You will love this recipe for bright and tangy Small Batch Lemon Bars with a crisp shortbread crust and silky lemon filling! They are one of the easiest desserts to make but they’re so delicious and satisfying with that perfect balance of tangy and sweet flavour. I love the soft lemon filling paired with a crisp shortbread crust and the flavor is so irresistible with all the lemony taste from zingy juice and fragrant zest!
INGREDIENTS FOR SMALL BATCH LEMON BARS
These lemon bars come together with just 6 simple ingredients that you probably already have in the fridge!
- Butter - firm unsalted butter helps form the base of the shortbread crust. I pull cold butter from the fridge and let it sit out at room temperature for 15 minutes. This helps to soften it just a tad so that it incorporates into the flour more easily for an even crust. If the butter were very cold, it would be harder to blend in and there would be more dry flour.
- Flour - it forms the crust but its thickening power also helps set the filling.
- Salt - salt enhances the buttery flavour of the crust and also balances the sweetness of the filling.
- Eggs - Eggs provide majority of the structure for the filling and are absolutely important. Lemon bars are essentially a lemon custard baked on a shortbread crust.
- Sugar - just a bit of sugar sweetens the crust slightly, and most of the sugar goes into the filling. Sugar not only adds sweetness but it serves a very functional purpose in the filling -- it binds the moisture from the egg and also interferes with egg proteins to ensure that they do not curdle easily for a silky texture. It also works with the eggs to set up the lemon filling and if you reduce the sugar, the filling may be watery with a coarse texture.
- Lemon Juice - I only ever make lemon bars with freshly squeezed lemon juice. It provides the tangy flavour and the acidity also helps to set the egg proteins.
STEP BY STEP INSTRUCTIONS
This recipe is prepared using only 2 bowls and a loaf pan so clean up is a breeze. Here's how to make these small batch lemon bars:
- STEP 1). Prepare the pan: Line your pan with foil and lightly butter the foil for easy release.
- STEP 2). Prepare the crust: Mix the flour, sugar and salt together in a bowl. Add the cool pieces of butter and rub them in with your fingers until it is completely incorporated and looks like breadcrumbs. Press firmly into a 9x5 inch loaf pan being sure to push it slightly up the sides to make a short edge crust. Try to get a nice even thin layer with full coverage on the bottom.
- STEP 3). Bake the crust: Pre-bake the crust until golden. Since the filling is liquid with high moisture, it is important to bake the crust first or it will be get soggy.
- STEP 4). Prepare the filling: Whisk all of the filling ingredients together. There's no need to cook it first over the stove!
- STEP 5). Bake: Gently pour the filling onto the warm pre-baked crust, then bake for around 15 minutes or until the edges are set and the center has a slight wobble.
- STEP 6). Cool: Let the baked bars cool completely at room temperature, then refrigerate for 1-2 hours until thoroughly chilled before slicing.
HOW TO PREVENT AIR BUBBLES ON LEMON BARS
Seeing a thin whitish foamy layer of air bubbles on top of your baked lemon bars is completely normal. It is the air bubbles created from whisking the eggs rising to the surface during baking. Lemon bars taste the same with or without that layer and a dusting of icing sugar covers it right up!
If you do not like that layer, then be sure to whisk gently and let the eggs sit with the sugar for a few minutes to help it dissolve with minimal whisking. You can also use a more extreme method with a blowtorch or blow dryer and apply some heat to the surface of the filling which will pop any air bubbles.
EXPERT BAKING TIPS
- Use foil to line the pan! Using foil instead of parchment will let the crust bake edge to edge. I find that when I use parchment, it is so non-stick that the crust pulls away slightly from the pan as it bakes which can allow some of the lemon filling to seep down and make the crust soggy.
- Use a metal pan. Metal conducts heat faster than glass or ceramic so the crust will bake quicker and more evenly.
- Always use fresh lemon juice! You will definitely taste the difference if you use juice from concentrate or a bottle. The processing for bottled lemon juice impacts the bright flavour and acidity.
- Do not overbake: Lemon bars are ready when the edges are set but the center is still slightly soft with a bit of a jiggle in the middle. The residual heat of the pan will continue to set the filling as it cools. This ensures that you have a silky filling.
- Cool completely: Do not rush the chill time as these bars need to cool completely in order for the filling to set up smoothly.
How do I know when lemon bars are set?
Lemon bars are ready when the edges are set but the center is still slightly soft with just a bit of a jiggle in the middle. The residual heat of the pan will continue to set the filling as it cools.
Do I need to refrigerate lemon bars?
Yes. Store lemon bars in an airtight container in the fridge. They are delicious when cold or at room temperature.
How do I slice lemon bars neatly?
First it is important that the bars cool completely so that the filling sets properly. Then use a very sharp knife and wipe the blade clean after each cut.
Can I make lemon bars in advance?
Lemon bars are a great make-ahead dessert because they require some chill time to be just perfect. You can make them one day before you plan to serve them.
If you love lemon, check out my other lemon recipes:Blueberry Swirl Lemon Loaf CakeEasy Creamy Lemon TartLight & Luscious Lemon CakeEasy Small Batch Lemon CurdEasy Almond Raspberry Lemon Bars (gluten free)Lemon Coconut Crumb Tarts
Small Batch Lemon Bars
For the Crust:
- ⅔ cup 90g all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon 12g granulated sugar
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoon 56g unsalted butter, firm but not chilled (ie. not straight from the fridge) cut into small cubes
For the Filling:
- 2 large eggs
- ½ cup 100g granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- ¼ cup 60ml fresh lemon juice
- pinch of salt
- 2 teaspoon 6g all-purpose flour
- Preheat oven to 350°F and line a 9x5-inch loaf pan with aluminum foil.
- Add flour, sugar and salt to a medium bowl and blend well. Add cool cubed butter and rub the butter into the dry ingredients with your fingertips until it is evenly distributed and the mixture resembles coarse crumbs that hold together in clumps when squeezed in your hand. Alternatively you can use a food processor to blend in the butter. Turn the mixture out into prepared pan and press it into an even layer, pushing it about ¾-inch up the sides to create and edge crust that will hold in the filling. NOTE: if you don't make an edge crust, the filling will leak out and create a soggy bottom. Bake for 12-16 minutes until lightly golden.
- For the filling, whisk in eggs with sugar, lemon zest and salt until sugar is mostly dissolved. Whisk lemon juice until well combined, then whisk in flour until smooth.
- When crust is ready, reduce oven temperature to 325°F and slowly pour filling over hot crust. Bake for about 13-18 minutes until filling is just set with a slight wobble in the middle. Do not over-bake to ensure it will be smooth and creamy.
- Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely, then cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled before slicing into squares. Dust with icing sugar just before serving.