Confession: I made these lemon bars twice in one week. Many were shared, many went into my stomach.
This recipe was shared with me by my friend Liz. She brought these to a potluck, I took one bite, and my mind was effectively blown. Lemon bars! Where had you been all my life?! I mean, I have had other lemon bars before, but none nearly so good.
The recipe hails from Tartine, written by Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson, the masterful pastry chefs of San Francisco’s Tartine Bakery. The shortbread layer is pre-baked into a gold brown (hence the “brown butter” in the name), and gives a deeper flavor and crispier texture than typical lemon bar crusts. I skipped the optional pine nuts because we didn’t have any on hand. The custard filling itself is packed with lemon juice and zest, creating a wonderful vehicle for all the fresh lemons this season.
Lemon Bars on Brown Butter Shortbread
For the crust:
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup pine nuts (optional)
For the filling:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup plus 2 tbsp lemon juice
lemon zest, grated from 1 small lemon
6 large whole eggs
1 large egg yolk
confectioners’ sugar for topping (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. To make the crust: sift the confectioners’ sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Stir in the flour. Add the butter and pine nuts (if using) and beat on low speed just until a smooth dough forms. Press the dough evenly into the pan and allow it to come up about a 1/2 inch up the sides of the pan. Line the crust with parchment paper and fill with pie weights. Bake the crust until it is a deep golden brown, about 25-35 minutes. To make the filling: While the crust is baking sift the flour into a mixing bowl and whisk in the sugar until blended. Add the lemon juice and zest and stir to dissolve the sugar. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk the whole eggs and egg yolk with the salt. Add the eggs to the lemon juice mixture and whisk until well mixed. Once the crust is ready pour the filling directly into the pan (leave the pan in the oven while you do this to make it easier). Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F. and bake just until the center of the custard is set, about 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack, then cover and chill well before cutting. Cut into squares and dust the top with confectioners’ sugar, if desired.