Sunshine in a Pan

Cookie of the Week: Installment 2

According to my sources, it is American Chocolate Week. That’s joyful news, yes, but, well, it’s always Chocolate Week around here, so I have decided to go in a different direction. A brighter, sunshine-y direction. A Mom’s Lemon Bars direction.

That’s not to say you won’t find me celebrating the wonders of chocolate this week (or anytime, for that matter). And if you’re reading this and disappointed that I am not highlighting chocolate in all of its decadent glory on this particular day, in this particular post, get thee to the index’s “chocolate” link at left (or click here) and find your pleasure among the recipes for Triple Chocolate Babycakes, Chewy Chocolate Chunk Cookies or, if you have some time on your hands, Mile-High Chocolate Cream Pie.

But for me, today, it’s about lemons. The weather has been dreary in Vermont this week (more snow, sleet and other anti-spring conditions), and I need a bar cookie with a burst of citrus to get me out of my funk. It also helps that the base of this cookie resembles shortbread, thanks to two sticks of butter.

I bake the bars only about once a year, but there is no good reason for this. They’re delicious, easy to make, and remind me of my mother — who gave me the recipe and also (inexplicably) made them only once a year.

Mom’s Lemon Bars
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter (2 sticks)

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
juice of 3-4 lemons, about 1/2 cup (3 worked for me — this time)
2 teaspoons lemon zest (optional)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

confectioners’ sugar to dust the top

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×13-inch pan.

Beat butter, 2 cups flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt in large bowl until crumbly. Press this bumpy mixture into prepared pan as evenly as you can to form the base for the bars.

Buttery base is ready for its first go in the oven.

Bake base in preheated oven for about 20 minutes, until golden brown around the edges.

During those 20 minutes, make the filling: Whisk eggs with granulated sugar, fresh lemon juice, zest (if using), baking powder and remaining 2 tablespoons flour. Whisk until thoroughly combined.

Lemons await juicing.

When the base is ready, pour filling over top and return to the oven, baking another 15-20 minutes.

Dust with confectioners’ sugar and leave bars to cool completely on wire rack.

Cut into squares and enjoy the taste of sunshine (now, you’ll want to use a knife with some heft to it to press down through the base; these aren’t tricky to cut, but it’s easy to make the mistake of not slicing all the way through the layers; also, lift them out with a metal spatula). I like to store these in the fridge, but it’s not necessary.

Bright, tart lemon filling loves a dense, buttery cookie crust.