Sunshine Lemon Bars
–These lemon bars will bring tons of sunshine into your day! Bright and zingy filling on top of a quick and easy shortbread crust. So good!
I’m feeling a winter weather blues. If the dream fairies are reading this, I’ve got a couple of requests for tonight’s dreams: I want to be somewhere with the sound of the waves swelling and crashing against the beachfront. I want to wear sunglasses and sun tan lotion. And collect seashells. I want to inhale the smell of freshly cut grass in the wee hours of the morning, minutes after fresh dew has spread across the lawn. I want to hold an ice-cold glass of lemonade with little beads of condensation gathering in pools on the outside of my glass. I want sunshine in a bite! The dream fairies may fulfill my request, but I think I’ll make myself some sunshine, too! Let’s start with the ingredients for the crust. This recipe makes the perfect shortbread crust that will compliment the tartness of the lemon bars beautifully! We’re using lemon juice in the crust too!
Before you start making the lemon layer for the lemon bars, toss the lemon zest into the sugar and using your finger tips or the back of a wooden spoon, mash the zest into the sugar. This disperses the lemon oils into the sugar and helps the flavor spread more evenly throughout the bars. This is a little trick that makes a huge impact! Here’s what you’ll need for the lemon layer. I used about 5 lemons to get the 2/3 cup lemon juice. Depending on the size of the lemon, you may need anywhere between 4-6. Beat the eggs lightly with the sugar/lemon zest mixture before adding the lemon juice in. You will notice some resistance when stirring, it’s totally okay. Oh and also, please excuse my bear claw that’s taking over half of this picture! Dump in the flour and continue to mix until that resistance is gone. That just means all that sugary goodness has melted into the lemon and egg mixture and it’s ready to pour on top of the baked crust!
For the Shortbread Crust:
- 1 stick + 6 Tbsp (a total of 14 tablespoons) unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon chilled heavy cream
- 2 teaspoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 cups all purpose flour
For the Lemon Layer:
- 4 large eggs at room temperature
- 1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
- 1 pinch sea salt
- 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (4 to 6 lemons)
- 2/3 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- 2/3 cup all purpose flour
- Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
To Make the Shortbread Crust:
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350ºF. Grease a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking sheet and set aside for later use.
- In a food processor, combine the butter, sugar, egg, heavy cream, lemon juice, sea salt, and flour and pulse until the dough starts to gather together in big clumps. Dump out onto a clean surface and gather it together. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into the greased baking sheet that was prepared earlier. Build a 1/2-inch wall on each side. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes prior to baking. Bake the crust for 20 minutes or until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.
- In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and the sugar together until the butter turns a light yellow. Add the egg, heavy cream, and lemon juice and continue to mix. When everything is well incorporated, add the salt. Lastly, add the flour in two batches until the just mixed. Dump out onto a clean surface and gather it together. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into the greased baking sheet that was prepared earlier. Build a 1/2-inch wall on each side. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes prior to baking. Bake the crust for 20 minutes or until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes. Leave the oven on.
To Make the Lemon Layer:
- In a medium bowl, combine the sugar and lemon zest. Using your finger tips or the back of a wooden spoon, mash the lemon zest into the sugar. This will help disperse the lemon oils through the sugar.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar and lemon zest mixture, lemon juice, and flour.
- Pour the mixture over the crust and bake for 30 minutes or until the 'jiggliness' is gone from the lemon layer. Let cool to room temperature before cutting into squares and dust with confectioners' sugar.