Lemon Bars Are Messy And Need Rigorous Training

IMG_3465As with all great desserts, you have to go through rigorous training to learn how to eat a Lemon Bar properly.

After my last batch, my husband declared, “They make too big a mess!  Stop putting all that powdered sugar on them.”  

WHAT??  That’s the most important part!  Besides the lemony custard filling on top of sweet shortbread crust. Who am I kidding – all three layers are equally important.  And I like to cover my lemon bars with a blizzard of powdered sugar.  

The trick is to hold your breath as you take a bite. Now is that really so hard?  Just stop breathing and take a bite.  Then remove the rest of your cookie from your face – far from your nostrils and then you can breath again as you chew.  Before you take a second bite you have to stop breathing again.   It’s a special technique to keep the lemon bar far from your face if you need to breath.  I like to hang my arm out sideways like I’m about to do a Jumping Jack.

I said rigorous training was required. 

Of course there is a special joy in just going outside to eat Lemon Bars and making a damn big mess.  That works too.  

IMG_3459My official Lemon Bar recipe is from a small 2-ring bound book from 1978 called The Cookie Jar.  The Fresno Garden Center compiled local recipes for this book so there are at least a half dozen versions of a Lemon Bar.  All of which I have tried over the decades.  My final recipe has been tweaked many times over the years.  But I think it’s pretty perfect now.

IMG_3462On page 113 you can see some of the notes I’ve written over the years.  This particular recipe was by Min Schneider. I don’t know her.  But I do wonder if she realizes her recipe from almost 40 years ago lives on in my kitchen!  

My recipe includes a full 3 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice.  I thinks this makes a beautiful tart custard.  So it needs the thick layer of powdered sugar to compliment it.  Trust me on this one.  



1.5 cups flour

1/3 cup powdered sugar (you can use regular sugar I suppose, but I like the tenderness the powdered sugar creates.)

3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) soft salted butter  (I have used sweet but like salted better)

IMG_3409Use a fork or pastry cutter and blend the ingredients.  To keep it tender, do not use a food processor. Just cut by hand until barely mixed – then press into a clean 8″x 8″ dish.  (No need to grease the dish. The pastry is plenty buttery.)  IMG_3410Bake in 325 degree oven for 20 minutes.  Do not bake too long.  It’s going back into the oven again.  Cook until the top begins to look dark blonde and the edges barely start pulling away from the pan.  Take out to cool.  Raise the temperature of the oven to 350 degrees.




3 eggs beaten

1.5 cups sugar

3 full tablespoons flour

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Mix all ingredients with a whisk until blended and pour over the crust.  Bake in the 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.  But please note the time can really vary.  Check to see after 20 minutes if the custard has stopped wiggling about.  But don’t let the crust get too dark – just a light brown.  It can be a fine line to decide when to take it out. But don’t worry.  It will all come out in the end.

Sprinkle heavily with powdered sugar.  Make it snow.


Now you have a major decision to make.  If you cannot wait and your mouth is salivating, then go ahead and cut it warm.  It’s delicious.  But know that the custard is not fully set yet and will spill out all over the place.  But gosh it good!  IMG_3422



If you wait until the entire dessert is cool the custard will be set and you can cut into the little squares these Lemon Bars are best known for.  

Personally I eat them first warm, and then later cooled.  Life is short!  

So, get started on your training to breath properly as you eat a Lemon Bar.  And enjoy!






Published in: on March 19, 2017 at 8:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,