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Old-Fashioned Lemon Squares

There are certain baked goods that elicit a fierce loyalty amongst their fans.  They bring out strong feelings about the way they should rightfully be prepared (often related to the childhood of said person, and their relationship to the person who used to bake the item for them), and they bring out perceptible shock and confusion when faced with any person who does not share their opinions and deep-seated affection for said item.

Lemon Squares topped with powdered sugar.

Lemon Bars

Lemon tarts, or lemon bars as they are also known, are such a baked good.  People who love them, love them. I once spent a very long time making my grandfather a chocolate cake from a particularly famous recipe, and after he finished his slice he said to me, “You know what I like?”  “What?” I said (expecting a compliment on the rich filling, the moist cake, something like that).  “Lemon,” he said wistfully.

Really.

Sliced Lemon Squares on parchment paper.

Lemon Squares: With the perfect balance of sweetness and tartness, these go out to all the lemon bar lovers out there.

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Sweet Tart Lemon Squares

The filling in these squares, or bars, is a bit tart (I don’t see the point of too-sweet lemon squares), but not confrontational.  Adding a couple of tablespoons of heavy cream offers a creamier, silkier texture to the filling, and a smoother citrus experience.

Sometimes lemon zest is added to the filling, and while I love the extra burst of citrus, I’m more in love with a super smooth filling, so I skip it, but you can add a teaspoon or so of zest if you like.

Woman grabbing a Lemon Square from parchment paper.

Lemon squares are done when the outer edges start to turn golden, and the middle is set, not loose or jiggly.

How to Serve Lemon Bars

Lemon squares or bars are traditionally served with a generous dusting of confectioners’ sugar. If you want to gild the lily, serve these with some sweetened whipped cream on the side.  

Woman sprinkling powdered sugar onto Lemon Squares.

To get very clean edges on your lemon squares, either spray a sharp knife with nonstick cooking spray, or dip it into a cup of warm water, and wipe it dry between each cut. This will prevent the lemon bars from sticking. I forgot to do this, so my lemon squares aren’t quite as neat and tidy as they could be – but still completely delicious!

Storage

Lemon squares should be stored in the refrigerator. Because of the egg-based custard, they can go bad if stored at room temperature. Stor the squares in a tightly covered container with a piece of wax or parchment paper in between each layer of squares.  Don’t dust them with confectioners’ sugar until just before serving. If you are storing leftover squares, you’ll want to keep them an additional dusting of confectioners’ sugar before serving them.

Woman holding a Lemon Square.

You can also freeze lemon squares. To freeze the whole batch, wait until they have completely cooled, then place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface. Wrap the entire block or individual squares with aluminum foil of plastic wrap and freeze for up to 4 months.

More Lemon Desserts:

Woman holding two Lemon Squares.

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Lemon Squares

5 from 2 votes
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 45 minutes
Cooling Time: 2 hours
Total: 3 hours 5 minutes
Servings: 20 Squares
With the perfect balance of sweetness and tartness, these go out to all the lemon bar lovers out there.

Ingredients 

For the Crust

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 ¾ sticks) cold unsalted butter cut into small pieces

For the Filling

  • 5 large eggs
  • 2 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Instructions 

  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 9 x 13-inch pan, or spray with nonstick cooking spray, and line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper cut so that it fits cleanly on the bottom of the pan, but hangs over the two long sides (you will use this to lift out the squares once they are baked and cooled).
  • In a food processor combine the flour, confectioners’ sugar, and salt. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse corneal (alternately you can cut in the butter into the flour mixture in a bowl using two knives, a pastry cutter, or your fingers). Transfer the mixture into the pan, and press the mixture evenly into the bottom. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes until golden and a bit firm to the touch.
  • Meanwhile, in a medium bowl combine the eggs and granulated sugar, and whisk or beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Beat in the lemon juice and cream, and then beat in the flour, until very smooth. When the crust is golden and set pour in the filling, return the pan to the oven and bake for 25 to 35 minutes., until it doesn’t jiggle at all when you gently shake the pan. Let cool completely on a wire rack to room temperature.
  • Place the ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar into a small sieve and dust it over the lemon bars just before serving. Run a knife around the edge of the pan, and cut the bars into 20 squares. Remove the bars with a spatula, or carefully use the overhanging edges of the parchment to smoothly lift out the lemon bars.

Notes

The filling in these squares, or bars, is a bit tart (I don’t see the point of too-sweet lemon squares), but not confrontational.  Adding a couple of tablespoons of heavy cream offers a creamier, silkier texture to the filling, and a smoother citrus experience.
Sometimes lemon zest is added to the filling, and while I love the extra burst of citrus, I’m more in love with a super smooth filling, so I skip it, but you can add a teaspoon or so of zest if you like.

Nutrition

Calories: 257kcal, Carbohydrates: 43g, Protein: 3g, Fat: 9g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 2g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 61mg, Sodium: 76mg, Potassium: 47mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 32g, Vitamin A: 295IU, Vitamin C: 5mg, Calcium: 12mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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