When given the choice of a decadent chocolate dessert versus a light refreshing lemon indulgence, I’m much more of a chocolate lover. I actually used to hate lemon flavored desserts! That’s until I finally made a tray of fresh raspberry lemon bars at home. My first encounter with lemon bars was when I was working at a European bakery in high school. While there, I got exposed to several types of citrus infused treats.
Lemon bars were a staple at Boniere Bakery in Alameda, CA. Baked fresh each week, I used to be in charge of cutting the crisp and gooey bars into perfect squares then dusting them with generous mountains of powdered sugar.
Of course, I would sneak bites of the browned corners that I cut off, licking off the sticky evidence from my fingers. I think that’s when I started to appreciate the citrus pucker effect of the lemon juice balanced with the sweetness of the sugar in those gooey lemon bars.
I experimented with a lemonade sugar cookie recipe, but I’m not sure why it has taken me so long to try and recreate those nostalgic lemon bars. I’m glad I did because they are actually easy to make at home.
For this recipe, I chose to incorporate fresh raspberries because they happen to be in season at the market right now. Plus they add a nice flavor and color. These raspberry lemon bars are intense!
The crisp shortbread crust provides the perfect cookie bar base for the zesty tart filling. The ratio of crust to filling is critical because I hate eating lemon bars that are too dry and have more crust than lemon custard filling.
With this recipe, the bars are around 1 inch in height once settled and cooled, about 2 inches after baking. You get a good bite of luscious raspberry lemon filling that leaves your fingers coated and sticky. I seriously could not stop eating these raspberry lemon bars after the first bite, but had to pace myself, so I saved small pieces for each day to enjoy.
I was inspired to make this raspberry lemon bar recipe because I wanted to give Jason’s team at work a tasty thank you present for the surprise baby shower they threw for Baby Gavin (how sweet!). When Jason returned from work that evening I asked if his coworkers liked the dessert, he kindly reported that they were all gone and that people “love and hate me at the same time.”
That’s when you know your recipe was a hit, especially since Jason reported that he ate two servings (he’s doesn’t have a sweet tooth) and needed to go for a quick run around our neighborhood to burn off some calories, success! Haha.
TIP: What is the best way to cut and serve the lemon bars? I found it easiest to refrigerate the bars once cooled, to let the layers settle and set, even allowing a day to chill before cutting. I then removed the raspberry lemon bars from the refrigerator when I was ready to cut them. I recommend dusting the lemon bars with powdered sugar just before serving (if left in the fridge they will dissolve and disappear from the moisture in the air of the refrigerator). These raspberry lemon bars are best served at room temperature as the center will be moist gooey, and the crust will still be crisp.