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, getting the chance to be exposed to lots of different 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. 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 really easy to make at home. I wanted to also incorporate raspberries into the recipe because they are so abundant and in season at the market, plus they add a nice flavor and color to the lemon bars. 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 was really important to me 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 which 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 bites 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”. This is how 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 for 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 refrigerator 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.
- 8 ounces of unsalted butter, at room temperature (1 cup)
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 2 cups flour
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 cup raspberries
- 7 large eggs
- 3 cups granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
- 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 cup flour
- Confectioners' sugar, for dusting
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Lightly spray a 9 by 13 inch by 2-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together on medium speed (about 2 minutes) until light in color. Add the lemon zest and mix for a few seconds. Combine the flour and salt in a separate bowl. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the butter until just mixed (about 1 min). Place the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball and transfer to the baking pan. Using your fingers, evenly press and flatten the dough into the baking pan. Chill the dough for 15 minutes. Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Cool the crust in the baking sheet on a wire rack for about 30 minutes, until the dough is slightly firm. Keep oven heated to 350°F.
- Put the sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice in a small saucepan and whisk together. Add raspberries to the saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the puree has broken down and thickened and has come to a bubble, about 6 minutes. Strain the hot thickened puree, discarding the seeds. Set the strained puree aside, at room temperature until ready to use.
- To make the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest and flour until combined. Gradually add the lemon juice and whisk until combined and pour over the crust. Add about a tablespoon spoonfuls of raspberry puree around the entire surface of the lemon mixture. Quickly drag a tooth pick across the surface to create swirls.
- Carefully transfer to the oven. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the filling is set in the center. Let cool to room temperature.
- Cut into squares or triangles and dust with confectioners' sugar.