Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Lemon Bars - A Texas Favorite

When life hands you lemons, forget the lemonade. Make Lemon Bars.
Actually, lemon bars are more than just a Texas fave, they're a quintessential southern tradition.
One problem I have with these tasty treats, though, is that sometimes they're too sweet. I prefer mine with a little more tang. And this recipe has the perfect balance of sweet and citrus.
Best of all, they're really quite easy to make. For years, I opted for a box kit but, really, this scratch-made version doesn't take much longer.
**FYI - refrigeration time is required, so plan accordingly**

First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Line a 9 x 13 pan with foil.

For the crust you will need:
2 sticks of cold butter (I prefer unsalted)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix dry ingredients together, then cube butter before adding.
Cut butter into the flour, sugar, salt until crumbly, yet incorporated.
Then dump into foil-lined pan.
And press to cover bottom of pan.
Bake 20 minutes or until golden.

While that's baking, let's make the filling.

For the filling, you will need:
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
6 eggs
Zest and juice of 5 lemons

Okay, so this is where homemade versus a box-kit might cost you a little more time, because you have to zest and juice the lemons.

First, you want to wash them. Yes, that means soap. Just be sure to rinse them well before drying.
I have three larger lemons and two smaller. What can I say, one store had big ones, the other small and I failed to purchase them at the same time.

Now I'd like to introduce you one of my new favorite kitchen gadgets.
This is called a microplane. You can use it for finely grating lots of things, like citrus peels, whole nutmeg, cinnamon, etc. I used to just use the fine grate on my standard cheese grater, but I was over the moon when I found this in my Christmas stocking. I can't tell you how much easier it makes things. And no more bloodied knuckles or chipped fingernails.

Simply drag the grate across the peel and it traps everything in this little channel. Then you simply tap what's there into the bowl. 
Once all you're lemons are zested...
Simply cut them in half and squeeze out all the juice, taking care to strain out any seeds. A task I usually just use my hands/fingers for.

Now, whisk together your flour, sugar and eggs until smooth.
Then add the lemon zest and juice...
And stir to incorporate.

Once your crust is done...
Pour the lemon mixture over the top.
Put it back in the oven and bake for another 20 minutes, or until just set.
Allow to cool, then cover and refrigerate 2 hours to overnight.

When ready to serve, lift foil from pan and dust with powdered sugar.

Cut into squares and serve.
So pretty. SO tasty.
And that citrusy tang is perfect for summertime or a nice compliment after any rich meal.

I made them for Mother's Day. Of course, I made them the day before, because I wasn't allowed to do any cooking this Mother's Day. Which also happened to be my youngest daughter's birthday.
The kids came over and hubby ordered in fajitas and all the trimmings from our favorite Mexican restaurant.
Gotta love that.

And my middle daughter made her sister's birthday cake.
Isn't it beautiful? And just wait til you hear about the inside.
Chocolate and white layers with a cherry filling and white chocolate ganache frosting.
In a word?

Now it's your turn. How did you spend your Mother's Day? Are you a fan of lemon bars? How do you prefer yours? More sweet or tart? 

Mindy Obenhaus lives in Texas with her husband and kids. She's passionate about touching readers with Biblical truths in an entertaining, and sometimes adventurous, manner.
When she’s not writing, she enjoys cooking and spending time with her grandchildren. Learn more at www.MindyObenhaus.com.


  1. Now these look amazing. I love lemon bars. For Mother's Day I always write. That's the point of Mother's Day, I thought!

    1. LOL! Tina, Mother's Day can be whatever you want. :D

  2. Mindy, those look amazing!!!!!

    I love lemon bars. I've only ever tried making them once from a box.

    I was so happy a few weeks back when I saw a new bakery had them. But oh, my aching teeth. You are so right about the sweetness. I actually had insomnia from the sugar rush!

    1. Mary Cate, the Krusteaz brand is what I always used, but they still weren't lemony enough for my taste. I think the addition of the lemon zest is what really gives these that extra punch. Though, as you can see, there's still a fair amount of sugar. My teeth are just fine, though. :P

  3. I LOVE lemon bars and have many epic fails under my belt. They always turn out too runny. I will have to give this recipe a try because I adore lemon bars and now I'm craving one...or two or three. Sigh.

    That cake sure is impressive and sounds divine. I'm such a plain baker. I need to get adventurous but I'm usually only baking when I have company or am going to a potluck and I default to tried and true so I'm sure I'll have something to bring.

    This Mother's Day was spent at church in the morning and in the garden with slave (aka daughter) labor. There's so many parts of the garden I can't maneuver into now so I needed her agile limbs!

    1. Too runny, huh? Perhaps they didn't bake long enough, Kav.

      Yes, that cake was very impressive. I was shocked at all it had. She's trying to break away from the fondant cakes and get better at piping. I think she's doing pretty good.

      Love, love, love that you spent Mother's Day working in the garden with your daughter. I bet y'all had a great time and made some special memories.

  4. Add my name to those who LOVE lemon bars! I've made them from scratch before, but I've had the same experience you did - too sweet, not enough lemon. I'll have to try your recipe.

    And a microplane is going on my wish list. My daughter bought one a few years ago, but guess what? She's taking all of her kitchen gadgets with her when she moves into her new apartment. For some reason, she thinks she'll be baking for her new husband!

    Sigh. Kids, I need a microplane for my birthday. Just sayin'.

    1. She's taking her microplane with her? The nerve. ;D

      No worries, Jan. You can pick one up on Amazon for around $10. And yes, you need to make these lemon bars and them tell me if you agree about them being more tart than sweet. Wedding or no wedding, I'll be expecting a review.

  5. Mindy, I've always wanted to make these. Thank you for sharing!

    Your daughter did an amazing job on that beautiful cake!

    1. Missy, you live in GA and have never made lemon bars? How is that even possible? They might have to revoke your residency.

      Yes, Rachel outdid herself on that cake. I'm still trying to figure out how she got that iridescent shimmer.

    2. I know, Mindy! But other ladies at church have always made them, so I never had to. :) And I should add that fruity desserts aren't "allowed" at home. My husband says fruit dessert is an oxymoron. LOL A dessert must contain chocolate for him!

    3. So how does he feel about chocolate dipped strawberries or Black Forest Cake?

    4. So so on chocolate dipped strawberries. Would probably reject the black forest cake, wanting just a plain cake. :)

  6. Mindy, I love lemon bars! I've always used RealLemon juice, but I love 'zest' and bet this is a crazy wonderful version, just because of that!!!! And the birthday cake is gorgeous, what a sweet thing to do! Happy birthday (belated!) and thanks for a reminder that lemon bars rock... and need to be made soon!

    1. Ruthy, I'm typically a RealLemon gal, too. But in this case, it's worth the extra effort. Especially since you need the lemons for the zest anyway.

      I shall pass your bday wishes on to Danielle.

  7. Mindy, I love lemon bars! I've always used RealLemon juice, but I love 'zest' and bet this is a crazy wonderful version, just because of that!!!! And the birthday cake is gorgeous, what a sweet thing to do! Happy birthday (belated!) and thanks for a reminder that lemon bars rock... and need to be made soon!