Ultimate Lemon Bars
These luscious lemon bars are the ultimate because the lemon curd is cooked separately from the shortbread base, then baked together for the last few minutes. This provides a light, crisp base and a firm, rich topping that you won’t get by baking it all together. True, it does take a little more effort and you will have a few more dishes to wash, but in my book, the results are worth the effort.
Preheat oven to 325°F [165°C]. Place oven rack in middle of oven.
Equipment: 8” X 8” [20 cm x 20 cm] or 7" x 11" [18 cm x 28 cm] baking pan , preferably metal.
Food processor method:
Cut butter into one inch cubes and refrigerate. With metal blade, process sugars for 1 min. or so, until very fine. Add butter and pulse until sugar disappears. Add flour and pulse until there are a lot of little moist crumbly pieces and no dry flour particles. Dump mixture into a plastic bag and press it together. Remove from plastic bag and knead dough lightly until it holds together.
Electric mixer or hand method:
Whisk together sugars. Cream butter with sugars until light and fluffy. With your fingers or electric mixer, mix in flour until incorporated.
Pat dough into prepared pan. Use a fork to prick dough all over.
While shortbread is baking, prepare lemon curd topping.
Lemon Curd Topping:
Have a strainer, suspended over a bowl, ready near the range.
When the curd has thickened, pour it at once into the strainer. Press with back of spoon until only the coarse residue remains. Discard residue and stir in lemon zest.
When the shortbread is baked, remove it from oven, lower oven temperature to 300° F
Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Refrigerate in pan for 30 minutes to set lemon curd completely. Place powdered sugar in a strainer and tap to sprinkle over top.
Run a small metal spatula between the sides of the pan without the foil. Use foil to lift onto cutting surface. Use a long, sharp knife to cut into bars. The powdered sugar will start to be absorbed into the lemon curd after several hours, but it can be reapplied before serving.
Store in an airtight container at room temperature, or in the refrigerator or freezer.
Keeps 3 days at room temperature, 3 weeks refrigerated, or 3 months frozen.
Makes 1½ dozen bars, each 20” by 10 “ [7 cm x 3.5 cm].
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