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A bad lemon bar is so easy to make. Do you too have memories of catering trays featuring a parade of rubbery, gluggy, insipid lemon bars? Ever find yourself at a party with a boring lemon bar in your hand, wishing you could quietly put the thing down somewhere and move on to a happier sweet?

A good lemon bar is a find. Tart, soft filling over a buttery crust, these bars are happiness at the end of a big buffet or at a bake sale. The latter is where I used to hawk mine. I wish I remembered what we charged at school bake-sales for cookies or lemon bars or pies. It was pennies on the pound of sugar, I have no doubt. There was lots of “stashing” of favored items, under coats and tablecloths, and a brisk side-market in chess pies and the best brownies.

These lemon bars are tarter and less greasy than the ones I made back then; I updated my own recipe. If you’re not familiar with lemon bars, heads up: There are two parts to this adventure. First you bake the crust, then you add the filling and bake again. Buttering the pan is important. That’s how you get the great crunchy-chewy layer on the outside of the crust.

This recipe fills one square 8-inch pan, half of what many other lemon-bar recipes make. I like baking the smaller amount; this is a rich treat, and worth savoring in smaller bites. For a fancier look cut the cooked and cooled bars into fingers rather than squares by cutting them in thirds across one way, and into sixths the other. They’ll crumble a bit. Which is not a bad thing if you’re the one taking them out of the pan.

Lemony Lemon Bars, Baking Family copyright 2010 Garside Group LLC

Lemony Lemon Bars

Makes 16 squares or 18 fingers

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons confectioners sugar
  • 7 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • Grated peel and juice of one lemon (about 2 tablespoons peel, 3 tablespoons lemon juice)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter an 8-by-8 inch baking pan.

In a medium bowl, mix 1 cup of flour, 1/4 cup of confectioners sugar and melted butter. Press mixture into baking dish, using a wooden spoon or a fork to coax mixture into corners. Flatten with the back of a spoon or fork; using a fork, poke several holes in the dough. Bake 20 minutes; remove from oven and cool for 5 to 10 minutes.

While crust is baking, mix together granulated sugar, baking powder, eggs, lemon juice, lemon rind and 2 tablespoons of flour. Pour mixture over slightly cooled crust; put pan back into the oven for 25 minutes. The edges of the bars will have started to brown.

Remove pan from oven and loosen the bars around the edge with a spatula or knife. Cool in the pan. Slice bars once they are cool; sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar.

Photo and recipe copyright Garside Group LLC

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