My Foray Into Food Storage

A regular gal learning about Food Storage, Home Cooking, Canning, Gardening, and more!


5 Comments

8 Tips To Make a Good Lemon Bar GREAT!!

I cannot tell you how many times someone has asked me what makes some things I bake taste better than theirs when we used the same recipe. Over the years, I’ve learned a few very small things which a very big difference in improving the overall taste. 

Today, I’m going to share how to take a basic lemon bar recipe and make some of the best lemon bars you’ve ever tasted.  I made lime bars, because that’s what I had in my kitchen, but the same principles apply to any citrus bars.  You can use the recipe below for any citrus bar (lime, orange, grapefruit).  

  

First, start with a good recipe. I really like this one. It makes a very yummy lemon bar, and it contains very simple ingredients. My only complaint is that it is not lemony enough for me. I want my lemon bars to scream “LEMON” when I take a bite. 

Second, use high quality, fresh ingredients. If the recipe calls for real butter, use real butter.  If it calls for lemon juice, use freshly squeezed lemon juice rather than bottled.  This is particularly important in recipes with just a few ingredients. 

Third, zest your lemons and add it to your lemon juice. The zest adds that super lemony tartness lemon bars need to make them great. Wash your citrus fruit in your favorite fruit/vegetable wash, or soak it in some water with white vinegar before you zest it. Then rinse and dry it. Next, use a micro plane grater like this one for easy zesting. You can use a zester, but I really like my micro plane grater. I use it for many things in my kitchen (grating Parmesan, grating ginger, etc.), so it’s not a single use tool.  You can find these at many retailers. Amazon sells one here
  

Fourth, since you’re using freshly squeezed lemon, lime, or other citrus juices, make sure that you have enough juice. Some lemons have more juice, and some have less. The average lemon has about 3 Tablespoons of juice. Measure your juice after you squeeze it. If you don’t have enough juice, squeeze another lemon or supplement with bottled juice to ensure you have at least 6 tablespoons of juice (for this recipe). I know I said freshly squeezed juice is betterm and it is, but it is better to use some bottled juice and have enough than to have too little juice from fresh lemons. 

I use my favorite pampered check lemon juicer, but you can find these at Walmart, Target, and many other retailers. Even Amazon has one you can view here.  
   
   

Fifth, make sure that you pre-bake your crust long enough. It should be getting brown on the edges. This will give a nice flavor to your crust. 
  

Sixth, do not use a hand mixer to mix the custard for your lemon bars.   Using a hand mixer will make your custard a bit frothy which changes the texture into something a little less decadent. Use a whisk to combine the juice, eggs, sugar, and flour. 
  

Seventh, let your lemon bars sit for at least 12 hours before you cut and serve them. Sure, it’s difficult to wait, because your lemon bars will smell so delicious, but, if you let them sit, the flavors of the crust and custard will combine so nicely.  Of course, in my house, we don’t wait. We always eat some as soon as they’re cool enough for us to eat them without burning ourselves. However, when I eat one the following day, I wish I’d waited, because they’re so much better. 
Finally, dust them lightly with powdered sugar, but do not go overboard!  The sweetness of the powdered sugar is a nice counterpoint to the tartness of the citrus, and too much sugar will mask too much of the lemony goodness of the bars. 
  

(You may notice that my lime bars are really green. My son wanted me to add a little food coloring so that no one would mistake them for lemon bars, so I added with three drops of green food coloring and one drop of blue.  Be careful with your food coloring or you may end up with this on your skin.)
  

And there you have it!  My tips for the most delicious lemon (lime, orange, or grapefruit) bars you’ll ever eat. 
Do you have any baking or cooking tips which take a good recipe and make it great?  I’d love for you to share!

*** Please note that there are affiliate links in this post. ***

Advertisements


14 Comments

Who Knew Lemon Bars Were So Simple To Make?

Before I begin, a quick reminder: Today’s the last day to enter my May giveaway.  Click on this link to enter.

 

I work with the young women ages 12-18 at church, and, tonight, we’re having a special get together requiring yummy, dessert “finger foods.”  While I’m not sure if lemon bars qualify as “finger foods,” I don’t think anyone will complain.  I found this recipe online several years ago and added one simple thing (lemon zest) to make them truly special.  Here’s the recipe.

 

Super Delicious Lemon Bars!

Super Delicious Lemon Bars!

 

Lemon Bars

Adapted from a recipe by Patty Schenck found here

 

Crust

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, softened

 

Filling

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Juice of 2 lemons (6 tablespoons, can use bottled lemon juice)

4 eggs

zest from lemons, optional

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Combine 2 cups flour, 1/2 cup sugar, and the butter.  Mix until well combined.  The mixture may be crumbly, but that’s okay.  Press the crust into an ungreased 9×13 pan.  Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Whisk together 1 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup flour.  Add lemon juice, eggs, and lemon zest, then whisk to combine.  Pour over hot crust and bake in preheated oven for an additional 20 minutes.  Let cool completely in pan before cutting, as the filling will be quite soft when hot.  Don’t worry!  It will firm up nicely as it cools.  Top with powdered sugar if desired.  You may also substitute lime juice and zest.

 

Here’s my photo step-by-step.

 

Gather your ingredients.  I didn't have two lemons, so I substituted bottled lemon juice for the additional lemon juice needed.

Gather your ingredients. I didn’t have two lemons, so I substituted bottled lemon juice for the additional lemon juice needed.

 

First, I preheated my oven to 350 degrees F, then I put 2 cups of flour, 1/2 cup of sugar and 2 sticks of butter in a mixing bowl.

First, I preheated my oven to 350 degrees F, then I put 2 cups of flour, 1/2 cup of sugar and 2 sticks of butter in a mixing bowl.

 

Using a hand mixer, I mixed the ingredients together until the flour and sugar were incorporated into the butter.  The texture is a bit crumbly, but that's exactly how it should be.

Using a hand mixer, I mixed the ingredients together until the flour and sugar were incorporated into the butter. The texture is a bit crumbly, but that’s exactly how it should be.

 

I pressed the crust mixture into a 9x13 pan.  TIP: Rather than use a spoon, I put a little plastic wrap around my fingers and use my hands to press the dough into the pan.  I use the plastic wrap, so the dough doesn't stick to my hands.

I pressed the crust mixture into a 9×13 pan. TIP: Rather than use a spoon, I put a little plastic wrap around my fingers and use my hands to press the dough into the pan. I use the plastic wrap, so the dough doesn’t stick to my hands.

 

See?  You can see where I used my fingers to press it into the pan, but no matter.  The crust is fairly uniform and will bake evenly.

See? You can see where I used my fingers to press it into the pan, but no matter. The crust is fairly uniform and will bake evenly.  I popped it into my preheated 350 degree F oven for 20 minutes.  You may need more or less time depending on your oven.

 

While the crust was baking, I used my Microplane grater to zest my lemon.  I also juiced it and measured out the additional lemon juice needed from my bottled lemon juice.

While the crust was baking, I used my Microplane grater to zest my lemon. I also juiced it and measured out the additional lemon juice needed from my bottled lemon juice.

 

Next, using a whisk, I mixed together 1 1/2 cups of sugar and 1/4 cup of flour.

Next, using a whisk, I mixed together 1 1/2 cups of sugar and 1/4 cup of flour.

 

Then I added the eggs, lemon juice, and lemon zest and, using the whisk, I mixed until everything was well incorporated...

Then I added the eggs, lemon juice, and lemon zest and, using the whisk, I mixed until everything was well incorporated…

 

Like this.

Like this.

 

Soon after I mixed the filling, the crust was done baking.  See how it's brown around the edges and golden brown in the center?  It's perfect!

Soon after I mixed the filling, the crust was done baking. See how it’s brown around the edges and golden brown in the center? It’s perfect!

 

I gave the filling mix one good stir with the whisk, then gently poured the filling over the hot crust.  I put it back into the oven for 20 minutes.

I gave the filling mix one good stir with the whisk, then gently poured the filling over the hot crust. I put it back into the oven for 20 minutes.

 

I rotated it once during baking, because my oven has some hot spots.

I rotated it once during baking, because my oven has some hot spots.

 

I sprinkled on some powdered sugar.

I sprinkled on some powdered sugar.

 

Then I cut them into 1 1/2 inch squares.  They sure are yummy!  Sweet and tart all in one little bite.  YUM!

Then I cut them into 1 1/2 inch squares. They sure are yummy! Sweet and tart all in one little bite. YUM!

 

Who knew 5 ingredients could taste so good? Much better than the boxed kind!

What’s your favorite simple recipe?