I think that nature purposefully planned citrus season for the winter, when the days are cold and dark. And all I want to do is curl up and hibernate till spring. I don’t know about you, but a taste of citrus does a lot to brighten up my day.
With it being the height of citrus season, I’ve had lemon bars on the brain. But regular lemon bars weren’t going to cut it. First of all, I wanted to use meyer lemons, the smaller and sweeter cousin of the lemon. And I had seen in a cookbook (though now I can’t remember which one) the suggestion of brûléeing the top of lemon bars and couldn’t get that idea out of my mind.
Much like crème brûlée, the thin layer of caramelized sugar sits on top of a creamy layer of lemon filling, providing a slight crunch and fun flavor. It’s not a typical topping for a lemon bar, but I really liked it.
The topping isn’t the only thing different in these bars. If you’re looking for the typical tart flavor, you won’t find it here. They’re a little bit tart and a little bit sweet, thanks to the meyer lemons.
A little bite of sunshine on an otherwise frigid January day. I’ll take it.
How to brûlée
If you have a kitchen torch, it’s incredibly simple. Sprinkle the top of the lemon bars with a thin layer of granulated sugar. Hold the kitchen torch at medium flame a few inches away from the bars and sweep the flame across the top until the sugar melts and caramelizes.
If you don’t have a kitchen torch, no need to fret. You can use your oven broiler. Place them on a sheet pan on the top rack and keep a close eye to be sure they don’t burn.
A fun twist on tradition lemon bars, these are made with meyer lemons and topped with a thin caramel shell.
For the crust:
- 1 cup (230 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
- 2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1/8 teaspoon coarse salt
For the filling:
- 4 large eggs
- 3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar
- 2/3 cup fresh meyer lemon juice (about 3-4 meyer lemons)
- Zest of 3 meyer lemons
- 2/3 cup (83 grams) all-purpose flour
- Additional sugar, for bruleed topping
To make the crust:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan and line with parchment paper.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or in a large bowl with an electric hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium high speed until light and creamy. Add the flour and salt and mix until combined.
- Press the dough into the prepared baking pan and chill for 30 minutes. Bake until just beginning to turn golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. Let cool.
To make the filling:
- Whisk together the eggs, sugar. lemon juice, lemon zest, and flour in a medium bowl. Pour into the cooled crust and bake for 5 minutes past when the middle has set (test this by giggling the pan, if the center does not move, it is set), or 30-35 minutes total.
- Let cool for about 30 minutes, then use the parchment paper to lift the bars out of the pan and let cool completely on a wire rack.
To brûlée the lemon bars:
- It's best to work in small batches, so slice them into servings first. Sprinkle sugar on a few bars at a time and use a kitchen torch to melt and caramelize it. You may also use your oven broiler, watching carefully to make sure they don't burn.
- Brûlée right before serving for best results. Store lemon bars in the fridge.
Notes: If you'd like to skip the bruleed topping (though you shouldn't), simply dust the bars with powdered sugar once they have cooled.
If you cannot find meyer lemons at your grocery store, you may substitute regular lemons. If you do, increase the sugar to 1 1/3 cup.
Recipe adapted from Ina Garten .