Lemon Bars with Almond Shortbread Crust

I’m going to call this phase in my baking life Baking in the Time of Coronavirus, in homage to Colombian author and Nobel prize winner Gabriel García Márquez. Truth be told, I’ve never read Love in the Time of Cholera, but I did read (and very much enjoy) One Hundred Years of Solitude, a title that likely resonates with people around the world right now.

Although I’ve worked from home this past week, and imagine that I’ll do so for many days to come, Mike and his coworkers are on the front lines. These treats are for his friend and colleague Elizabeth, who enjoys lemon desserts. They’re adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction in two ways: first, I added almond extract to the shortbread crust, and second, I included the zest of two lemons in my filling. I hope she and the other folks at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System enjoy them, and continue to be grateful for all that they do.

Ingredients

For the crust

  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour

For the filling

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 6 tablespoons flour
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup lemon juice (from about 5 lemons)
  • Zest of 2 lemons

Preparation

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 glass baking dish with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine melted butter, sugar, salt, vanilla extract and almond extract, stirring to combine. Add flour and stir to completely combine; press into the baking dish and bake for 20-22 minutes, until the edges are just barely golden brown.

In another medium bowl, sift together sugar and flour, then add eggs, lemon juice, and lemon zest, whisking to combine completely. Pour over crust and bake for another 22-24 minutes, until the center is set. Remove from oven and cool in the pan for a few hours, then place in the fridge to chill further before cutting. Cut into 24 squares and store in the fridge; you can keep these bars at room temperature, but they’re best served cold.

Lemon Squares

I love lemons!  I love them in cooking, in baking, on tea towels, in my kitchen décor…I just love them, for their sunny yellow rinds and their fresh, tart flavor.  Lemon squares are, to me, a classic American dessert, a staple at bake sales and church picnics.  Every woman in American probably has a recipe for lemon squares somewhere in her arsenal.  I know I have several, and yet, until today, I’d never made them from scratch.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Zest of 1 small to medium-sized lemon
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • Powdered sugar for dusting

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, butter, and powdered sugar and mix on low speed until small, pea-sized crumbs form.

Press into bottom of an 8x8x2 baking dish.

Bake for 20 minutes; meanwhile, prepare filling.

Beat granulated sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, baking powder, salt, and eggs until pale yellow and somewhat fluffy (but not meringue-like fluffy), about 3-5 minutes.

Pour over hot crust and bake for 25 minutes, until no indentation remains when touched lightly in center.

Cool and dust with powdered sugar.