Pucker up with these delightfully zesty lemon bars

The key to a good lemon bar, in my book, is that the filling must be intensely lemony.

SHARE Pucker up with these delightfully zesty lemon bars
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It’s easy to be greedy with citrus when summer fruits are a mere warm weather promise. Early spring is high season for lemons, and these bars will bring a warming ray of sunshine to your plate.

The key to a good lemon bar, in my book, is that the filling must be intensely lemony. It should pack a wallop of puckery tartness balanced by just enough sweetness without being cloying. For this task, rely on the Eureka lemon, the ubiquitous lemon readily found in our markets. They have the requisite tartness for these bars, which their sunny cousin, the Meyer lemon, lacks. No knocks to Meyers — they are delicious in their own right. However, they’re likened to a cross between a lemon and a tangerine and are noted for their sweetness and lack of tartness.

The infallible Eureka lemon will deliver the zingy, cheek-sucking filling you want for these bars. A thick curd, rippling with lemon zest, is spread over a simple, supportive shortbread crust. A smidge of sea salt is a final flourish, which deftly highlights the lemon while restraining the sugars from tipping into a sugary abyss.

Now if you’ll excuse me, all this writing has made me crave another bar.

Lemon Bars

Yield: Makes 16 (2-inch-square) bars

INGREDIENTS:

Crust:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened but still cool, cut into cubes

Filling:

  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Powdered sugar for sprinkling
  • Sea salt flakes, for sprinkling (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

1, Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch-square baking pan, then line the pan with parchment.

2. Combine the crust ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix until the dough is lumpy and just begins to stick together. Dump the dough into the prepared pan and evenly press the dough to cover the bottom of the pan.

3. Bake the crust until it just begins to turn golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven, but do not turn off the oven heat.

4. Whisk the filling ingredients together in a large bowl until blended. Pour the filling over the crust. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the filling is set but not coloring, about 25 minutes. Remove and cool completely on a rack.

5. Cut into bars. Dust with powdered sugar and lightly sprinkle with sea salt flakes.

Lynda Balslev is an award-winning writer, cookbook author and recipe developer, and authors the blog TasteFood, More recipes can be found at chicago.suntimes.com/taste.

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