Alicia Ross
Universal Uclick

I love a good lemon bar — the perfect balance of a sweet egg custard with a powerful punch of lemon atop a light cookie crust.

Anything less is disappointing. I have tried dozens of recipes, some with light, cakelike custard all the way through, others with an almost-jamlike texture that is so sticky-sweet I can hardly swallow it.

I believe I have perfected the best of them all in today’s recipe for Super Lemon Bars. There’s lots of fresh lemon juice combined with just a bit of sugar (half of what most recipes call for), so you get a lemon flavor that won’t make you pucker and wince.

Besides the flavor and texture problems, serving lemon bars has always been a pain. I’ve often had to sacrifice the first few bars until I’d made enough room in the pan to get my spatula in the right position. But with a wonderful technique I learned from Emeril Lagasse, I simply lift the bars from the pan on a “hammock” of parchment paper, which makes cutting and serving them so much easier.

I hope you enjoy these easy-to-follow Super Lemon Bars.

Super Lemon Bars

For the crust:

1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature

¼ cup powdered sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

Pinch of salt

For the filling:

4 large eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

½ cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed

1 tbsp. grated lemon zest

½ cup flour

Powdered sugar for dusting

To prepare the pan, lightly butter the bottom of an 8-by-8-by-2-inch square baking pan. Line the pan with a sheet of parchment paper that rises only on two sides. Butter the top of this sheet and then line crosswise with another sheet of paper that rises on the pan’s opposite sides. Trim any extra paper so it’s even with the top of the pan to prevent a fire hazard. These sheets will form “a hammock” to lift the entire dessert out of the pan after cooling.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. For the crust, cream the butter and sugar using the paddle attachment of an electric mixer (see note). With the mixer on low, add the flour and salt and combine until the batter is just mixed. Using floured hands, shape the dough into a ball and press it into the bottom of the prepared pan. Flatten to the edges.

Place in the freezer 10 minutes, then bake 20 minutes or until light golden. Remove from the oven, leaving oven on.

While the crust is baking, use the whisk attachment for the mixer and whisk the eggs and granulated sugar 2 minutes on high speed until light yellow and fluffy. Reduce speed to medium-low and add the lemon juice, zest and flour and mix well. Pour the filling over the warm crust and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the center is set and only slightly jiggles. Remove to a warm rack and cool to room temperature.

Grab the paper at the edges of the baking pan and gently remove the bars. The entire dessert should easily come away from the pan.

Transfer to a cutting board and, using a clean knife, cut into squares, wiping knife after each cut. Place a small amount of confectioners’ sugar into a small sieve and sprinkle the bars with the sugar. Serve immediately, or wrap bars with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 2 days until ready to serve.

Makes about 16 bars.

Note: A mixer with a paddle and whisk attachment provides the best results, but a standard mixer will also work.

Each of 16 bars contains about: 169 calories, 7 grams fat (4 grams saturated), 62 milligrams cholesterol, 3 grams protein, 24 grams carbohydrates, trace dietary fiber, 68 milligrams sodium.

Alicia Ross is the co-author of three cookbooks. Contact her c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106, email tellus@kitchenscoop.com, or visit http://kitchenscoop.com.