Insanely Awesome Lemon Squares

I recently learned that people love lemons. I mean really LOVE lemons. Who knew? It all started when I made my Lemon-Chocolate Chip Crinkle Cookies. People started raving about their favorite lemon cake, lemon muffins, lemon meringue pie, etc., etc. 

And guess what everyone seems to agree on? Lemon squares rock! There are plenty of lemon square/bar recipes out there, but I wanted to create bars that EVERYONE would agree are THE BEST. Bars that balance the tangy sweetness of lemon curd with a rich shortbread crust. I tweaked here and there, and came up with this incredible recipe. For the crust, I used both granulated sugar and powdered sugar for the perfect balance of sweetness and texture (most recipes use one or the other). I also added lemon zest to the crust for extra zing. For the filling, I skipped the tricky process of creating actual lemon curd, which requires standing over the stoves whisking until the mixture is perfect, and stopping right away so you don't ruin it. That's too risky for all of us, right? Instead, I let my mixer do the work of getting the eggs frothy, which helps prevent lengthy cooking times and runny bars. It also cuts out 1/2 cup of butter from the curd. Not that these are diet bars by any means...

Once those two layers met, magic happened. Pure bliss on the palate. That said, I hope you try my version - I think you'll be happy. 

Insanely Awesome Lemon Squares

For the crust: 
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons powdered sugar, plus more for sifting over top
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut up
For the lemon filling: 
4-5 lemons (you need 2/3 cup lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest)
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs 
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with two pieces of parchment paper, allowing the paper to hang over the sides (this will help remove the bars from the pan). 
To make the crust, in a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, powdered sugar, lemon zest, and salt. Pulse until blended. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Press the mixture into the prepared pan. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the crust is pale golden all over. 
While the shortbread crust is baking, prepare the filling. In a mixing bowl fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the 2/3 cup lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, sugar, and eggs. Beat on medium-high speed for 6 to 8 minutes, until frothy. Sift the flour and baking powder together and add to the egg mixture. Whisk until just blended. Pour the mixture over the shortbread crust. 
Bake for 20 to 25 more minutes, until the topping is just set (filling won't be jiggly when you gently shake the pan). 
Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until completely chilled before sifting powdered sugar over top. 
Cut into squares and serve. 

Makes 16 squares


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