Lemon bars are the perfect springtime or summertime dessert. They are a nice combination of tart and sweet, and their lightness is a welcome change from rich chocolate desserts this time of year.
This is the recipe my mom always made. She got it from a cookbook she had called Eet Smakelijk. It's a cookbook that was published by the Junior Welfare League of Holland, Michigan. My mom worked for GE in Des Moines back in the day and she had some customers in Holland. One year during the Tulip Festival, the customers bought a bunch of these cookbooks and sent them to the ladies in my mom's office as gifts. The title, Eet Smakelijk, means bon appetit in Dutch. We never had a clue how to pronounce it, and because the fancy script on the book made the capital E look like a G, we always called it "Get Smacking!"
I was surprised to hear the history behind this book the other day, as I now live within an hour's drive of Holland, Michigan, and have been to the tulip festival myself. (In fact, my husband reminded me that we saw this book in a bookstore window display when we were there two years ago.)
I never really liked lemon flavored foods as I was growing up, except for these lemon bars. They have a shortbread crust with a tasty lemon filling.
2¼ cups flour, divided
½ cup powdered sugar, plus more for topping
1 cup butter, softened
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups sugar
6 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp baking powder
Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9x13” baking dish and set aside.
Combine 2 cups flour and powdered sugar together, then cut in butter until well blended. Press firmly into bottom of baking dish. Bake 20 minutes. Let cool.
Combine eggs, sugar, salt, lemon juice, baking powder, and remaining ¼ cup flour. Pour over crust and return to oven for 25 minutes. It’s done when the edges begin to turn brown.
Cool, sprinkle with powdered sugar, and cut into squares.
Makes about 20 bars.
I only changed two things about this recipe. The original that Mom sent to me called for margarine instead of butter. I never buy margarine, so I tried it using butter and it worked just fine. The only other thing I changed was that the lemon filling was supposed to be poured into the crust right after you pull it out of the oven. I made them this way yesterday and had
problems with it. The pan was so hot that the filling started cooking the second it hit the edges of the pan. That meant that by the time the center was set, the edges were overdone. They weren't burnt, but they were much darker brown than I would have preferred. If you're one of those people who likes the chewy edges of the brownies, you might like it that way, but I am a no-crust brownie person and always go for the inside piece. So in the future, I am going to let the pan cool after baking the crust before adding the filling.
The crumbly shortbread crust.
Pressed into the pan.
The finished product. See what I mean about the edges? They are a little too brown. When Jim came home and saw this on the counter, he thought I had made cornbread!
This is how I cut them to get 20 bars. You may get more or less depending on how you cut them.