My Grandma B. loved all things lemon. And every year, her birthday usually coincided with the big family reunion in October. I can remember my mom cooking all day and night on the Friday before... and one of the things she always made was specifically for my Grandma: a lemon bundt cake with a lemon glaze. The cake was from a box mix, but damn was it good. Moist and sweet and lemony, it was the only time I really ever had anything lemon-y like that and I loved it.
My Grandma B passed away when I was a senior in high school. Before she passed, she was living with us for a couple of years... and in my selfish, teenage angst I think I subconsciously resented her for taking away attention from me (I know, it sounds terrible... but when you're a teenager you think that the world completely revolves around you) and I'm sad that I never really got to know her as a person... I really only knew her as my grandma with the uncomfortable couches, chickens that pooped everywhere, and constantly churning milk in the kitchen. I think as adults, she and I would have gotten along really well.
She was a very strong, independent woman... she wasn't necessarily sweet and demure like you think of most grandmothers, she was fiery and passionate and you always knew where you stood with her. As a child... I didn't appreciate those qualities... but as a woman of 28, I understand her a little more and I definitely feel like I've acquired a lot of the same qualities.
Her birthday is today... and while I didn't make a lemon cake, I did make these lemon bars a few weeks ago in her honor. They are absolutely delicious and definitely the best lemon bars I've ever had. It's funny how her favorite dessert is representative of her personality... sassy and tangy at the onset... but sweet and smooth for the finish. If you're looking for your go to lemon bar recipe, look no further... Anna at Cookie Madness found them.
It looks like the original source of this recipe was a Cooks Illustrated recipe. But, Anna at Cookie Madness made some changes, click the link above to see her post and recipe (and to check out her blog, cause it's awesome).
This recipe is everything that a lemon bar recipe should be: the filling is lemony and creamy and oh so smooth and rich and the crust is buttery and crunchy with a hint of saltiness that compliments the sweet tanginess of the filling.
A word on the crust: it will look like it's just flour pressed into the pan... but fear not... as it blind bakes in the oven the butter will melt and meld the crust together. I also poured the filling over the hot (not just warm) crust and it turned it out perfect (it did sizzle when it hit the pan though).
This makes an 8 inch square pan.
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (114 grams)
1/3 cup powdered sugar — plus extra for garnishing
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3/8 teaspoon salt (just use ¼ tsp plus an extra pinch)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 large eggs
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon lemon zest (the zest of 1.5 lemons)
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (I found this to be 2 lemons)
3 tablespoons half & half (I used heavy cream, cause thats what I had)
1/8 teaspoon salt
Don’t preheat oven quite yet. Line an 8 inch square metal pan with foil. Spray the foil with cooking spray.
Pulse flour, powdered sugar, cornstarch, and salt in food processor. Add butter and process to blend, 8 to 10 seconds, then pulse until coarse. (I used a pastry cutter to cut the butter in)
Pour what will seem like a very *dry* mixture into lined pan and press over pan bottom.
Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
While it chills, you can make the filling.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. When oven is preheated and after the crust has chilled for 30 minutes, bake the pre-chilled crust for 18-20 minutes or until edges are very lightly browned.
Lightly beat the eggs, sugar, and flour together in a bowl. I used a fork. Add lemon juice, lemon zest, half and half, and salt and mix well.
Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees (oops! I forgot to reduce the temp, I cooked mine at 350 and had no problems). Stir filling again, then pour filling over **warm** crust. Bake for 20 minutes or until filling no longer appears wet and shaky.
Set on a wire rack and cool to room temperature. Lift from pan, place on cutting board, dust with extra powdered sugar and cut into bars.
Cut into a dozen squares.