Sublimely tart, lusciously jiggly, not-too-sweet Meyer Lemon Bars. Perfect for your not-too-sweet tooth.
Confession: I’m not really a sweets person. I don’t crave candy. I’m not a choc-o-holic. I shy away from frothy, overly sweet drinks. As a kid, I rarely ate birthday cake at parties. As an adult, I still do.
And yet, I still like dessert. Just not overly sweet ones. Instead, I gravitate towards light and refreshing.
That’s where these Meyer Lemon Bars come in. They are perfect for my not-too-sweet tooth. Tart and citrusy. Bright and fresh. But without that cloyingly sweet aftertaste.
It took 7 tries to get these lemon bars just right. I wanted a lemon filling that was thick enough to be jiggly. Yet easy enough for a one bowl recipe. Traditionally, lemon bars require large quantities of sugar to make everything gel AND a lemon curd cooked over a water bath. How could I streamline the process without sacrificing on flavor or texture?
After considerable fiddling in the kitchen, I made a jiggly, not-too-sweet, lemon filling. What was the secret formula? Lots of lemon juice (1 cup!) and lemon zest (from 3 lemons!). PLUS 6 eggs. AND a bit of cornstarch to thicken everything just enough.
Not-Too-Sweet Meyer Lemon Bars are not traditional. But they are fresh and bright and FULL of lemon flavor. Plus, that luscious jiggle of filling! It’s just enough sweetness and bright lemon flavor to keep you reaching for JUST ONE MORE SQUARE!
Meyer Lemons. How are Meyer Lemons different from regular lemons? Meyer Lemons are aromatic and intensely floral. They are juicy and with more depth and less sharpness than regular lemons. The difference is subtle but significant.
Meyer Lemons seem to be the mythical unicorn of the citrus world. Everyone loves and raves about them. Yet they can be difficult to find. I’ve seen them at Costco, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods. But I’ve yet to find them at standard grocery stores.
That being said, you can also use regular lemons for this recipe. The lemon flavor will be more crisp instead of floral. You may also need more lemons to produce 1 cup as Meyer lemons are super juicy.
Shortbread crust. I don’t have a knack for shortbread. Not for lack of trying. But the shortbread crust in this recipe is so very simple, even a pastry dunderhead like me can turn out flaky shortbread.
Simply place all the dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse the dry ingredients a few times. Then, scatter the cold butter pieces randomly on top. Process until the mixture resembles wet sand. Dump the mixture into a well-buttered 9 x 13 inch pan and press with clean hands. After 20 minutes in the oven at 350 F, your crust is done!
Corn Starch. Corn starch is commonly used in Asian cooking to thicken soups and sauces. It’s the perfect ingredient for a non-traditional, less sweet lemon filling. Activated by heat, the filling will look woefully watery at first. As the lemon bars bake, they will thicken.
To that end, DO NOT USE PARCHMENT PAPER!! The filling is simply not thick enough. Every time I used parchment paper (parchment “sling” or parchment paper lining), the filling leaked under the crust. The result was a soggy mess with a lemon layer on the bottom, ugh!
Instead, grease the 9 x 13 pan well and you shouldn’t have any problems releasing the lemon bars from the pan.
How do you know when Meyer Lemon Bars are done?
Since the lemon filling is not a traditional curd, it’s best to check for doneness by performing the jiggle test. Shake the corner of the pan gently. The edges should be firm and set, the center a little jiggly.
I also recommend chilling in the fridge for 2 hours. This gives the filling more time to gel and set. Slicing through chilled lemon bars also makes for prettier squares.
Sometimes the filling will bubble up during baking. Not to worry, they will deflate once removed from the oven.
Not-Too-Sweet Meyer Lemon Bars
- 2 cups flour
- 1 cup cold butter cut into same size chunks
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 6 eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup lemon juice about 6 lemons, preferably Meyer lemons (regular ones will also do)
- Lemon zest from 3 lemons
- 2 Tbsp cornstarch
- 1/2 tsp salt
For the Crust
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking pan on the bottom and sides.
- Add dry ingredients into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse dry ingredients a few times. Scatter the cold butter chunks over the top. Process until the mixture looks like coarse sand. If there are large pieces of butter, keep going.
- Dump mixture into the 9 x 13 inch pan. Using clean hands, evenly press the crust into the pan.
- Bake until crust is done, about 18-20 minutes. When the crust is done, the texture should be the same as a shortbread cookie. The color will be pale with golden, crispy looking edges.
For the Filling
- Whisk the eggs and sugar in a large bowl until well combined. Add lemon juice, zest, cornstarch, and salt. Mix well, making sure there are no cornstarch lumps. The filling will look watery and loose.
- Pour the filling over the pre-baked crust. It's ok if the crust is still warm. Return the baking pan to the oven and bake for an additional 16-20 minutes. DO NOT OVERBAKE!The lemon bars are done when you give the pan a shake and the edges are set and firm but the center is a little bit jiggly.
- Chill in the fridge for 2 hours. Serve with a light dusting of powdered sugar.