Luscious lemon bars

When did the lemons learn the same creed as the sun?

Pablo Neruda

The concept of this recipe, which is a staple in America, but not well known at all in my part of the world, is genius. Two of the most delicious things in the world – shortbread and lemon curd – brought together in a way that elevates both and causes me to salivate even while writing this!

I have no idea why in Britain, the land of lemon curd and lemon delicious pudding, and the home of shortbread, the lemon bar was not part of the national cuisine, and then transported to Australia for generations to enjoy. It fell however, to the R&D team at Betty Crocker in the United States to bring the lemon bar to life. Although a recipe for a lemon bar had been published in the August 27, 1962 edition of the Chicago Daily Tribune  submitted by Mrs. Eleanore Mickelson for its “Today’s $5 Favorite Recipe” column, Betty Crocker published the first known recipe in a cook book; the Betty Crocker Cooky Book in 1963.  It immediately became wildly popular. There are hundreds of recipes available, all with little differences in the amount of lemon or eggs, or the ration of curd to shortbread.

My recipe is full of lemony goodness, quite tart, and with a rich shortbread crust as a base for the curd filling. You could reduce the lemon juice a little if it is too sour, but I think it is perfect as it is. Dusted with icing sugar they are a delightful afternoon tea treat.

Makes 16

  • 150g unsalted butter, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup caster sugar
  • 1 1/3 cups plain flour
  • Icing sugar mixture, to serve

    Lemon topping:
  • 4 eggs
  • scant 1/4 cup plain flour
  • 1 1/4 cups caster sugar
  • 2/3 cup lemon juice

Preheat oven to 180C. Line a 20 cm x 20 cm slice tin with silicon paper, allowing a 2 cm overhang on all sides. Place the butter, vanilla, sugar and flour into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until a soft and crumbly dough forms. Turn into the prepared tin and press with your fingertips to evenly distribute across the base. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden. While the base is baking whisk eggs, flour, sugar and lemon together until smooth. Gently pour over the base and bake for a further 15 minutes or until just set. Cool completely in the tin before dusting with icing sugar. Carefully cut into squares or rectangles as the whim takes you.