Very Tangy Lemon Bars
Source: Alice Medrich, author of Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-In-your Mouth Cookies (Artisan, 2010)
Recipe demonstrated on February 22, 2010.
Makes 16 large bars or 25 smaller bars
7 tablespoons (3 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (4.5 ounces) all-purpose flour or whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (7 7/8 ounces) sugar
3 tablespoons (7/8 ounce) all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
11/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon (see note) zest, preferably from organic or unsprayed fruit
1/2 cup strained fresh lemon juice (see note), preferably from organic or
Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)
Note: Meyer lemons are less tart and more floral than most other lemons. If you want to use them, reduce the sugar in the topping to 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons.
Equipment: An 8-inch square metal baking pan
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with foil. To make the crust: in a medium bowl, combine the melted butter with the sugar, vanilla, and salt. Add the flour and mix just until incorporated. Press the dough evenly over the bottom of the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the crust is fully baked, well browned at the edges, and golden brown in the center.
To make the topping: stir together the sugar and flour in a large bowl until well mixed. Whisk in the eggs. Stir in the lemon zest and juice.
When the crust is ready, turn the oven down to 300°F. Slide the rack with the pan out, and pour the filling onto the hot crust. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes longer, or until the topping barely jiggles in the center when the pan is tapped. Set on a rack to cool completely in the pan.
Lift up the foil liner and transfer the bars to a cutting board. If the surface is covered with a thin layer of moist foam (not unusual), you can blot it gently to reveal the zest. Lay a square of paper towel on the surface and sweep your fingers over it gently to absorb excess moisture. Remove the paper and repeat with a fresh piece if necessary. Use a long sharp knife to cut into sixteen 2-inch or 25 daintier bars. Sift powdered sugar over the bars just before serving, if desired. The bars can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for several days or more. After 3 days, the crust softens but the bars still taste quite good for up to a week.