While fall and winter is when I want to bake all the warm and cozy recipes with pumpkin, chocolate, coffee and spices, it’s also a great time of year to bake with citrus. And these lemon crumb bars are the perfect treat to celebrate citrus season. These bars have a thick, buttery shortbread base, with sweet and tart lemon filling. A crumble topping adds crunch with a slightly salty notes to balance the sweetness.
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What are Meyer Lemons
Florida citrus is actually at its best from November through February, with the fruit being at its sweetest and juiciest through the winter months. So in Colorado, I love seeing those abundantly filled bins of lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruits to brighten up a cold day. And while grocery shopping last week, the bags of Meyer lemons caught my attention, and I knew I had to bake some lemon bars with them.
Meyer lemons may look a lot like an ordinary lemon, but they are actually a hybrid fruit that is a cross between a lemon and a Mandarin. Their peel is smoother and thinner and they have a rounder shape. Their juice is also much sweeter and less acidic than regular lemons.
So while I used the zest and juice from Meyer lemons in today’s lemon crumb bars, you can absolutely use regular lemons as well! There is plenty of sugar in the recipe to balance the tartness of the lemon juice.
You’ll love the short ingredient list for these lemon crumb bars! Just a few simple ingredients are all that’s needed to bake a pan of delicious, lemony treats. Many lemon crumb bars recipes include sweetened condensed milk, but I make my bars without sweetened condensed milk.
Crust and Crumble Topping.
- Flour. All-purpose flour binds the crust together as it absorbs moisture from the butter. You can easily substitute a gluten-free flour in this recipe, too.
- Sugar. Granulated sugar sweetens the crust, and contributes to browning.
- Salt. Coarse Kosher salt adds a great salty-sweet flavor.
- Butter. The butter contributes richness, flavor and moisture.
- Eggs. The eggs play an important role as they thicken the filling into a sort of baked lemon curd between the shortbread base and the crumbly streusel topping.
- Sugar. Balances the tartness of the lemon juice.
- Flour. Just a little flour helps to thicken the filling as it bakes.
- Lemons. We’ll be using both the zest and the juice from our lemons for plenty of flavor and acidity.
These lemon crumb bars are incredibly easy to make, and the ingredients come together in minutes. The crumb mixture for the shortbread crust doubles as the crumb topping.
Make the Crumb Mixture.
Using a pastry cutter, combine the flour, sugar, salt and butter until moist and crumbly. You’ll need to scoop out 1 cup of the crumbs, which you’ll be setting aside to use for your crumb topping. Press the remainder of the crumb mixture firmly against the bottom of your prepared pan.
Bake the Crust.
I pre-bake the crust for 15 minutes, because it needs more time to bake than the filling. So baking it briefly first gives it a head-start in the oven to make sure it’s cooked through.
Whisk and Bake the Lemon Filling.
Now whisk together the eggs, sugar, flour, lemon zest and lemon juice. Pour the lemon filling over the hot crust and bake for another 15 minutes. Since the lemon filling is so thin at this point, the crumb topping would sink to the bottom if you tried to add it now. So you’ll need to bake the filling a little first, before you sprinkle on the crumb topping.
Finish Baking with the Crumb Topping.
After baking the filling for 15 minutes, it will still be quite wobbly, but the surface will be set enough that you can gently sprinkle on the crumb topping. Now just finish baking your lemon crumb bars until the filling is set and the streusel is a pale golden brown.
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Lemon Crumb Bars
Crust and Topping
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 tsp coarse Kosher salt
- ¾ cup cold unsalted butter, diced
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 3-4 small lemons
Crust and Topping
- Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line an 8×8 inch baking dish with a piece of parchment paper.
- In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt. Scatter the cold pieces of butter over the flour mixture, and use a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the flour until moistened, crumbly, and no visible pieces of butter remain.
- Measure out 1 cup of the crumb mixture, and set aside to reserve for the crumb topping.
- Press the remaining crumbs firmly against the bottom of the pan. Bake for 15 minutes.
- In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar and flour until smooth.
- Use a microplane zester to zest 3 of the lemons, and whisk the lemon zest into the eggs and sugar mixture.
- Juice the lemons, measuring 1/2 cup juice. If needed, juice the 4th lemon to get a full 1/2 cup of lemon juice. Whisk the lemon juice into the egg mixture until smooth.
- After the crust has baked for 15 minutes, remove from the oven, and cool for 5 minutes.
- Whisk up the filling again, and carefully pour over the hot crust. Bake for 15 minutes.
- Gently sprinkle the reserved 1 cup of crumbs over the filling, then continue baking for another 20 minutes, until the topping is a pale golden.
- Let cool at room temperature for at least 2 hours, before slicing. These bars can be served slightly warm, or at room temperature.