lemon bars

We were recently invited to dinner at our dear friends Josh and Rebecca’s house, where the main course would be indulgent coq au vin. So, our mission, if we should choose to accept it, was to bring a light dessert. Oh, how contradictory those two terms are. Have you ever found a light dessert? If so, I’d like to know (seriously, comment below!).

Here’s the light dessert I came up with and the easy recipe below!

the best lemon bars

I instantly thought something fruity would qualify as light, but a berry anything in the dead of winter — even in Southern California — didn’t seem quite right. Luckily, after overlooking our newly sprouting lemon trees in the backyard and simultaneously surfing online for inspiration, I realized citrus is in season and stumbled upon this recipe for sprightly lemon bars.


They’re pretty easy to whip up and really delicious, though I wouldn’t exactly call them “light”. They are, however, the perfect balance of tart and sweet, crumbly and springy, and if you put them in a cute little container, make a happy hostess gift.



Here’s the recipe I used (slightly amended; original recipe by The Barefoot Contessa):


For the crust: 
1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon salt

For the lemon layer: 
6 extra-large eggs at room temperature
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (6 lemons)
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup flour

Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting


1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and line 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking pan with parchment paper.

2. For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer. Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. With floured hands, flatten the dough and press it into the greased baking pan, building up a 1/2-inch edge on all sides. Chill in the refrigerator until cool (approximately 20 minutes).

3. Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool completely. (I did the first part one night and let it sit overnight on the counter to cool, which is not necessary, but it IS necessary to let the crust cool completely before proceeding.)

4. For the lemon layer, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or about five minutes beyond the point where the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature.

5. Cut into rectangles and dust with confectioners’ sugar. (Note: The color, at least when I made these, was not consistent on top, with deeper hues of yellow in some spots and lighter hues in others, which is why the dusting of powdered sugar comes in handy — like makeup on a bad face day…bon appetit!)

[Photos by Kelly Golightly]

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