LEMON BARS

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In past blog posts I have spoken about my mom's side of the family, the Czech side, and shared with you the history of my Czech grandparents (including a recipe of theirs). Today, I am speaking about my paternal grandmother, or who my sister and I refer to as 'Grammy'. (Side note: Grammy is one of my biggest supporters of The Vivid Kitchen and always emails me her thoughts on my posts and pictures. So, hi Grammy!) 

Anyway! Grammy, who lives in Los Angeles, has been cooking and baking pretty much all her life, and is honestly amazing at both. She's actually taken cooking classes over the years, with her favorite class being "Cooking Cordon Bleu" that she took when she was living in Ottawa, Canada years ago. Despite the knowledge she gained from these classes, I know Grammy would qualify herself as a "home-cook": she loves cooking simple, yet delicious recipes that aren't fussy and always deliver on taste and flavor. 

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Growing up, I would see Grammy just about every weekend, which meant I was fed very well and looked forward to whatever she was serving us. Besides the delicious dinners she would prepare for me and my sister (don't even get me started on how perfect her Thanksgiving dinner is every year), it's really all about her baked goods. To say that Grammy has a sweet tooth is a severe understatement - the lady loves her candy, chocolates, pies, cookies, etc. etc. etc. When we're together, we love talking about baking and certain recipes we've come across - in a sense, baking has brought us closer together. 

One of Grammy's desserts that I grew up eating constantly was her lemon bars. Lemon bars are a traditional American baked good that were invented in the early 1960s, and eventually made their way into every kitchen across the country when the cookbook Betty Crocker's Cooky Book published the recipe. The recipe starts off with making a shortbread crust that is pressed into a 9x13 baking dish, which is baked in the oven until firm and golden; then it is topped with a lemon custard-like filling that is once again baked in the oven until set. Super easy and straightforward. If you're eating a lemon bar, 99.99% of the time, it'll be dusted with confectioners' sugar (powdered sugar) because that's tradition, and I'll be damned if I didn't include this.

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The recipe I am giving you today comes directly from Grammy: every ingredient and step follows exactly what she sent me earlier this week, except for the addition of lemon zest that I included (I wanted to get the most use out of my lemons!). And I gotta say that I'm so happy that I barely changed a thing because they taste perfect: buttery, crispy, VERY sweet... with a refreshing lemon taste. These bars remind me of my weekends spent with her growing up and it brings me so much joy. 

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Lemon Bars

Ingredients

For the crust:

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  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar (powdered sugar)

For the filling:

  • 4 large eggs, room temperature

  • 2 cups granulated sugar

  • Zest of 1 lemon

  • 1/3 cup lemon juice

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, sifted

  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder

  • Confectioners' sugar, to finish

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a bowl, mix together melted butter, flour and sugar until well incorporated. The dough will be a bit crumbly. Transfer the dough to an ungreased 9x13 baking dish (alternatively, you can line the dish with a piece of parchment paper if you wish to pull the entire baked good out). Using your hands or the back of a spatula, press down the dough evenly into the dish.

  2. Bake the shortbread crust for about 15-17 minutes, or until the dough has firmed up and is golden.

  3. While the crust is baking, work on the filling. In a blender, mix the eggs, sugar, lemon zest and juice for about 30 seconds. Add the sifted flour and baking powder and blend for another 15 seconds.

  4. When the crust is done, pull it out of the oven and immediately pour the lemon filling over the top of the hot crust and place back into the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the filling is set.

  5. Cool on a wire rack for at least 2 hours before cutting into the lemon squares. They can either be stored at room temperature or in the fridge.