I was really close to my mom’s mom growing up. The Bear Household (yep, their real last name) made for great visits for a quartet of granddaughters. And in my completely biased opinion, our Nana Bear was funny and fun, and basically the best of the best.
She loved – and made a big deal out of – pretty much every holiday. She’d sit and play cards, Memory specifically, for hours with us. When my mom tried to crack down on the 5 outfits I wore over and over to school and “schedule” my wardrobe, she taught me how to do my laundry so I could wash the ones I liked and wear them again. (My mother is rolling her eyes and groaning as she reads this.)
She laughed with her entire body, and snorted every time she did. A trait my cousin, Dina, has inherited and it is glorious!
She was also a damn good baker. My mom still swears by her banana bread recipe and considers it blasphemy to make any other. But these are what I remember.
I think because I initially thought lemon bars would be “icky”. Little kids can be so judgy when it comes to food. My parents always subscribed to the theory that you had to at least try something before you said you didn’t like it, though, so….
Thank goodness. Missing out on these lovely squares would have been such a shame.
I am convinced these bars began my infinite love of almond extract. Because while you definitely taste the light, tart lemon – the sweet punctuation of almond in this crust is divine. So delicious.
And though I might have been a super vocal little food critic, my boys love these bars. Apparently Nana was just off by a generation. Who, incidentally from all their girls, happen to be all boys.
I imagine that this was her go-to for something quick and yummy if she hosted, which I think they did often. All told, this dessert will take you 15 minutes to prep and 35 minutes of cook time. And will make you some instant friends.
As with most baked goodies, preheat your oven to 350 degrees before you start prepping.
The crust is 5 simple ingredients. Toss the flour and corn starch together and mix with the softened butter. Breath in the lovely smell of the almond extract, and then pour into your crust mixture. Slowly (so as not to end up with a snow-covered counter) add powdered sugar and fully incorporate.
Prepare an 8X8 baking pan with butter or spray and press the batter into the bottom until it is even and fully covering the base of your dish. Bake off the crust for about 15 minutes – until slightly, but not 100%, set.
While the crust is baking, place your eggs, granulated sugar and brown sugar into the bowl of mixer. Cream these together until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add in your baking powder and salt until they are combined.
My advice is to zest your lemon prior to cutting it in half. You can do it either way – and trust me, I have. It just is so much easier to handle if you do it before. You also preserve all the juices for the actual bars that way. Toss the zest into your egg/sugar blend and then squeeze both halves of your lemon to it juice into the mixture. If you do this over the bowl, be sure to place one hand below the lemon to catch seeds. Stir to bring all of the filling together.
Empty your mixer bowl over the partially cooked crust. Bake the whole thing for another 20 minutes-ish, until the filling is fully set. (It will crackle a bit on the top – that’s how you’ll know its done.)
Set the pan of bars aside to cool. Before serving or storing, sprinkle them lightly with some powdered sugar. You don’t need much, as these are fantastic on their own. Let’s be honest, it’s more for the aesthetic. You know, so it looks pretty right before you devour them.
- 1 cup flour
- 2 tbsp corn starch
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 tsp almond extract
- 1/4 powdered sugar
- 2 eggs
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- Heat oven to 350 degrees
- Mix together flour, corn starch, butter and almond extract
- Slowly add powdered sugar until combined
- Press into an 8X8 pan coated in butter or non-stick spray
- Bake for 15 min
- Beat eggs and both sugars together with a mixer
- Add baking powder and salt and mix until combined
- Blend in lemon zest and juice
- Pour over the crust once removed from oven
- Bake 20 more minutes until lemon filling sets
- Set bars aside to cool
- Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving