The Lexingtonienne



You know how some children have to be tricked into eating their vegetables?

lemon bars

Jerry Seinfeld’s wife wrote an entire cookbook about sneaking spinach into pancakes. Then some other lady sued her because she also wrote an entire cookbook about sneaking spinach into pancakes. And people ran out and bought both books, so obviously a lot of folks have to trick their kids into eating vegetables.

lemon bars

lemon bars

Well, in L.A., it’s the weirdest thing… you have to trick grown-ups into eating dessert. I know. Dessert practically sells itself, but in the land of body consciousness where juice fasts and detox cleanses are commonplace, you’d think you were trying to sell a ketchup popsicle to a lady in white gloves.

lemon bars

lemon bars

lemon bars

As someone who really enjoys baking, I can tell you how disappointing it is when you’ve spent half a day (or longer) baking a pie or a cake, and then when you say, “Who wants red velvet cake?!” no one raises their hand.


lemon bars

I have practically had to force pecan pie onto people. Sometimes I guilt them into eating a piece by saying, “It took me 18 hours to make this!” which is not even good manners to say.

lemon bars

(And in case you’re beginning to suspect that maybe I’m just not a very good baker? THAT’S NOT IT.)

grated lemon zest

I’ve learned I can convince people to eat dessert using a combination of the aforementioned guilt approach and targeting them specifically, as in, “Come on, Mr. Noodle, won’t you have some?” While effective, this approach can be labor-intensive and tiring.

lemon bars

lemon bars

So, lately I have taken a sneakier approach to serving dessert. First, I make something that’s small and designed to be eaten with your fingers, such as cookies or brownies. Second, I don’t ask who wants some. I just put the dessert on a pretty plate and quietly slide it onto the table.

lemon bars

Slowly, the vultures start to circle. As glasses of wine are finished, coffee is sipped, and conversation continues, fingers sneak their way to the dessert plate in the center. After all, it’s not a fat slice of caramel cake; it’s just a teeny weeny little lemon bar. It’s hardly more than a bite! And it smells good and looks divine and is right there within your reach.

lemon bars

All I need is one taker. Once one person has a bite, they say something like, “Wow! These are great! Did you make them from scratch?” Now the others are curious. And they don’t have to say, “I’ve changed my mind. Would you get up from the table and go to the kitchen and get some for me?” Nope. They can just pick up their own from that plate that’s within reach. Before you know it, everyone’s having dessert. Works every time. Suckas.

lemon bars

So just know that when you come to MY house for dinner, I won’t make you eat your vegetables… but you will eat dessert.

lemon bars

Lightly adapted from Real Simple

For the crust:

  • 1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/3 C granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt

For the filling:

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2/3 C granulated sugar
  • 1/3 C freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons will probably do it, but it never hurts to have extra lemons)
  • 2 tsp finely grated lemon zest*
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp heavy cream
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • Confectioner’s sugar for dusting

Note that you will also need:

  • Cooking spray
  • Parchment paper

*Make sure you only zest the yellow part of the lemon rind. If you get into the white pith, it’s going to taste bitter. The yellow layer is very thin, so I find that using a very light touch while zesting keeps me from going into the white pith.

Preheat oven to 350. Spray an 8×8 baking pan with cooking spray. Cut 2 pieces of parchment paper to fit the width of the pan, but make sure they’re long enough that you’ll have overhang. Lay the 2 pieces of parchment crossways in the pan (one vertical, one horizontal), leaving the overhang on all sides. Spray the parchment with cooking spray.

To make the crust:
Combine the flour, butter, sugar, and salt. Pulse in a food processor until the mixture looks like sand. Press the mixture into the bottom of the parchment-lined baking pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until very pale golden.

To make the filling:
While the crust is baking, whisk together the eggs, egg yolk, granulated sugar, lemon zest, flour, cream, and salt.

When the crust is ready, whisk the filling mixture again to make sure it is combined, then pour into the hot crust. Bake until the filling is just set, about 15-18 minutes. Allow to cool completely in the pan, then refrigerate until chilled, which will take about 2 hours. (I did mine overnight.)

Once the lemon bars are cold, gently run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen it, then hold the parchment overhang to gently lift the bars-to-be from the pan. Transfer to a cutting board and cut 6 rows across, then 4 rows down to create 24 rectangles. Wipe your knife clean with a damp cloth in between cuts to ensure neat bars.

Just before serving, dust with confectioner’s sugar.



  • Comment by lori — April 15, 2012 @ 7:02 am

    Yum! Can’t wait to try these. And yes, Hannah is a great baker!

  • Comment by Kelly Bradley — April 29, 2012 @ 4:50 pm

    Oh my, you would never have to force me to eat dessert, being a good Southern gal, and these lemon bars make my mouth water. I remember making these for baby showers back in the day – always a hit (from the Bluegrass Winners cookbook of course!). I am saving your recipe for my someday return to baking!

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