Sunday, March 20, 2016

First-Day-of-Spring Lemon Bars

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Today is the vernal equinox, the first day of spring (and it actually kinda feels like it in southern Maine for a change!) Time for food thoughts to turn to the light, bright and sunny. I have the perfect dessert for you.

It's always a great pleasure to get cold-weather citrus in the Northlands; having friends or retired relatives in Florida or SoCal can really pay off in winter, when they send up delicious naval oranges, grapefruit, lemons and limes. (Pretty sure those care boxes save some in the Northeast from scurvy.) I got a wonderful bag of organic lemons, raised in California by the brother of a good friend. Evidently there was a bumper crop this year: the brother sent TWO boxes each to my friend and his mother, and the luscious lemons got shared around.

So we've had fresh lemon along with honey in tea, hot vodka and lemon juice, and I made a hearty Moroccan Chicken with lemon and olives. But now spring is here, and I want something that's not designed to fend off the chill. It's too early for lemonade, so I'm going with sweet, delicious homemade lemon bars. This recipe is from my friend's mother, a feisty 94-year-old who lives independently in her house in northern Maine and who makes wicked good cookies.


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and generously grease a 9x13" pan.

1 cup softened butter
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
2 cups flour

4 eggs
4 cups sugar
8 Tbs fresh-squeezed lemon juice
grated rind of 1 lemon
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp Baking Powder

Confectioner's sugar to dust

Cream the butter and the confectioner's sugar together until light and fluffy. Blend in 2 cups flour. Press into the greased pan and bake for 20 minutes. Cool.

Beat eggs lightly in bowl. Add sugar, lemon juice, lemon rind, 1/4 cup flour and baking powder. Mix well. Spread over baked layer and bake for 25 minutes.

Cool on a wire rack, cut into squares and sprinkle with confectioner's sugar while still hot.

Doesn't that sound just about perfect? And not too time consuming. You can arrange some spring blooms and have a cup of tea while the bars are baking. Enjoy, and happy Spring!


  1. Yum! Lemon bars are delicious, a perfect way to celebrate spring . . . even if snow is in the forecast for the day.
    Thanks for the recipe.

  2. I've been looking for this recipe. Thank you, Julia. Happy spring.

  3. Yummy - even if it IS supposed to snow tonight! Happy Spring, Reds.

  4. Yum, I love lemon desserts! Glad spring has finally arrived!

  5. Delish! I've never made lemon bars--hmmm! I'm at a conference in New Jersey… And will be on the train this afternoon back to Boston. Let's hope it doesn't snow… happy spring everyone!

  6. I love lemon desserts, too, and this looks like a piece of cake...

  7. lovely Julia! hope you northeastern reds don't get snow on the first day of spring!!

  8. I'm looking out the window at the snow dusting my neighbors' roof, and watching tiny flakes spiral from the sky. Doesn't feel too much like the vernal equinox.

    Oh, it was 60 last week.

    I shall pass this recipe on to my Girl, who is the baker. Yesterday, she made Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes, essentially vanilla cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and half a strawberry on top (the strawberry was supposed to be inside the cupcake, but she was afraid her "construction skills" weren't good enough to cut the hole without destroying the cupcake, so we just put it on top. Plus we got to eat them faster.)

  9. Oooh, lemon bars! J'adore! (I'm practicing my French...)

  10. My mom had an extra-special sweet tooth for lemon desserts--I'll be making these the next time my sisters and I get together. Thanks, Julia!

  11. These sòund luscious! Lemon squares are my favorite, ñon-chocolate treat!

    Our neighbor has a second home in Texas, where she has a Meyer lemon tree. Some years, when she has a bumper crop, she brings bags of them to Cincinnati. Since there are just the two of us I don't cook like I used to, so I freeze the juice in ice cube trays for later. Each cube section holds a tablespoon.

  12. Happy Spring, everyone! (Although it doesn't feel very spring-like here in north Texas... And a freeze tonight!)

    Julia, I love lemon everything, but lemon bars are usually just too sweet for me. Do you think it would be possible to cut the sugar a little bit and still have them come out okay?

  13. Mrs. Lamar's Lemon Bars! That is such a satisfying group of words to the mouth, almost sings itself. And, my brother's middle name is Lamar, a name I never hear. So, even without the recipe, I love this post.

    I've never made lemon bars, but I love lemon, and this recipe sounds like I could handle it. Like some others here, I need a bright reminder of spring, as it's raining and, yes, there was some snow. However, it does make for a perfect afternoon of reading.

  14. Karen, I love that idea. I had no idea I could freeze the lemon juice. I think I'll do that with the remainder so we can enjoy fresh organic lemon juice in our gin and tonics this summer!

    Debs, I haven't tried it with reducing the sugar. (One of the things I like about lemon bars is that they are SO sweet just one piece is enough.) I would try reducing the sugar from four cups to three and adding another egg to make up for the lost volume. See how it turns out!

  15. Yum. Just yum. After Lent I will make these. I love lemon anything. I've got cubes of frozen Meyer lemon juice from my little brother's tree. We're cooler than normal here too. My granddaughter flew in from Ohio for her spring break yesterday. I'm blaming her for the weather! Happy Spring everyone!

  16. Debs, if you try the reduced sugar, please report back on how it turns out. 4 cups is a bit daunting to me!

  17. Lemon bars are my dad's favorite. :) And lemon meringue pie.

  18. These look delicious, and the recipe sounds so simple. I just wish I had read this before I went shopping! I have everything except the lemons!

    Just got home , and had an answering machine message from the mayor, advising residents to stay home tomorrow. I guess the weather report has changed - again.

    Deb Romano

  19. Your lemon bars look wonderfully chewy. I love the tang of lemons in desserts and teas. How lucky for you to receive the windfall.