Meyer Lemon Bars

DSC_0661Lemon bars hold a special place in my heart because it was with a batch of lemon bars that I won the 1988 Fourth of July Parade Baking Contest in my hometown of Orinda, CA.  I was nine years old. There I stood onstage next to the second- and third-place winners, women three and four times my age.  It was a moment of glory!

I wish I still had that winning recipe.  It was from a recipe book compiled by the PTA moms at my elementary school and sold as a fund-raising tool, not the kind of thing you could easily find reprinted for sale on Amazon.com these days.  If any of my classmates from Sleepy Hollow Elementary (or their mothers) out there still has a copy stashed away somewhere, I will pay top dollar for it.

Meyer lemons are in season right now, and in my neighborhood they are hanging off their branches in heavy clusters.  One family down the street puts a fresh crop out in a straw basket on the sidewalk every Saturday, free for the taking.  The lemons I used in this recipe were picked just days ago, and their freshness adds a magical zing to these bars.  Meyer lemons have a thinner skin than those year-round varieties you find in the grocery store, which is why you can chop one up—skin and all—and throw it into the curd in this recipe.

Pansies are blooming now, too, and this pretty pink one is from the flower pot outside my front door.  Pansies and their cousins, violas, make lovely garnishes, as long as they haven’t been sprayed with a pesticide or other chemicals.  Grow your own to be sure.

Make the Crust

Butter, for coating the pan
3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
Zest of 1 Meyer lemon
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks

Make the Filling

1 whole Meyer lemon
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
Juice from 3 Meyer lemons (you should get about 1/2 cup juice)
Powdered sugar for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Coat the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch baking dish with a thin film of cold butter. In a food processor, pulse flour, powdered sugar, salt and zest until combined. Add the butter and pulse until mixture resembles sandy crumbs. (If you don’t have a food processor, mix flour through zest in a medium bowl with a whisk, then cut in butter with a pastry cutter or two knives.) The dough should resemble course meal. Transfer to a baking dish and press into an even layer with your fingertips, or use the bottom of a greased jar or ramekin. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes, or until lightly golden around the edges.

Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees.

To make the filling, clean the food processor bowl and return it to the base. Trim off ends and cut the whole Meyer lemon into small chunks, removing the seeds. Add to the processor and pulse until roughly chopped. Set aside.

Whisk together the sugar, flour and salt. In a separate bowl, lightly beat the eggs, then whisk in the lemon juice. Whisk the egg mixture into the sugar mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in the chopped whole lemon. Pour the  filling over the hot crust and return to the oven.

Bake 28 to 30 minutes, or until center is set but still gooey when poked with a toothpick. Cool completely. Sift powdered sugar (if using) over the dish. Cut into 12 or 16 bars and serve.

Store covered, at room temperature, for up to 48 hours.

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17 Responses to Meyer Lemon Bars

  1. Tran says:

    Hi I was wondering if Meyer Lemon Bars as a dessert is paired well any beverage in particular. This looks fabulous!

    • Miri says:

      Great question, Tran! I think something light and fruity, but not lemon-flavored because that would be too lemony. Maybe strawberry-infused soda water. Just slice strawberries and float them in the water for about ten minutes before serving. The flavor is mild but distinct.

  2. elisebc says:

    A perfectly beautiful dessert (pansy included)–and so simple!

  3. Brier says:

    Looks yummy! I don’t think my lemons are Meyers but I am going to try it anyway.

  4. Herodia says:

    I can’t believe I never linked the big supply of meyer lemons in our yard and my husband’s love of lemon bars! What a great idea. Thanks for the inspiration with these amazing pictures!

  5. Shannon says:

    Thanks for this delicious recipe! I LOVE lemon bars, and these are among the best I’ve had.

  6. AS says:

    I am so tired of lemon bars and never loved pansies but you’ve sold me on both! I’ve been making an endless supply of lemon bars for family friends for years and am tired of our recipe. Will have to try this recipe and regain my love for lemon bars again!

  7. jjj says:

    love the strawberry-infused soda idea for this dessert!

  8. JESorenson says:

    My husband loves lemon bars (and we get free Meyers from his family), but I have never felt so compelled to bake them! How scrumptious they look – off I go to the kitchen. Let’s hope I get them right!

  9. Jennifer C. says:

    YUM is all I can say! I’m going to try this recipe out this weekend.

  10. AS says:

    Finally got to try out the recipe and it was definitely greeted with joy and then consumed immediately! Esp loved the crust so I am tempted to do a double recipe on the crust next time for some extra loveliness =)

    Wonder if I could throw some meringue on top and do a handheld version of lemon meringue pie….

    • Miri says:

      That’s a brilliant idea! Go for it and lemme know how it turns out. I will add that tip to the recipe if it goes well.

  11. Herodia says:

    Finally made these with Sophia’s help tonight! So much fun and so delicious!

  12. Herodia says:

    I made these again for a dinner party last night – so quick and yummy! And I kid you not, one of my guests asked if I was going to start making these commercially! :)

  13. Weez says:

    The ground is covered with snow here. I wish I could grow lemons!

  14. Lois Treiser says:

    I’d like to be able to click on a link to download the recipe…

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