Whole Lemon Bars

Whole Lemon Bars

One of my favorite desserts in the world are lemon bars. I know this is shocking, because they don’t contain any chocolate, but I just love the sweettartness (yep, that’s definitely a word) of them, and I love the contrast between the shortbread crust and the creamy lemon topping. My grandmother makes the best lemon bars I’ve ever eaten, and I really do need to make those myself at some point… but, when I saw this recipe in The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook I was intrigued by the idea of using an entire lemon in a dessert (peel, pith and all), and so I decided I just had to make them, and leave the other lemon bar recipe for another time. These really were simple and delicious. I do still consider my grandmother’s lemon bars my favorite, but these were also great. It really is amazing to me that you can slice up a lemon, puree it with a few other ingredients, and come away with this awesome lemony filling. I found these to be a little sweeter than my grandmother’s lemon bars (I have to say that I really love the tartness of hers), and I can’t assess the ease factor compared to her recipe as I haven’t made them myself, but I can say that these were hardly any work at all, and since you make both the crust and filling in the food processor, it hardly dirties any dishes, which is always a plus in my book.

Whole Lemon Bars

Whole Lemon Bars

Makes 16 2-inch bars


For crust:

1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour

1/3 cup (65 grams) sugar

1/4 tsp table salt

8 Tbsp (115 grams or 1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks, plus extra for greasing pan

For filling:

1 small-to-medium-sized lemon (about 4.5 oz or 130 grams, or about 3 inches long)*

1 1/3 cup (265 grams) sugar

8 Tbsp (115 grams or 1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks

4 large eggs

2 Tbsp (15 grams) cornstarch

1/4 tsp table salt

For topping:

Confectioner’s Sugar (optional)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place rack in middle of oven. Line a 8×8-inch baking pan with parchment paper, and butter the parchment paper lightly.

2. To make the crust, add the flour, butter, sugar and salt to a food processor, and pulse until the mixture is powdery, but will hold together when pinched firmly. Pour the crumbs into the prepared baking dish, and press down firmly to create an even crust. Press so that the crust goes about 1/2-inch up the sides of the pan. Poke holes in the crust with a fork. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the crust is lightly browned.

3. Meanwhile, to make the filling, *first cut the lemon in half, and measure the skin of the lemon. If any part of it is thicker than 1/4-inch across, remove and discard the skin from half  of the lemon. If the skin is less than 1/4-inch thick, you are good to go! Cut the lemon into thin slices, and add to the food processor (yes- skin, pith and all!). Add the sugar, and run the food processor for about 2 minutes, until the lemon is pureed. Add the butter and process until smooth- scrape down the sides of the bowl if needed. Add the eggs, cornstarch, and salt, and pulse until combined.

4. Pour the lemon mixture into the baking dish (over the baked crust). Bake for 35-40 minutes until the filling is set, and the top is beginning to get light brown. The bars should jiggle just slightly when finished.

5. Cool on a rack, or in the fridge. When completely cool, use parchment paper to help remove the bars from the pan, and cut into 16 squares. Sprinkle lightly with confectioners’ sugar if desired. I like to eat these best when they are cold.

Source: The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

P.S. Have you seen the Pink Lemonade Bars on Deb’s blog?! I must try those this summer!


4 thoughts on “Whole Lemon Bars

  1. Great dessert to bring to a picnic! Lots of people LOVE lemon bars. The plate you used to put them on for the picture is beautiful 🙂

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