The weather in Vancouver a couple days ago was lovely, crisp and sunny. It feels like the days are slowly getting longer (though maybe that’s just my imagination), which is only making me crave summer. I LOVE summer. It’s my favourite season, and every year as soon as it’s over I miss it. I miss the sundresses and the shorts. I miss the feeling of the hot sun on your skin and the smell of sunscreen. I miss hanging out at kits beach, taking long leisurely bike rides along the seawall, and hitting the grouse grind. I miss drinking sangria on shady patios, and barbeques that go late into the night with friends. The lemon bars recipe we’re sharing with you today are part of a favourite summer memory of mine. The recipe actually belongs to Jean, a super sweet and adorable lady who lives by Stephanie’s cabin on Whidby Island. Every time I have these I’m transported back to Whidby, to me they taste like apricot hefeweizens by the lake, yoga on the beach, fresh veggies from Jean’s garden for dinner, s’mores before bed, and long car rides with friends listening to Taylor Swift (you know, before she decided to never ever ever make good music again.)
Jean gave us this recipe two summers ago, and they are amazing. Gooey, sticky, and sweet, they are just the perfect classic lemon bar recipe. The bright cheery yellow of them is crazy appealing too! I take them to backyard dinner parties and bbqs and I bring home an empty tupperware every single time. There are two dates on the photocopied recipe card Jean gave me, and I’m not sure if July 1988 was the first time she made them, or if she had tweaked the recipe then, but either way you know this recipe has stood the test of time.
Jean’s Perfect Lemon Bars – Makes one 8×8 pan, double for 8×13
1 cup flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 icing sugar
Preheat the oven 350º, and combine all the ingredients until the butter is in small pieces and the mixture is mealy. Press down into a 8×8 pan, making sure to even out the sides and bake for 15 min. We find it helpful for removing the lemon bars if you line the pan with parchment first.
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp flour*
1/2 tsp baking powder
Juice and zest of 1+ lemon**
2 beaten eggs
Optional: icing sugar (or caster sugar, for our twist!)
Combine all the ingredients together and pour over the base, bake for 18-20 mins. We find that 18 minutes produces a gooey-er lemon bar which I personally prefer, but it will vary based on your oven, 18 minutes may result in a more solid result for you. Baking time will also vary based on the kind of pan you use. We made two batches last night, one in a regular metal pan and one in a pyrex glass pan. After 18 minutes the metal pan bars had set up more, but the pyrex pan bars were on the softer side, something to keep in mind. Sprinkle with icing sugar, and cut while warm, we found it easier to cut with a wet non-serrated knife, remember to wipe it between cuts to get cleaner lines. I think once I pulled out the entire pan (here’s where the parchment comes in handy!) and just cut into it with a big kitchen knife, though I no longer remember the aesthetic results of that, so you can try my lazy way but your bars may not turn out as pretty.
*add more flour if you want a thicker, sturdier bar
**depending on taste, if you want a super lemon-y bar go ahead and use 1 1/2 – 2 lemons.
Now these lemon bars are amazing on their own, but we were inspired by a lemon tart a chef at my work made last week and we decided to brûlée the top of ours. We are just like, so gourmand, you know? Or secret fat girls, whatever. If you choose to do this, do it right before you serve them. Sprinkle caster sugar (caster sugar is a very fine sugar, regular sugar works fine too but caster sugar will result in a thinner and more delicate layer of sugar. If you can’t find caster sugar, you can just run regular old granulated sugar through your food processor, or magic bullet, or whatever.) in an even layer over your lemon bars, whip out your blowtorch (one of our favourite kitchen tools, we feel like such badasses when we use it) and brûlée away!
According to Stephanie, Jean likes to serve these with vanilla ice cream during fourth of July, so give it a go for a true Whidby Americana experience. Personally, I like them with some fresh summer berries, but as I’ve mentioned before they are amazing on their own as well. Whatever way you choose to have them, definitely give these a go. They are so simple, practically effortless actually, but the results are amazing.