the curd-like lemon filling is nothing short of divine. Even though the recipe calls for an alarmingly high amount of sugar, the fresh lemon juice really cuts the sweetness. As tempting as it may be to alter the recipe by reducing the sugar, do NOT do it. I also advise against purchased lemon juice as a short-cut. The lemon bars will still work, but you’ll be missing the brightness from the lemon zest!
The best thing about this recipe below is that it makes an 8x8 inch pan, rather than a 9x13 inch pan like many lemon bar recipes. I find it to still yield plenty of daintily cut bars, but it is a much more manageable recipe. However, they will disappear fast!
1 stick salted butter, softened
½ cup powdered sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups sugar
1 Tbsp lemon zest, grated
½ cup fresh lemon juice
½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ tsp vanilla
Additional powdered sugar, for dusting
Preheat oven to 350° F. Line a 8x8 inch square pan parchment paper (recommended) or spray with cooking spray. In a medium mixing bowl, mix the butter and powdered sugar until well-combined. Add the flour and mix until crumbly. Press the dough evenly into the pan. Bake the crust for about 15 minutes. Let cool slightly.
While the crust is baking, whisk the eggs and sugar in a medium mixing bowl until smooth. Add the lemon juice, lemon zest, flour, and vanilla and continue whisking until smooth. After the crust has cooled at least 10 minutes (it can still be warm), pour the filling over the crust and return to the oven. Bake for an additional 25-30 minutes, or until the filling is set. Let cool and store in the refrigerator. Right before serving, dust with powdered sugar.