Updated Lemon Bars


To see the recipe for the Cream Biscuits from the KMOV-TV Great Day St. Louis program on January 12th, please go the recipe index above and scroll down to TV recipes.

lemon-bars.jpegLemon bars are as American as chocolate chip or oatmeal cookies and loved just as much. Lemon is the number 2 flavor in America, just behind chocolate. The buttery shortbread base is the perfect compliment to the tart sweet lemon bar filling.

We made pan after pan of lemon bars at the bakery. Sometimes we would switch out the lemon juice for lime and make lime bars. But no matter what we made, they were always welcome.

Since leaving the bakery, I have had a chance to revisit some of my old recipes. This was one of them. This is the only recipe I have found that uses baking powder in the filling. The recipe for my lemon bars came from my first copy (which I still have) of the Betty Crocker Cookbook, given to me when I married. However, what I found is that sometimes the crust would pull away slightly from the sides allowing the liquid filling to seep downward. There is a little trick we used to keep this from happening at the shop. As soon as the Lemon Bars come from the oven, the back of a spoon is used to attach the crust to the side of the pan, preventing any seepage.

Also, on occasion the filling would crack while baking. For some reason, I decided to use powdered sugar, also called confectioner’s sugar, 10X sugar and in Great Britain icing sugar and in France sucre glace. It is all granulated sugar that has been very finely ground into a powder. It contains 3% cornstarch to keep it from clumping. Unless I am dusting something with powdered sugar, I don’t sift it. A few turns with a whisk and any little clumps there are disappear.

I am not sure if it is the fineness of the sugar that instantly dissolves in the lemon juice and eggs or the cornstarch helping to bind the filling but it is the best Lemon Bar I have ever made. When I used granulated sugar, I would see a heavy sludge of sugar and lemon juice at the bottom of the bowl. Now I don’t. The filling is much smoother and if you taste it, there is no grain of sugar. Since Lemon Bars have such a sugar heavy filling, this one change has made a world of difference.

If you wonder why there is more powdered sugar used than the granulated in the same recipe, it is because powder sugar weighs less than granulated sugar.   So 2 cups of granulated sugar becomes a little more than 3 cups of powdered sugar by weight not volume since granulated sugar weighs 200 grams or 7 ounces per cup and powdered sugar weighs 130 grams or 4 1/2 ounces.  Weight is the important factor, not volume when translating recipes from one measurement to another.

Since this is such a popular dessert, I came up with one more use for it – a mini wedding cake for those that can’t get enough Lemon Bars!  Simply cut 1, 2 and 3 inch squares, powder sugar them then stack them.3-tier-lemon-bars-for-updated-lemon-bars.jpeg


PLEASE NOTE THE INGREDIENTS IN THE PHOTOS ARE TWICE THOSE USED IN THE RECIPE BELOW.  We photographed a half sheet pan when I was making them for the cafe.  However, I thought most home based cooks would prefer a smaller amount, so I cut the half sheet down to a quarter sheet or a 9×13 inch pan.  The recipe below states a 9×13 inch pan but the ingredients in the pictures do not match the listed ingredients.  If you prefer to make the larger 1/2 sheet pan or two  9×13 inch pans, double the listed ingredients.  My apologies for any confusion caused earlier before I inserted this paragraph.

BaseIngredients for Updated Lemon Bars1 2/3 cup all purpose flour (225 grams or 8 ounces)
1/2 cup powdered sugar 60 grams or 2 ounces)
1 stick + 6 tablespoons unsalted butter cold and cut into small pieces (200 grams or 7             ounces)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the bottom of a quarter sheet or a 9×13 inch  pan with parchment and spray the entire pan. Set aside.

Combine the flour and powdered sugar in a food processor. Flour and powdered sugar for Updated Lemon BarsProcess to mix. Add the cold butter and process until indistinguishable. Butter added to processor for Updated Lemon Barsprocess until the butter is indistinguishable.  Butter cut into flour mixture for Updated Lemon BarsDo not over process and make a dough. It should be very powdery.

Pour the crumbs into the prepared pan.  base-piled-in-pan-for-updated-lemon-bars.jpegIt looks like a lot but they will compress.  Evenly distribute the crumbs making sure to get them into the corners.  Smoothing crumbs into a corner for the Updated Lemon BarsPress firmly into the pan. Pressing the base in place for the Updated Lemon BarsGo around the edges and press them down flat.Pressing edge down for the Updated Lemon BarsBase pressed in for the Updated Lemon BarsBake on the bottom shelf of the oven for 25 minutes until medium brown and baked through. Immediately upon taking it from the oven, press the crust against the side of the pan with the back of a spoon so there are no places for the liquid filling to seep downward.Sealing baked edge for the Updated Lemon BarsBase baked and sealed for the Updated Lemon Bars

FillingFilling ingredients for the Updated Lemon Bars3 cups + 2 tablespoons  POWDERED sugar (400 grams or 14 ounces)
1/4 cup +1 teaspoon flour (30 grams or 1 ounce)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
4 eggs + 1 yolk
1/2 cup lemon juice, preferably freshly squeezed

Combine the powdered sugar, flour and baking powder in the processor bowl. Dry ingredients for the Updated Lemon BarsProcess to mix. Dry ingredients for the Updated Lemon BarsAdd the eggs and lemon juice and Eggs and lemon juice added for the Updated Lemon Barsprocess just to completely blend.Eggs and juice processed for the Updated Lemon Bars

Pour the filling over the crust and Filling in the pan for the Uploaded Lemon Barscarefully put in the oven on the middle shelf. Bake 25 minutes or just until set.Baked lemon bars for Updated Lemon BarsTo cut these easily, freeze them first and cut them upside down, sawing through the bottom crust and then cutting straight down.  Cut as desired.

These freeze beautifully without the powdered sugar dusting.

Here is the original recipe:http://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/luscious-lemon-squares/c01a5935-6f52-419c-af08-e8c267c1aaf7

Pastry has not only been my profession, but my passion. If there is anything in particular you would like to see or any questions about baking or pastry, please let me know. Be sure to subscribe so you don't miss a post!
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24 thoughts on “Updated Lemon Bars

  1. ellen graves

    I DID make these! They were absolutely delicious. The students and postdocs loved them! I might use a bit less sugar 2d time round but not sure. Anyway they were yum!

  2. Manisha

    Hi Helen

    I made Lemon Bars last evening. They are toooo good and so quick to make.

    Lovely buttery, sweet and tart Flavours. I did reduce lemon juice a bit as boys are not fond of anything that’s too tart. We tasted them today morning and we all were swooning over it. Will email You the pic of it. This recipe is a keeper :)

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Chef Adrienne – I love the world of food because something new can always be found, even after 50 years which is how long I have made these – first for my family and then professionally in the bakery. It took this long for me to find one change to improve them just a wee bit.

  3. Robin Chestnas

    Hi Helen, thank you for a new twist on Lemon Bars. My family can’t wait for me to make these. They want me to make mine AND yours so they can compare them side by side…..

  4. ellen graves

    Will try these maybe today. I know I keep saying that and then have to search for what it is I’m trying! But hubbykins deserves an ‘afters’ every once in while…we are the original Jack Spratt couple so I try to avoid these, he craves them!.
    I think whoever wrote in about Meyer lemons must be right. We don’t have them over here and I didn’t know about them back in the ’70s when we left the US, and I was always jealous but I think they must be different tart to sweet ratio. I have a favourite mushroom stuffing recipe for chicken and turkey that calls for grated rind and juice of 2 lemons. My daughter tried this out when they were in Vancouver Christmas before last, but with Meyer lemons, and it just didn’t taste right apparently.

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Ellen – See my latest comment to Rockyrd. I love, love, love lemon bars. Meyers were all the rage when they came out years ago, but they just don’t deliver the punch I want in a lemon.

  5. Patty Padawer

    Hi Helen , you have pictured 9 eggs, but only call for 4 eggs and 1 yolk…did I miss something?? Or are the photos of a half sheet size , but the recipe is the 9×13 size…
    Really appreciated all your hard work…your passion shows!!! We were at Tony’s after Christmas and they were bragging about you!!!
    Patty Padawer

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Thanks to all of you have commented on the confusion with the photos and the text. I did cut the text recipe in half but the photos do show a larger amount as that is how I make it for the cafe. I will fix it in the text as soon as I finish here. Nice to know Tony’s brags about me. Love being associated with them. Hope all is well with you Patty.

  6. Ro

    Thank you, Helen, for all the little tips you provide to help with baking! I love the tip pressing the crust against the pan with a spoon. It’s the small things that help a baker have success with a recipe! I appreciate your knowledge!

  7. Jim

    I agree with Rockyrd- the photo accompanying the recipe shows twice the ingredients for the filling than are listed in the recipe

    1. hfletcher Post author

      The photos are from a half sheet pan which is twice as big as the 9×13 or quarter sheet pan the recipe uses. I cut it down as most home bakers don’t want that many.

        1. hfletcher Post author

          I agree – never too many. I froze the remainder from the photo shoot but have to tell you, I snuck in yesterday and defrosted a few of the scraps and ate half of them before Mike came home. I can’t have these around because I love them so much.

  8. Rockyrd

    Good morning Helen,
    These are my husband’s favorite, and we have a lot of friends with lemon trees here in FL.
    Did you double the recipe? The ingredients look like more lemon juice and eggs etc.
    speaking of lemons I find the meyer lemons, although good, don’t give the tart taste of the regular ones. Almost sweet. The scent is amazing though. What do you think and do you ever use the zest?
    Xo for this recipe today.

    1. hfletcher Post author

      I wish I had a lemon tree. My son lives in Burbank and all they have to do is reach outside and pick as many lemons as they want! No, this is a single recipe for a 9×13 recipe. I cut it down from the usual half sheet pan I make. I agree about the meyer lemons. I rarely use them in baking because I prefer a much more intense burst of lemon. I have seen recipes with the zest but there is so much lemon in this it isn’t necessary and I think they detract from the smoothness of the bars. But that is a personal feeling and you can certainly add it if you like. But try these first. Happy to hear from you.

    2. Matt

      I agree “Rockyrd”,
      Sorry Helen your recipe calls for:
      4 Eggs+ 1 Yolk
      1/2 Cup of Lemon Juice.

      But in your photo you have 8 Eggs and 1Yolk,
      And 1 Full Cup of Lemon Juice.
      If you are doubling the batch just let us know.
      Just asking we being visual people and all.
      Thanks and an fyi.
      Your recipes ROCK!
      Thanks again

      1. hfletcher Post author

        Hi Matt – It’s great to see so many people are so attuned to the photos. Yes the photos are twice the amount of the ingredients for the listed recipe.

  9. Manisha

    Helen this looks sooo goody. Citrusy Flavours are my favorite. I love the way you have placed the slivced bars one on top of the other like your mini wedding cakes :)

    I am going to try this!

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Manisha – These are also sooooo easy! They are very lemony. I stumbled on the mini wedding cake when trying to decide how to photograph them. Hope all is going well with you and all you have going on.

    2. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Manisha – and these are soooo easy too. They are very lemony. I stumbled on the wedding cake when trying to decide how to photograph them. Hope all is going well for you with all you have going on.

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