Friday, June 01, 2007

The Perfect Lemon Bars

Today I decided to make lemon bars. I love lemon bars, Theric loves lemon bars, doesn't everyone love lemon bars? However, these bars were not going to be just for us, they were going to be a small token of appreciation to our dear neighbors who will soon be moving away to Boston with their sweet three-year-old son (one of the Big O's favorite playmates) and their brand new baby boy.

The point is that these were going to be a gift, so they had to be good. They had to be perfect.

Unfortunately I do not currently posses the recipe that produces PERFECT lemon bars. I have recipes that produce OK, mediocre and gross lemon bars. But yesterday I found a recipe titled 'Perfect Lemon Bars' in a preview copy of Cook's Illustrated Magazine I had lying around.

The article regarded their experiments in creating the 'perfect' lemon bars:

"I set out to develop a recipe for a lemon bar with a tender, melt-in-your-mouth crust that has a good balance of sweetness and richness. The lemon topping I was looking for needed to have a true, vibrant lemon taste, a light texture, and good mouthfeel. I also wanted to find just the right balance between filling and crust in terms of both texture and flavor. In addition, I wanted a good, clean cut when serving, without the crust crumbling or the topping falling over. Last but not least, since lemon bars are a casual treat to make without a lot of fuss, I wanted a recipe that was simple and straightforward."

My needs are similar:

Tart lemon flavor, but no too tart, tender crust with a nice crumble to it, not soggy, and a little sweet, like a shortbread cookie. The proportion of lemon filling to crust must be correct, meaning more filling than crust. And the filling must hold it's own--it can't ooze everywhere a few minutes after you cut the bars--it must hold it's shape yet not be gummy or hard or gross.

I think I have maybe tasted two or three lemon bars in my lifetime that have met all these criteria. One was from a bakery in Tehachapi, another at a church potluck.

The magazine's experimentation with the recipe seemed thorough and the resulting recipe didn't look overly difficult or intimidating; very do-able. So I gathered my supplies, picked some Meyer lemons from my lemon tree, and the Big O and I went to work making lemon bars.

Overall the recipe was simple, and had I not been making them with a three-year-old it is possible it wouldn't have taken me four hours to complete them. But it did. Four hours is a rather large investment of time and one expects (and hopes) that such an investment will yield excellent, or even just good results.

But I guess I my expectations are too high.

The resulting lemon bars are edible but certainly do not meet all my requirements. In noway are they 'perfect'. I am VERY disappointed with them. They are certainly not good enough to give as a gift. Fortunately the Big O likes them, so someone will enjoy them, because it won't be the neighbors.

I think the neighbors will be getting some fresh chocolate chip cookies instead.

So my dear readers, the question I pose to you is, do you have the 'Perfect' lemon bar recipe?

If so, will you please share it with me?


Blogger Silly Marie said...

mmm...lemon bars. I will do my best to make enough recipes to find the perfect one.

did you use fresh lemon juice?

Saturday, June 02, 2007 6:09:00 PM  
Blogger 'sposita said...

I think you've tried our favorite lemon bar recipe. Since you didn't ask for it, I'm assuming it wasn't up to standards. If so, I can't help! =)

I hate it when I make something taste wonderful most of the time and the one time I'm specifically making it for someone else it turns out all wrong.

(And by the way, when you say something tastes not perfect, I know that's code for: something a little short of DIVINE. Most mere mortals would be very happy with it.)

Saturday, June 02, 2007 8:10:00 PM  
Blogger Lady Steed said...

silly: yes, I use fresh lemon juice and zest. I have a lemon tree, remember.

'sposita: I do enjoy your lemon bars, they are very tasty, though they do not quite meet all of my requirements. Actually, it would be good to have your recipe so that I can compare it to the one I used and see what the differences are.

Sunday, June 03, 2007 9:02:00 AM  
Blogger kirsa said...

You got me craving lemon bars. I looked through all my cookbooks yesterday and only found three recipes for lemon bars at all (one of which is crustless). I will have to try making them. Somehow I doubt any of them will end up being the "perfect" lemon bars. My only suggestion would be to take the parts of the recipes you've got that you like the best, and combine them. Take a really good crust and combine it with a good topping (and if it's not lemony enough, just add some more juice).

If you do ever find the perfect lemon bar recipe, please share it!

Sunday, June 03, 2007 11:45:00 AM  
Blogger acte gratuit said...

I use a recipe from the cookbook "Where's Mom When I Need Her". The recipe is called "Lemon Drifts" and I think it's perfect. Everyone who eats them always wants the recipe and it's pretty darn easy. If you really want it, let me know and I'll get off my lazy butt and get it for you. I like having all my favorite recipes on the computer anyway, so it'll be a good excuse to type it up. My e-mail is

P.S. I found your blog through Sarah of Hollywood Flakes. This is my first visit.

P.P.S. Now I want lemon bars too!

Sunday, June 03, 2007 6:26:00 PM  
Blogger Lady Steed said...

kirsa:I think I may just have to start Frankenstein-ing recipes. Of course, one time I found a great recipe form a Martha Stewart magazine, but the filling proportion was weak. So I doubled the filling, which made the crust soggy. It was very sad. I am beginning to think that maybe the perfect lemon bar is really just excellent Shortbread cookies with Lemon curd spread on them.

acte: Welcome to my blog! Hope you enjoy it here. Yes, I would love to try your lemon bar recipe!

Sunday, June 03, 2007 10:00:00 PM  
Blogger Queen Zippergut said...

The ones in the picture look delicious. Make those.

Monday, June 04, 2007 3:06:00 PM  
Blogger Cinderella said...

I think I'm weird. Lemony pastries and pastries involving baked apple are just not for me. Thus, I do not have a lemon bar recipe to share. Best of luck, though.

And I do enjoy your blog. :)

Wednesday, June 06, 2007 5:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Th. said...


Interesting: I was just looking at your stats, and you're #1 on Google for JCPENNY PORTRIAT STUDIO, #4 for "all fat belongs", and #5 for lemon bar recipe from the bakery.

How about that?

Thursday, June 21, 2007 4:54:00 PM  

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