Lemon Meringue Bars

Lemon Meringue Bars

It is Minnesota and there is about 6 inches of snow on the ground, not exactly the time of year for a fresh fruit dessert. So what do we Northerners do when we want something sweet and bright, but can’t find berries that aren’t from the freezer or even a decent apple? We turn to citrus. Of course it doesn’t grow here, not even in the summer, but it travels well and there is such amazing variety. For these lemon meringue bars I actually use a combination of lemons, limes and Meyer lemons (for their perfume). The combination is more interesting and has a zing to it that one fruit alone won’t give.

The recipe I started with comes from a cookbook from one of my favorite bakeries in San Francisco, Tartine. They start with a brown butter shortbread studded with pine nuts and bake a smooth tangy lemon curd on top. It is a perfect combination of rich and refreshing. I pretty much follow their recipe exactly except I mix-up the citrus a bit and add a topping of toasted meringue. Oh yeah, I also double the recipe so I have plenty to give to my neighbors! My pictures of this recipe are of a double batch, so don’t be thrown off if mine look larger than yours.

Lemon Meringue Bars From Tartine(p.149)

Crust

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 1/2 cups all-purpose

3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup pine nuts

Filling

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 1/4 cups sugar

1 cup lemon juice (I add some lime and Meyer lemon to mix)

zest from one small lemon

6 large eggs

1 large egg yolk

pinch salt

Swiss Meringue

1/2 cup egg whites

1 cup sugar

pinch salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9×13″ baking pan.

To make crust, sift the confectioners’ sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add flour, butter and pine nuts, mix with a paddle attachment until a smooth dough forms.

Transfer the dough to the prepared pan. Press the dough evenly over the bottom of pan and 1/2″ up the sides. It should be no thinker than 1/4″ thick.

Lemon Bar Crust Pressed Into Pan | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

To help smooth the dough cover it with a piece of parchment and press it flat with the palm of your hand.

Unbaked lemon bar crust | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Leaving the parchment paper in place cover with baking weights (I use a combination of beans and metal pie weights).

Pie Weights On Unbaked Crust | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Bake until crust is golden brown, about 25-30 minutes. (I ended up taking mine out after this amount of time, taking the pie weights off and baking it for another 10 minutes to achieve that color). Rotate the pan if the dough seems to be baking unevenly.

Baked Lemon Meringue Bar Crust | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

While the crust is baking make the filling. Sift the flour into the mixing bowl (I forgot to sift and it was just fine!). Add the sugar, lemon juice and zest, whisk until the sugar has dissolved slightly. In a separate bowl whisk the eggs and yolk with the salt (the salt helps to break down the eggs faster). Add the eggs to the lemon juice mixture and blend well.

Juiced Lemons | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Pour the lemon filling over the golden brown crust while it is still hot and in the oven. The pan will be very full and impossible to lift back to the oven if you try to remove it. Just be careful!

Pouring lemon bar filling into crust | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees and bake until the center of the lemon curd is not longer wobbly, 30-40 minutes.

Baking Lemon Meringue Bars | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Let cool on a wire rack, then cover and refrigerate. Don’t try to cut until totally chilled!

With a sharp knife, cut into equal squares and then into triangles.

Lemon meringue bars cut into triangles | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Lemon bars cooling | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Dust with powdered sugar or pipe meringue on top for an extra treat!

Once the lemon bars are chilled and cut then make the meringue. Bring about an inch of water in a saucepan to a simmer. Combine the egg whites, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Place the bowl over the simmering water and whisk the egg mixture until it is hot and all of the sugar has dissolved, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and place the bowl onto the stand mixer, fit with a whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until very think, glossy and stiff peaks when you lift the beater.

Meringue with a stiff peak | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

When your meringue is ready use a pastry bag fit with a star tip to decorate the lemon bars with the meringue.

Piping meringue onto lemon bars | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Once all of the lemon bars are covered then use a blow torch (the kind you use for creme brulee) to toast the meringue.

Lemon Meringue Bars | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

They will stay in the refrigerator for several hours but once they are covered with meringue and toasted it is best to eat them because they are impossible to cover without ruining the beautiful presentation. This never seems to be an issue in my house!

16 thoughts to “Lemon Meringue Bars”

  1. Oh my, Zoe. These sound absolutely wonderful. I have a good recipe that I go to, but I think I’m certainly going to have to try this one. I’m not a fan of pine nuts though. Could you substitute almonds or pecans in the crust?

    Laura B.

  2. Hi Laura! Yes, any nut will work nicely. You could even leave them out altogether but they won’t be as rich in flavor. Once you make them let me know what you decided on!

    Thanks, Zoë

  3. Hi Toni,

    I would make them, bake them and cut them before freezing. Do everything but the meringue and you will be all set when it is time for your party!

    When you freeze any kind of pastry be sure to wrap, wrap, wrap in plastic so they don’t take on the personality of your freezer!

    Have fun!

    Zoë

  4. I just finished the lemon bars and they are cooling. My question is your pan looks like a cookie sheet to me in that it doesn’t look like the pans I think of for baking something like this. I used a 9″x 13″ pyrex. Your comment about not worrying if our bars look different because you made a double batch makes sense as my lemon filling doesn’t look as thick (even though I haven’t cut into them yet). But how high was your pan? Mine was 2″ high. Could I really add twice the filling and it would still get firm like yours? I can’t wait to taste them. The tiny bit of crust left on the parchment paper was great!

  5. Hi Toni,

    I did bake mine in a cookie sheet that is 12×17″. It fit the double batch without making the filling too much higher than a single batch. You could double the filling on yours if you want a thicker layer of lemon. You may need to let it bake for a few extra minutes. Make sure you chill the bars well before you cut them.

    Enjoy! Zoë

  6. Hi,

    I just baked some lemon bars but mine has lots of cracks on top. Do you know what I did wrong? Please help.
    Thanks,

    Yalin

  7. Hi Yalin,

    It sounds like they were over baked. What you describe is most likely caused by the eggs getting over baked and tightening up too much. Another thing to check is that your oven isn’t running too hot, which could be a cause of over baking?

    Let me know if this helps!

    Thanks, Zoë

  8. Hi Zoe!
    How many bars did you get from your double batch? How long can the meringue sit or be stored? And is the recipe that you provided for a double batch or single batch?

  9. Hi Jeff,

    You want to make the meringue and pie it on rather quickly or it looses its shine and loft.

    If you want to make the lemon bars ahead, you can even freeze them and then add the meringue before you serve it. Once they have the meringue on them you should serve them within a few hours. It is hard to wrap them so they will start to pick up the flavors in your refrigerator.

    The recipe is a single batch and makes about 24 small triangles.

    Happy baking! Zoë

  10. i was wondering why you put in the lemon juice later instead of just mixing it in with the rest of the filling.
    by the way they look so good.

  11. Hi Mandy,

    I do mix everything together:
    Add the flour, sugar, lemon juice and zest, whisk until the sugar has dissolved slightly.

    In a separate bowl whisk the eggs and yolk with the salt (the salt helps to break down the eggs faster).

    Add the eggs to the lemon juice mixture and blend well.

    Does this make it clearer? Let me know!

    Enjoy! Zoë

  12. Zoe,can I halve the recipe in a 9” by 2.8” Springform pan to get the same results?

    Would love to try these,have a few lemon crazy friends, who am sure,would drool over them.Thanks.

  13. This recipe is a keeper. I made these bars two days ago. I shared some with my neighbors. We all agree that these are the best lemon bars we have ever tasted. I love that there’s a good amount of lemon curd, and it’s really tart. I used chopped pecans instead of the pine nuts. My husband really loved the nuts in the flaky crust. It’s like a pecan butter cookie with lemon curd on top. I didn’t even make it with the meringue. I definitely will try it next time. Thank you, Zoe!

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