I love summer. For someone who has been in school for 17 out of 22 years of her life, summer means freedom. Waking up late, playing outside, swimming. This year, summer means the chance to read a real book (not a textbook!), no studying for 3 solid months, and finally, finally, a break.
We only have 4 more weeks of school. I’m finding it very hard to study when it’s sunny outside. All I want to do is go outside and play.
These lemon bars, to me, are the epitome of summer. There’s something about lemons that just brings to mind sunshine and warmth. And since it’s currently April and STILL SNOWING….well, I needed something summery.
I’m not usually a huge fan of lemon bars. I’ve only had them a few times before, and they’ve always either seemed overwhelmingly sweet or way too tart. The buttermilk in these bars seems to balance both quite well. It mellows out the sharp tartness of the lemons and adds a creaminess that balances the sweetness. They’re still quite tart, but it’s not the kind biting acidity that lemon flavored foods can sometimes have.
I would recommend making sure that the bars are very cold before trying to cut them. The filling is very smooth and custardy, which makes them pretty messy to cut unless they’ve had time to solidify in the fridge or freezer. Since lemon is the main (and really only) flavor in this dessert, I strongly recommend using freshly squeezed lemon juice. I’ve found that bottled lemon juice tends to have much more of that acidic bite, and usually has a very unappetizing aftertaste. The recipe only calls for 1/2 cup of juice, which is very easy to squeeze by hand, and it really makes all the difference.
Buttermilk Lemon Bars
Adapted from: Baking Bites
Makes: about 16 (2 inch x 2 inch) bars
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. lemon zest
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1 1/3 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. buttermilk
1/2 c. lemon juice, freshly squeezed (about 4 large lemons)
1 tbsp. lemon zest
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8×8 (0r 9×9) inch square pan.
2) In a medium bowl, combine all the crust ingredients except the butter. Mix well.
3) Using two knives, a pastry blender or (my favorite) your hands, mix in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press the crust mixture evenly onto the bottom of the greased pan.
4) Bake for 16-19 minutes until just lightly browned.
5) While the crust is baking, whisk together all of the filling ingredients in another bowl.
6) Pour the filling mixture onto the crust while it is still hot and bake for another 20 minutes. The filling should not jiggle when gently shaken.
7) Cool completely, then cut into bars. Dust with powdered sugar to serve.