Let the sun shine in with these lovely little lemon bars. On a divinely buttery and crumbly shortbread base balances summery lemon curd. Bring out your inner baker and whip up a batch of these irresistible beauties. They’re easy to put together and heavenly delicious.
I do love a lemon curd, it’s classic and elegant. But if I’m being honest, I’d take rhubarb curd over it any day. It’s a sassy pink and packs a punch- much more my style. And once you’ve mastered that too, set your sights on this show stopping rose and rhubarb layer cake.
Easy lemon bars
Easy lemon bars are a mouthful of citrussy sunshine. I know, baking can be daunting. It requires precision and patience. I wouldn’t say I have either in abundance! But I want to have my cake and eat it too, so I’ve come up with this easy recipe for reluctant bakers who want quick fix.
This one’s a bake of two halves. Top and bottom. I’ve broken it down so you can follow my simple recipe exactly and marry a pale and flaky crust to a silky, zesty topping.
In under 50 minutes, that’s prep and baking time, you will have a tray ready to be sliced into the most beautiful squares of lemony happiness. The only hard part is waiting for the bake to be cool enough to slice. Put the kettle on!
Shortbread is so simple to make. It’s a classic baking-with-kids recipe as it only contains 3 ingredients: butter, plain flour and sugar. So, get them involved! Cakes and desserts are a great gateway to cooking, although it can look as though a snowstorm has hit the kitchen.
I’ve used a food processor to combine the ingredients making the recipe even quicker and easier. If you don’t have one, use a pastry cutter or even rub the dry mixture with your fingertips.
Be careful not to over work the dough though. If it gets too warm, the butter melts and the base will be more compact. We’re aiming for shortbread that’s light and crumbly on the tooth.
If you’re a dedicated baker and it’s not your first twirl around the kitchen with curd, you might notice my lemon curd recipe differs from some curd recipes. I’m making my curd exclusively for this lemon bars recipe, so I need it to be quick to put together and foolproof.
Some more complicated recipes for curd call for butter and they don’t use flour. The method combines lemon, eggs, sugar and butter only which is cooked over simmering water on the stove, stirring occasionally until it is the desired consistency.
I’ve cut out that fiddly extra cooking step and used whole eggs, and flour to thicken the mixture instead. It’s immediately ready to pour over the base and will set in the oven. I told you it would be easy!
Recipe tips and notes
- Read the recipe all the way through before starting. Measure ingredients carefully and adhere to the instructions and cooking times. Home ovens vary in heat and intensity so watch for visual cues too.
- I’ve combined the juice and zest of both lemons and mandarin oranges for these bars. During the off season, lemons are not at their peak, so they benefit from the perky orange. The bars will be brighter in both colour and flavour. Don’t worry, they’ll still be perfectly lemony and not orangey.
- The recipe is straightforward and in two halves. The bottom half is a crumbly shortbread crust, and the top half is smooth, tangy lemon curd.
- Make sure your lemon filling is mixed well. The key to curd is a lump-free consistency.
- Be patient once the bars are baked. It can be tempting to cut straight into them! But let them cool at room temperature and then chill in the fridge. This lets the filling set properly and makes for a cleaner slice.
- To remove the bake easily from the tray, take the time to line the pan with parchment paper first.
- Finally, cut out the bars with biggest knife you have slicing through the length of the bake. Wipe the knife clean with kitchen paper between cuts to keep them neat.
Storage and leftovers
Keep your lemon bars cool, in the fridge is best. Store them in an airtight container so other fridgy flavours are not absorbed by them. While they are at their best within the first 3 days, these lemony lovelies will keep for up to 5.
Other desserts to try
- Easy Homemade Apple Crisp
- Salted Caramel Pear Tarts (VIDEO)
- Summer Peach Cake with Red Berries (VIDEO)
- Double Chocolate Mint Cookies
For the shortbread crust
- 170g / ¾ cup butter at room temperature, cubed
- 185g / 2 cups all purpose (plain) flour
- 100g / ⅔ cup icing (powdered) sugar
For the filling
- 3 lemons with zest
- 3 mandarine oranges with zest
- 35g / ¼ cup flour
- 6 eggs large
- 400g / 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tbsp icing (powdered) sugar
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Line the 9X13 inch baking pan with parchment paper, so the ends overhang. Set aside till needed.
- In a food processor combine the flour, cubed butter and the icing sugar, pulse until the mixture resembles crumbs but forms a clump if you grab a handful and squeeze. (See pictures below for visual guidance.) Alternatively, you can achieve the same texture without a food processor by cutting the butter into the dry mixture with a pastry cutter.
- Cover the bottom of parchment lined pan with the crumbs and press firmly. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. It will look pale and not baked.
- While the shortbread crust is baking make the lemon filling. In a large bowl zest the lemons and mandarin oranges. Then squeeze the juice from both in a separate small bowl until you have 155 ml/2/3 cup. Add the juice to the bowl with the zest, then add the eggs and beat the mixture with a whisk, sift in the flour and continue whisking to prevent lumps forming, then add the baking powder, salt and granulated or caster sugar, mix well until he mixture is well blended.
- Take the shortbread out of the oven and lower the temperature to 160C/325F. Pour the lemon filling into the hot crust, which you previously gave a good mix with a whisk. Put it back in the oven and bake for 20-24 minutes or until the mixture is just set. Take it out of the oven and sprinkle with 1 tbsp of icing sugar. Set the pan on a wire rack and cool completely. I recommend cooling it in the refrigerator overnight for the best texture.
- Then take the whole slab out of the pan by pulling the overhanging ends of parchment paper and cut into squares with a sharp knife. You might want to wipe the knife with paper towel in between cuts to maintain clean edges.