Has life (or your best friend’s parents) ever given you a bunch of lemons and you didn’t know what to do with them? Well, I’ve got the answer for you... you squeeze those bad boys and make the most delicious Meyer lemon bars.
With the sweet and perfectly tart Meyer lemon filling and a buttery almond shortbread crust, you will never be at a loss of what to do with a bunch of lemons again. I promise.
The difference between a Meyer Lemon and a regular lemon:
When comparing a Meyer lemon and a regular lemon (usually referring to a Eureka lemon) the main difference is flavor:
- Flavor: Meyer lemons are sweeter, less acidic, and have a distinct floral flavor. It is thought that the distinct flavor comes from them being a cross between a regular lemon and a mandarin orange.
- Appearance: they are smaller, rounder, and have thinner skin that is a deep yellow color.
- Season: Meyer lemons are seasonal and you'll likely only see them in stores between December and May.
- Flavor: Eureka lemons are moderately sweet and highly acidic with a tartness that will make your mouth pucker.
- Appearance: they are typically larger than a Meyer lemon with a skin that is thick and bright yellow.
- Season: you will almost always find them in the produce section throughout the year.
Many lemon bar recipes use Eureka lemons because they give the quintessential tart flavors we associate with lemon bars. However, this recipe was developed to highlight the sweeter and less acidic juice and floral zest of a Meyer lemon without compromising that tart lemon flavor.
Ingredients for Meyer lemon Bar Recipe:
With a slight spin on the classic lemon bar, these Meyer lemon bars are easy to make from scratch. All you will need is:
- All-Purpose Flour: used to introduce gluten into the almond shortbread crust and create more of a chew factor. It will also create structure within the lemon filling.
- Almond Flour: creates a tender, flakey crust with a nutty flavor that complements the tart and sweetness of the lemon filling
- Sugar: used to create structure and sweetness within the lemon filling, as well as tenderize the almond shortbread crust and give it a subtle sweetness.
- Butter: You can’t have a shortbread crust without butter. The butter will create the flakiness that we want in the crust.
- Coconut Flakes: this ingredient addition was inspired by Julia Moskin’s Best Lemon Bar Recipe featured in New York Times. It is used to retain moisture and help create a more crumbly/tender crust. For this recipe, the almond and coconut flakes pair very well to create an extra tender crust.
- Eggs: this is the main structural ingredient, outside of sugar, for the lemon filling.
- Lemons: the main attraction of this recipe. Meyer lemons are less acidic and sweeter than regular lemons, so to ensure that these bars still pack a tart punch, half a cup of fresh lemon juice is used.
- Salt: Used to enhance the flavor of both the lemon filling and almond shortbread crust.
Tips for making lemon bars:
To make perfectly delicious Meyer lemon bars every time, check out the following tips:
Line pan with parchment paper:
while it is not a requirement to line your pan with parchment paper, I highly recommend it. It only takes an extra minute or two, but it will make removing your lemon bars from the pan much easier once they’ve cooled.
To line an 8x8 pan, start by creating two rectangles of parchment paper that are about 7-.7.5 inches wide and hang over the sides of the pan about 2 inches.
Before placing the parchment paper down into the pan, grease the pan with oil or butter to allow the paper to adhere to something.
Place one paper horizontally into the pan, making sure it adheres to the sides of the pan. Then place the second paper vertically into the pan, making sure it adheres to the sides of the pan as well.
Almond shortbread crust:
no fancy equipment? no problem. You can make this crust a couple of different ways. You can use a pastry cutter, two butter knives, or if you are fancy, a food processor or blender.
Regardless of which way you make the crust, your goal is to ensure that the butter stays cold. Similar to how you make pie dough, cutting the butter into the flour creates little pockets that create the flakey and crumbly texture of the crust.
Pro Tip: if you have a little extra time after the dough has been pressed into the pan, place the crust in the refrigerator for 30 minutes prior to baking. This will allow time for the fat to firm up and the gluten to relax, creating a more tender and flakey crust.
With only 5 ingredients you will have a deliciously tangy and sweet lemon filling in no time. But, to ensure the best results, below are a few tips to bring your lemon bars to the next level:
- Strain lemon juice: by straining the lemon juice prior to pouring it into the filling mixture, you are ensuring a smooth texture by filtering out any pulp or rogue seeds. For an even smoother texture, you can opt to strain the whole lemon filling.
- Allow time for the lemon filling to rest: you may notice after baking that there’s a thin layer of white bubbles that have formed on the surface of the lemon bars. These are air bubbles that got caught in the lemon filling. By giving the filling time to rest while the crust is baking, the air bubbles have time to settle.
- Use a glass pan: highly recommend using a glass or ceramic pan. Metal pans that are not non-reactive can cause your lemon bars to have a slight metallic flavor.
- Give ample time to chill: this will be the most difficult part of the entire process, but I highly recommend giving the bars ample time to chill. After 3 hours in the refrigerator, your bars will be set. However, by letting them chill overnight, the flavors have time to marry together, which will give an overall deeper flavor to your lemon bars
- Dust with Confectioners’ sugar: when serving, plate your lemon bar and then dust confectioners or powdered sugar using a sifter. This will give you a final look that will be sure to WOW. If you are not serving right away, I recommend holding off dusting with sugar, as it will absorb into the filing.
Storing lemon bars:
I am not confident that your lemon bars will last very long once people get a whiff of them. But if there are any leftovers, you can store lemon bars in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Tips for knowing when lemon bars are done?
Determining when your lemon bars are done can seem daunting. However, knowing what to look for will make the task much easier.
After the recommended baking time has passed, start by looking at the edges of the lemon bars to see if they are golden. Next, with an oven mitt on, give the edge of the ban a nudge or a soft shake.
If after nudging the pan, the middle of the lemon bars still look runny, liquidity or jiggly, keep baking. Check every 2-5 minutes (depending on how runny and liquidity the middle is), and repeat the process of checking the outer edge and nudging the pan. When done, the middle should look set and no longer be liquidity or jiggly.
If you notice that the outer edge of the lemon bars are starting to brown and the middle is still not set, you can either:
- Wrap the edges with foil to help prevent them from browning further. Or,
- Lower the oven temperature by ~25 degrees and rotate the pan. Note that if you lower the oven temperature, you will most likely need to increase the baking time while keeping an eye on it to ensure that it doesn’t overbake
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If you end up making and enjoy these delicious Meyer Lemon Bars, please consider tagging me @nightowlsbakingco on Instagram and leaving a review below.
Thank you to my Significant Other, roommates, and co-workers for being the taste testers…your sacrifice does not go unnoticed.