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The Best Summer Dessert: Quick & Easy Lemon Squares (Lemon Bars) with Honey
Nothing says summer like citrus. So light and refreshing, possessed of cooling and palette-cleansing properties, desserts made of lemon, lime, orange, and grapefruit provide the perfect accompaniment to a summertime spread of salad, rice, and grilled fish and vegetables. Of all these noble fruits, the lemon is certainly my favorite.
I was recently rooting through my refrigerator in an attempt to find inspiration (and dinner). I found some lemons instead and decided to bake a version of my mom’s homemade lemon squares. I’ve never actually written down her recipe—I should probably do that—but I’ve learned so many little baking secrets from my mom over the years that I felt confident enough to recreate it.
They say that an exact measurement is everything in baking, but that’s not how I roll. I like to mix my recipes on the fly, adding and subtracting as I see fit, and I’m almost always pleased with the results. Flexible recipes appeal to me: I like to have options, to be able to change things up once in a while.
This is one of those recipes. I used brown sugar to lightly sweeten the crust and give balance to the tangy sweetness of the filling; however, you can use regular granulated sugar if you prefer. Feel free to change up the type of flour you use for the crust, too. I think these squares would taste amazing if you crushed up some pecans very fine and added them to the crust mixture before baking. Instead of juicing your own lemons, as I did, you can easily substitute pre-squeezed lemon juice or even orange juice. Heck, use limes if you’d like (and top it off with meringue, if you’re willing, for a mock key lime pie bar). Mix blueberries into the lemon filling. You could even spread a layer of raspberry jam over the crust before pouring on the lemon filling.
There are tons of options for creating and serving this dessert. Whatever you create, this cool dessert is the perfect refreshing bite for a summer’s eve.
Note: For reasons unknown to man, I do all of my mixing by hand. Actually, the reason for this is very clear: during my recent move, I seem to have lost all the attachments for my stand mixer and I don’t have an electric hand mixer, so I’m stuck using a wooden spoon and good old fashioned elbow grease. If you want super strong forearms and carpal tunnel syndrome, then mix by hand. Otherwise, please use your stand mixer!
Cook Time (baking time for crust and crust + filling)
What You'll Need
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- Pinch salt
- 2 cups flour
- 5 large eggs
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup honey*
- 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp. lemon zest (optional)
- 2/3 cup flour
- Grease a 9 x 12 baking sheet (I like to spray it with Pam then use a light coating of butter) and set aside.
- For the crust: In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and 1/2 cup brown sugar until smooth. If necessary, microwave the butter for 10–15 seconds to soften it up. Add the pinch of salt and 2 cups of flour; mix on low until just combined. Dust your counter or cutting board with flour, dump out your dough, and form it into a ball. Transfer the dough ball to your greased baking sheet; flatten slightly and then press the dough into the sheet. Place the crust in the freezer while your oven preheats.
- At this point, preheat the oven to 350. Once it reaches temperature, bake the crust for about 10 minutes.
- For the filling: Lightly whisk the room-temperature eggs to break up the yolks. Do not over-whisk! Add 1 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup honey, 1 cup lemon juice, 1 tablespoon lemon zest, and 2/3 cup flour; gently whisk to combine and remove all lumps. The mixture will be thin. Pour it over the crust and bake for about 20 minutes or until the filling has set. Be sure to let cool before cutting your squares or the crust may crumble.
- Options for topping your lemon squares: Dust with confectioner’s sugar. Top with fresh fruit (raspberries or blueberries especially) or warm fruit compote. Drizzle lightly with chocolate sauce. Serve alongside raspberry sorbet and mint sprigs.
*You may substitute an additional ½ cup of granulated sugar for the honey, which will give you a sweeter final product.
|Serving size: 1 square|
|Calories from Fat||117|
|% Daily Value *|
|Fat 13 g||20%|
|Saturated fat 5 g||25%|
|Unsaturated fat 0 g|
|Carbohydrates 45 g||15%|
|Sugar 26 g|
|Fiber 1 g||4%|
|Protein 4 g||8%|
|Cholesterol 78 mg||26%|
|* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.|