The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Lemon Bars - Help?

bakingbrunette's picture

Lemon Bars - Help?

I love lemon bars. I love to make them and while they do come out tasty, they don't seem to come out the way they should in the recipe photos. I always get a layer of whitish meringue-like foam on the top of my bars that end up cooling into a candy-like consistency.

Is this normal?

I use the recipe from with these results all the time. I've tried using cornstarch instead of flour for the batter portion of the recipe with no real change in the final product. 

Anyone know of a fix or a better recipe?



suzieking's picture

The top surface of a lemon bar will always be like that a little, but it should generally go away in the fridge or be inconspicuous after a little dusting of sugar.  If it's noticeable it might be a bit of a problem.

It sounds like the filling could be getting overcooked.  The recipe you mentioned calls for the filling to go into a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes for an 8x8 pan. That's a bit long for that size pan and way too hot.  Lemon bar filling is essentially a custard without dairy, so it benefits from a gentler treatment.

I would try lowering the oven to 300 or 325 degrees when baking the filling, and pull it when the filling is just  set (i.e. a bit of a jiggle, but nothing that looks like it would run around in the pan.)

If you just want a different recipe to try, I've used before, and it's very good, although it makes a 13x9 pan of bars.

sicusue's picture

I've switched to the Cooks Illustrated recipe for lemon bars, which uses lemon curd for the topping.  Not that the foamy top bothered me, but the lemon curd is just so luxurious.  You bake the crust as usual, then make the filling on the stove top, so it's already cooked when you pour it onto the crust.  Yummy!  Now I want to go bake a batch!


ehanner's picture

sicusue,  Could you post that recipe that calls for lemon curd? I'd like to surprise my daughter today.



sicusue's picture

This is for a 9-in. square pan (for 9X13, 1.5 times the recipe)


Line pan w/ foil or parchment

Blend briefly in food processor:

1 1/4 c AP flour

1/2 c confectioner's sugar

1/2 tsp salt

Add 8 TBS butter cut into 1-inch pieces & pulse several times until consistency of corn meal.  Press into even layer in pan. Refrigerate 30 minutes. Bake in middle position of oven at 350 degrees about 20 min till golden brown.

While the crust is baking, make lemon curd (did I mention this recipe uses lots of yolks?!!!  Get out that pavlova recipe!)

In medium-sized saucepan briefly whisk 7 large egg yolks plus 2 large eggs to combine.

Briefly whisk in 1 c plus 2 TBS granulated sugar 

2/3 c lemon juice (fresh, please!)

1/4 c finely grated zest

a pinch of salt

Add 4 TBS butter cut into 4 pieces and cook on med-low, stirring constantly until curd thickens to a sauce-like consistency--170 degrees (using a thermometer really helps to nail it) 

Pour curd through strainer if lemon zest in the topping bothers you.

Stir in 3 TBS heavy cream and immediately pour onto warm crust

Bake until filling is shiny and center 3 inches jiggle when shaken--10 to 15 min

Cool on rack till room temperature--that's the hardest part!

Remove from pan using parchment to lift out, then cut into squares and eat--that's the best part.


ehanner's picture

Thanks so much. It looks like a lot for an 8x8 pan so they must be thick bars.


sicusue's picture


The pan size is stated as 9-in square, and my other recipes for 9X13 pans call for 2 cups of flour and 2 sticks of butter for the crust, so this crust is about the same thickness as those.  If it seems like too much filling, you could always hold back some of the curd for other uses.  It keeps well.  Happy baking!


ehanner's picture

Thanks Sue

makrma4's picture

This is relatively simple and very good.

Lemon Bars Deluxe

1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour 
2/3 cup powdered or confectioner's sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
Extra softened butter for greasing pan

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Adjust oven rack to middle position. Lightly butter a 13- x 9-inch baking dish and line with parchment or wax paper allowing edges to come over the sides.

Pulse flour, powdered sugar, cornstarch, and salt in food processor. Add butter and blend, 8 to 10 seconds, and then pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle mixture into prepared baking pan and press firmly into an even layer with slightly raised sides to hold in the filling. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes and then bake until golden brown, about 20 to 30 minutes; remove from oven and let cool slightly. After crust is finished baking, reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.

Lemon Filling:
4 large eggs, beaten lightly
1-1/3 cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour 
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (from two large lemons)
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice, strained
1/3 cup whole milk
1/8 teaspoon salt
Extra powdered or confectioners' sugar to decorate finished bars

While crust is baking, make the Lemon Filling:  In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, sugar, and flour; stir in lemon zest, lemon juice, milk, and salt to blend well. Pour mixture onto the pan on top of the warm crust.

NOTE: You may set prepared Lemon Filling aside until crust is finished baking. When ready to pour on warm crust, re-blend Lemon Filling mixture and pour into the warm crust.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until the filling feels firm when touched lightly. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool for 30 minutes. Grasp the parchment and carefully lift the bars onto a cutting board. Cut into serving size squares or bars, wiping your knife clean between cuts if necessary. Sieve powdered or confectioners' sugar over bars and serve. NOTE: The powdered sugar will start to be absorbed into the Lemon Filling after several hours, but it can be reapplied before serving.

Storage: 3 days at room temperature, 3 weeks refrigerated (individually wrapped in plastic wrap to prevent drying), or 3 months frozen.

Yields about 2 dozen bars.

MommaT's picture


I've very successfully used a lemon bar recipe from a little Land-O-Lakes cookie book (the kind you get at the grocery-store checkout).  I have never experienced the top you describe, so maybe these will work for you.


1-1/3 c. all purpose flour

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup softened butter

Combine all crust ingredients in small mixer bowl.  Beat at low speed, scraping bowl often, until mixture is crumbly (2-3 minutes).  Press on bottom of 8" square pan.  Bake at 350 F for 15-20 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.


3/4 c. granulated sugar

2 eggs

2 T all purpose flour

1/4 tsp. Baking Powder.

3 T lemon juice (I usually add some zest too)

In small mixer bowl, combine all filling ingredients.  Beat at low speed, scraping bowl often, until well mixed:  1-2 minutes.  Pour over *hot* crust.  Continue baking at 350 F for 18-20 minutes or until filling is set.  

Cool slightly.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar then cool completely before cutting  into bars.



Gwen's picture

This was also a Cook's Illustrated recipe. It is lovely, doubles nicely and freezes. I modified it with the passion fruit/lime as my husband doesn't like lemon sweets that much. This has been a big hit among my friends. 

I don't remember any white foam on it ever.

Lemon Bars (or Passion fruit/lime bars)

  • The filling must be added to a warm crust.
  • Can be frozen

 The crust

  • 1 ¾ cup flour
  • 2/3 cup confectioners sugar
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/3 sticks) at very cool room temperature, cut into 1-inch pieces)

Furit Filling

  • 4 large eggs, beaten lightly
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar (if using passion fruit/lime, reduce sugar by 1 ½ to 2 Tablespoons per 1/3 cup of passion fruit pulp)
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 - 1 ½ tablespoons grated zest (2 lemons or limes)
  • 2/3 cup juice (3-4 lemons or a combination of passion fruit and lime)
  • 1/3 whole milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

For the Crust

Heat the oven to 350o degrees. Lightly butter a 13 x 9 inch baking dish and line with one sheet parchment or wax paper. Dot paper with butter, then lay second sheet crosswise over it (you pick up the whole thing using the extra paper draped on the sides)

 Pulse flour, confectioners' sugar, cornstarch, and salt in food processor. Add butter and process to blend, 8 to 10 second, then pulse until mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse meal. About three 1-second bursts.

 Sprinkle mixture into lined pan and press firmly with fingers into even, ¼ inch layer over entire pan bottom and about ½ inch up sides. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, then bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

 For the Filling

Whisk eggs, sugar and flour then stir in  zest and juice, milk and salt to blend well.


Reduce oven temperature to 325o degrees. Stir filling mixture to reblend; pour onto warm crust. Bake until filling feels firm when touched lightly, about 20 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack; cool to near room temperature, at least 30 minutes.

 Cut into serving size bars, wiping knife or pizza cutter clean between cuts, as necessary. Sieve confectioners' sugar over bars, if desired.

 *Can also be made with passion fruit and lemon juice.

Same amount of juice (we used a ratio of 1/3 passion fruit pulp - 2/3 lime juice). Reduce sugar by 2 Tablespoons. Same amount of zest, only lime. 

 We also tried a ratio of ½ passion fruit to ½ lime. We like these bars very tart so the more passion fruit you use the less sugar. Reduce sugar by 3-4 tablespoons).