When I owned a café in Sausalito, our super lemony and rich lemon bars were one of the most popular items on the menu (Chocolate Chip Cookies and turkey sandwiches on housemade Focaccia Bread were a couple of the others). This is that recipe, with the addition of cardamom—not a lot, but just enough to make things interesting. (And if you prefer, you can totally omit it.)
If you can find them, I highly recommend using Meyer lemons here. They add a lovely perfumy quality to the bars.
Makes eighteen 3-by-2-inch bars (see note)
- FOR THE CRUST
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup sugar
- Zest of 2 lemons, plus more for optional garnish
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
- 1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- FOR THE TOPPING
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (2 or 3 lemons)
- 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with foil, allowing the excess to hang over at least two edges of the pan. Coat the foil with cooking spray and set aside.
To make the crust: In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, lemon zest, salt, and cardamom. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture forms a coarse meal. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan, pressing it down with a spatula to form a smooth, firm layer. Bake until lightly golden, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the topping: In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar and eggs. Whisk in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk in the lemon juice and set aside.
When the crust is golden, remove it from the oven and pour on the topping. Reduce the oven to 350°F and bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.
Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool to room temperature, then remove the lemon bars from the pan by lifting the foil overhang.
In a small bowl, combine the powdered sugar and cardamom. Dust the lemon bars with the powdered sugar mixture. Cut into rectangles, garnish with additional lemon zest, if using, and serve. (You can store the lemon bars covered in the refrigerator for about a week or in the freezer for several months.)
NOTE I also like them cut into smaller pieces, about 1 1/2-inch squares, each garnished with a single raspberry or a slice of strawberry.