The best thing about this week was making lemon bars. I’ve never made lemon bars before. I don’t know why, I sort of think of them as a snack food cliche. Like Suzy Homemaker who makes lemon bars for the new neighbors. But I came home Wednesday after work with this weird craving for them, and I looked through all my cookbooks until I found a recipe for them that used ingredients I already had on hand (2 giant lemons and no graham crackers). And they were awesome. So awesome they have consumed my thoughts for days, and now I have this new love affair with citrus curds. I’ve found recipes for key lime bars, bars with graham cracker crusts, all kinds of things. These have more of a shortbread crust, which Adam and I weren’t sure about at first. But now we’re both addicted. The crust has a buttery, salty flavor that cuts the extreme lemon flavor of the curd. It works on all levels.

Lemon Squares from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book
Note: The book is very adamant that the filling and the crust both be warm when assembling the bars in step 4, so they bake through evenly.

Makes: 16 bars

1-1/4 (6.25 ounces) cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (2 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
1/2 tsp salt
8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces and softened

7 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
1 cup (7 ounces) plus 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon zest (the book says about 4 lemons, but I had 2 giant ones and got enough)
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice (again, the book says 4 lemons. I only had 2 huge ones and got almost enough juice–had to use maybe 1 Tbsp of bottled juice)
4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
3 Tbsp heavy cream
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8″ square baking pan with a foil sling (spread 2 pieces of foil across the pan left-right and up-down, press into the shape of the pan so you can lift the bars out when they’re ready) and grease the sling.

2. For the crust: Process the flour, confectioners’ sugar, and salt together in a food processor to combine, 3 pulses or so. Sprinkle the butter over the top and pulse until the mixture is pale yellow and the texture of coarse sand, about 8 pulses.

Sprinkle the mixture into the prepared pan and press into an even layer with the bottom of a measuring cup.

Bake the crust until fragrant and beginning to brown, about 20 minutes.

3. For the filling: While the crust bakes, whisk the egg yolks and eggs together in a medium saucepan.

Whisk in the granulated sugar until combined, then whisk in the lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt. Add the butter and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens slightly and registers 170 degrees F on a thermometer, about 5 minutes. **Note: I whisked for more than 5 minutes, and my mixture got very thick but only reached about 150 degrees. I finally took it off so it wouldn’t burn, and it baked up fine even though it didn’t hit 170. It was thick like pudding:

Strain the mixture immediately into a bowl. **This took some elbow grease pushing the mixture through a strainer fine enough to keep the zest from getting in.

Stir in the cream.

4. Pour the filling over the warm crust.

Bake the squares until the filling is shiny and opaque and the center jiggles slightly when shaken, 10 to 15 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking. **Note: I took mine out at 15 minutes and the filling still practically poured out of the pan in the center, rather than just jiggle. I put it in for about another 7 minutes. It was still a little loose, but not as loose. And it set perfectly.

5. Let the bars cool completely in the pan, set on a wire rack, about 2 hours. Remove the bars from the pan using the foil sling, cut into squares, and dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving to happy people.