I Need to Make Perfect Lemon Bars

Photograph by Isa Zapata, Food Styling by Sean Dooley, Prop Styling by Tim Ferro

ON THIS WEEK’S episode of Dinner SOS, test kitchen director and host Chris Morocco is joined by test kitchen editor Kendra Vaculin to discuss how Kendra developed the perfect recipe for lemon bars.

Developing this recipe for Foolproof Lemon Bars nearly broke Kendra—there’s even videographic evidence to prove it. Every recipe that appears in the magazine or on the Bon Appétit or Epicurious websites has been developed, tasted, critiqued, and cross-tested (a final test by someone other than the developer) in our test kitchen on the 35th floor of One World Trade Center. When it came to developing a new lemon bar, Kendra, in typical fashion, didn’t make it easy for herself.

A lemon bar commonly contains a lot of zest and juice, solidified in bar form through one of two means, as Chris explains. Some use a starch, like flour, as well as eggs to thicken the lemon juice mixture and cause it to set when baked. It works, but the results are often stodgy. Other methods start by making a lemon curd (lemon juice thickened only with eggs over a double boiler on the stovetop), which is then baked onto a prepared crust, for a creamier, brighter, and more delicate lemon layer.

Kendra’s goal was to determine whether she could develop a recipe as easy as a stir-and-dump filling, but with all the best qualities of a precooked lemon curd. Kendra ran into a lot of issues—the lemon filling running underneath the crust (her lemon bars turned upside down!), the sweetened condensed milk overpowering the lemon flavor, or whisking too much air into the lemon mixture.

Listen now to hear after making around a dozen trays of lemon bars how Kendra was finally able to crack the code and achieve her perfect bar that is stackable and has a sunny, golden lemon filling that doesn’t have to be cooked twice.

Originally Appeared on Bon Appétit

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