Lemon Bars

It is 71 degrees outside as I write this. I shit you not…I am sitting in my yard typing this instead of eating lunch, WITHOUT A COAT! Monday there was measurable snow on the ground and this coming weekend there is supposed to be snow on Sunday…I also shit you not, but whatever, at least I know warm temps actually still exist outside of the equator.
It’s also sunny out which leads me to want to share something light and cheery this week. So lemon bars it is. But…before you say ‘pass – I already have a lemon bar I make,’ these are probably not even close to what you make. I know this because I have a lemon bar recipe too, one with lemon curd. This ain’t that. This is a lemon bar that is creamy and so much more like key lime pie. It is sweeter and has a smooth, creamy texture – thanks to sweetened condensed milk. I also add a hefty amount of vanilla because it turns out vanilla totally mellows the pucker in lemon. I was surprised in super good way at the how balanced the vanilla made the filling.
Try it out, surprise someone, make their day a little sunny like this one and only anomaly day in Chicago.

Lighter lemon bars

For the crust
½ cup butter, softened
¼  cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour

Mix all ingredients together and press into the bottom of an ungreased 8-inch brownie pan. I line mine with foil for easy lifting out of the pan, but whatever you prefer, just don’t spray or grease the pan. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes and let cool a bit.

For the filling
2 cans (14-ounces each) sweetened condensed milk
4 large egg yolks
2/3 cup lemon fresh lemon juice (about 5 real lemons NOT concentrated lemon juice)
Zest of one of the lemons
2 teaspoons of vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
Pinch salt

Whisk all of the ingredients for the filling. Make sure they are all blended well. Pour this over the pre-baked crust. Note – the crust can be still warm but not hot. You should be able to hold the pan with bare hands, otherwise it’ll be too hot and the bottom of the filling will overcook. Bake all together for about 25-30 minutes. The top should still be smooth and not browned, but the center should not be soft or jiggly.

Cool completely in the pan before cutting and refrigerate them.

 

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