I adore lemons. They’re bright, Spring-y and so refreshing, easily making them one of my favorite flavors in both sweet (and savory) cooking. I have to admit, more often than not, I’d chose a lemon dessert over a chocolate one any day. So says the self proclaimed chocoholic.
Until I developed this recipe, I wasn’t too impressed with lemon bars. I’ve made and tried many lemon bars over the years and have had some decent ones, but could never find the “one”. The “one” that has a buttery, rich shortbread crust that doesn’t become a soggy mess, a perfect balance of tart and sweet filling and the right ratio of filling to crust. So, I set out to develop my own recipe and this one does not disappoint. It is definitely the BEST.
In this recipe, I’ve added lavender to the shortbread crust. I urge you to keep the lavender in this recipe even if you have tried lavender in desserts before and didn’t like it. It’s true that lavender can be soapy and overwhelming if overused but that is not the case in this recipe. The lavender is subtle but compliments and amplifies the lemon flavor. It’s beautifully fragrant and absolutely addictive in this recipe.
This lemon bar recipes starts like many others, by combining the crust ingredients in a food processor allowing the lavender to break up and blend into the other ingredients before adding softened butter. While the mixture is sandy and clumpy, it is pressed into a pan and sent off to the oven to bake.
Meanwhile, the filling ingredients are mixed together and set aside until the crust is finished baking and is lightly browned. While the crust is still warm, pour the ingredients into the crust and bake at a reduced temperature until the center has a so very slight jiggle.
While I have to admit that many times I’ve dug into these bars with a fork while still hot because they are THAT good, they are best served cut into squares or wedges at room temperature with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar.
Lavender Lemon Shortbread Bars
For the lavender shortbread base:
1 stick (113g) unsalted butter, cut into cubes, room temperature
1 ¼ (177g) cup of unbleached, all purpose flour
¼ cup (55g) granulated sugar
¼ tsp fine sea salt
¾ - 1 tsp of dried culinary lavender, to taste
For the lemon filling:
4 large eggs
3 tbsp unbleached, all purpose flour
1 1/3 cup (266g) granulated sugar
1 tbsp freshly grated lemon zest
2/3 cup (160ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup (80ml) half and half
Pinch of fine sea salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9x9 square baking pan with parchment paper. In a food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar, salt and lavender until well blended. You want the lavender to be dispersed and chopped up a bit. Add in the cubes of softened butter and pulse until the mixture is sandy and starts to form clumps. Press shortbread mixture into an even layer over the bottom of the prepared pan. Refrigerate for 20 minutes. Bake crust for 22-25 minutes or until the edges start to turn a golden brown. Remove shortbread from the oven and reduce the temperature to 325 degrees F.
Prepare the lemon filling. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar flour and eggs until blended. Add the salt, lemon zest, lemon juice and half and half and whisk to incorporate. Pour filling over the warm shortbread and bake for an additional 25-30 minutes, until the center jiggles very (very) slightly.
Let the bars cool to room temperature, about an hour. The longer they cool, the easier and prettier they are to slice. Transfer bars to a cutting board and cut into squares or wedges. Using a sieve, sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve.