Lemon Crumb Bars

The past month or so Ryan and I have been trying our best to be studious. He took a his professional engineering exam last Friday and my written pediatric dental board exam is in just a few weeks, so instead of our nightly TV ritual, we’ve been studying instead. And although I’m still busy chugging away at the books, I wanted to celebrate Ryan being done with his test with one of his favorite flavors – lemon! These springy napkins were screaming to me from an Upper West Side boutique window last week and I knew immediately I needed to make a lemon treat to match and surprise my super smart husband. I’ve had these creamy lemon crumb bars saved from Annie’s Eats for about a year, and all I needed was a few lemons and a little time to make these absolutely luscious bars that will definitely be made again. We don’t know if Ryan passed or not yet, but I definitely won some sort of wifely prize with these :)

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I actually don’t have a classic lemon bar recipe on my site, just a lemon lime variety from my first year of blogging. Great flavors, but wow, terrible photographs!! And apparently Ryan and I were celebrating our third anniversary of dating when I published that post, which is crazy because that means this month marks 8 years of being together. A lot of things have changed since then, but good to know Ryan still loves lemon :)

Anyway, lemon desserts come in as a close second to peanut butter flavored ones for Ryan’s favorites so it is quite surprising that there aren’t more lemon bars here on the blog. But these creamy lemon crumb bars make up for any lack of lemon bars because they’re extra special. With a shortbread crust, gooey, creamy lemon filling and more shortbread crumb topping, they’re like you’re favorite lemon bars on crack. I love, love, looove shortbread so I’ll take a double dose as crust and topping any day. And the flavors here are so on point. Tangy and tart, but balanced out nicely by the buttery shortbread and well, the butter. These bars are extremely decadent (I recommend serving these even as triangle halves instead of whole squares), but only the best for Ryan!

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Even though lemons are technically a winter fruit, I think citrus makes for the perfect flavor to welcome in warmer weather. Maybe it’s the fact that lemonade is synonymous with hot summer days, but to me lemons are just so perfect for springtime. Especially this time of year when any temp over 60 is cause for extreme celebration! Chocolate now seems a little too heavy, and when we’re all itching for the happy, bright colors of spring, lemon is the way to go. Yellow is such a cheerful color (and also the best color of all timeee), and although these bars are decadent, they are bright and zingy enough in flavor and color to tempt you year-round.

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Whether you’re celebrating the end of a bout of studying or just looking for a great springy picnic treat, these bars must be added to your to-bake list. Ryan forced me to bring the majority of them into work because he just couldn’t stop himself from grabbing one every time he opened the fridge. They got great reviews from my co-workers, and as I said last week, if Ryan likes them, you know they’re good!

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Lemon Crumb Bars

Recipe adapted from Annie's Eats


for the lemon cream filling:
1 cup granulated sugar
Zest of two large lemons
4 large eggs
3/4 cup freshley squeezed lemon juice
1 cup unsalted butter, diced and at room temperature

for the shortbread dough:
1 cup granulated sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 cup + 2-1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, diced and cold
1 large egg, at room temperature


for the lemon cream filling:
In a heatproof bowl, add the sugar and lemon zest and use your fingers to mix together until the sugar is evenly moistened with the zest. Add the eggs and whisk until smooth. Add the lemon juice and continue mixing.

To form a double boiler, place the bowl over a pot of simmering water and let the mixture cook, stirring frequently, until the cream thickens. If you're using a candy thermometer, you're aiming for around 175-180 degrees.

Remove the bowl from the boiler and let the mixture cool to 140 degrees (about 10-15 minutes). Once the mixture is cooled, transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add the butter a few pieces at a time with the mixer on medium speed, until the mixture is thick and pale (3-4 minutes). Set aside as you prepare the dough.

for the shortbread dough:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line an 8x8" baking pan with tinfoil.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, baking powder, flour, and salt. Add the butter and egg and use a pastry cutter, two forks, or your fingers to cut the butter and egg into the mixture until it resembles coarse sand. The mixture will be crumbly without much loose flour.

Divide the dough in half and spread one half in an even layer on the prepared pan. Press down firmly so the layer is even in thickness and well-formed. Pour the lemon cream filling on top and use an offset spatula to spread in an even layer. Crumble the remaining shortbread dough on top until all of the lemon filling is covered.

Bake for 40-60 minutes, or until the top is slightly browned and the center is just set. I recommend tenting the pan with tinfoil halfway through to prevent too much browing. (I gave a large range of baking times here because Annie recommends 35-40 minutes, but mine definitely took more like 60 minutes to fully bake. So keep an eye on it after 40 mins and check every 5 minutes or so until you're happy with how baked it is!)

Once baked, place pan on a wire rack and cool to room temperature. Then transfer pan to the fridge and thoroughly chill before cutting. Sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired. Keep them in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to serve, I preferred them cold!

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One Response to “Lemon Crumb Bars”

  1. #
    Farhana S — April 22, 2015 @ 6:06 pm

    I made this sometime last year (with my own twist of course) and loved them. Too bad my husband does love lemon as much as yours! His a pure PB & Chocolate guy!

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