I’ve always loved any dessert with lemon in it. The lemon pavlova recipe I shared not too long ago is the perfect example. To be totally honest though, lemon bars – a lemony classic – has struck me as generally too sweet. I’ll still eat them of course, often until I’m sick, but I sit and wonder if there could be a better lemon bar out there. So I decided to come up with one.
It’s not like I’m totally reinventing the wheel here. I just reduced the sugar in the lemon bar filling and added a layer of lemon cream* for some contrast in texture. Just to be extra fancy I’m adding a little lemon macaron, and although the method for the macaron can be found right here (and an extra link below), I’ve included the lemon ganache recipe for them below.
*you may recognize the cream recipe from my cherry tart post. Another reason why I love that recipe so much, it’s super versatile!
If you’re saying to yourself “slow down, Scott, I just wanted a damn lemon bar” that’s cool. Just use the lemon bar crust and double the quantity of the filling recipe and you’re good to go!
lemon ganache for macaron
107g heavy cream
236g white chocolate Guittard Creme Francais 31%
10g lemon juice
5g lemon zest approx. 1 lemon
24g butter unsalted
12g inverted sugar optional
Add the lemon juice and lemon zest to the white chocolate.
Bring the cream to a simmer. For such a small amount, I like to use the microwave.
Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let sit for 2-3min.
Add the butter and inverted sugar and whisk or hand-blend the mixture until shiny and emulsified.
Cover the ganache with plastic wrap and let it set in the cooler overnight.
Pipe the ganache onto each pair of macaron shells. Let the macaron temper in the refrigerator, wrapped in plastic wrap or covered, for 1-2days.
*Find the macaron recipe here. For lemon macaron simply add yellow food color to the almond paste mixture and follow the instructions for the plain shell as normal.
lemon bar crust
337g all-purpose flour
7g baking powder
133g butter unsalted
118g whole eggs approx. 2 eggs
5g vanilla extract
Bring the butter to room temp. before getting started.
Combine and sift the all-purpose flour and baking powder and reserve to use later.
Combine the butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla extract in a stand mixing bowl with a paddle attachment.
Mix the ingredients until they’re well incorporated and smooth.
Add the whole eggs and mix until they’re fully emulsified into the butter mixture.
Add the sifted dry ingredients and mix until the dough is just combined.
Let the dough chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of an hour up to overnight.
Roll the dough out to 1/8”/ 3mm thick and lay over a half sheet pan lined with parchment paper or a non-stick baking mat.
Place a half sheet cake frame onto the pan, punching into the dough.
Par bake the dough at 350F/176C for 3-5min.
lemon bar filling
328g whole egg approx. 6 eggs
49g all-purpose flour
123g lemon juice
4g lemon zest approx. 1 lemon
Sift the all-purpose flour and reserve to use later.
Combine the whole eggs, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest and salt and whisk or hand-blend.
Whisk or hand-blend the all-purpose flour into the mixture.
Pour the mixture over the par-baked crust.
Bake at 300F/148C for 30min. or until the filling is set.
517g lemon juice
37g corn starch
10g gelatin 160 bloom
207g heavy cream
Hydrate the gelatin in cold water and reserve to use later.
Whip the heavy cream to soft peaks in a stand mixer with a whip attachment. Reserve the whipped cream in the cooler to use later.
Warm the lemon juice over medium heat. While the lemon juice is warming, squeeze the excess water from the hydrated gelatin and have it on hand to use.
Combine the sugar and cornstarch and add to the lemon juice while whisking.
Whisk the mixture over medium-high heat until it thickens and just begins to boil.
Remove from the heat and add the gelatin, whisking until it is fully dissolved and incorporated.
Cool the thickened lemon juice over and ice bath until it is near room temp (77-86F/25-30C).
Fold the whipped cream into the mixture.
Cast the lemon cream over the baked and cooled lemon bar and freeze.
Cut the lemon bars using a hot knife. I cut them in 2×2″ squares but it’s your world when it comes to the size of the bar.
Garnish the bars with lemon zest and the lemon macaron.
- 107 g heavy cream
- 236 g white chocolate Guittard Creme Francais 31%
- 10 g lemon juice
- 5 g lemon zest approx. 1 lemon
- 24 g butter unsalted
- 12 g inverted sugar optional
- 337 g All-purpose flour
- 7 g baking powder
- 3 g salt
- 133 g butter unsalted
- 147 g sugar
- 118 g whole egg approx. 5 eggs
- 5 g vanilla extract
- 328 g whole egg approx. 8 eggs
- 389 g sugar
- 49 g All-purpose flour
- 123 g lemon juice
- 4 g lemon zest approx. 2 lemons
- 1 g salt
- 517 g lemon juice
- 37 g cornstarch
- 178 g sugar
- 10 g gelatin 160 bloom
- 207 g heavy cream
- Add the lemon juice and lemon zest to the white chocolate.
- Bring the heavy cream to a simmer. A microwave works well to heat small amounts of heavy cream.
- Pour the hot heavy cream over the chocolate and let sit for 2-3min.
- Add the butter and inverted sugar and whisk or hand-blend the mixture until shiny and emulsified.
- Cover the ganache with plastic wrap and let it set in the cooler overnight.
- Pipe the ganache onto each pair of macaron shells. Let the macaron temper in the refrigerator, wrapped in plastic wrap or covered, for 1-2days.
- Bring the butter to room temp. before getting started.
- Combine and sift the all-purpose flour and baking powder and reserve to use later.
- Combine the butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla extract in a stand mixing bowl with a paddle attachment.
- Mix the ingredients until they’re well incorporated and smooth.
- Add the whole eggs and mix until they’re fully emulsified into the butter mixture.
- Add the sifted dry ingredients and mix until the dough is just combined.
- Let the dough chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of an hour up to overnight.
- Roll the dough out to ¼” thick and lay over a half sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
- Place a half sheet cake frame onto the pan, punching into the dough.
- Par bake the dough at 350F/176C for 3-5min.
- Sift the all-purpose flour and reserve to use later.
- Combine the whole eggs, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest and salt and whisk or hand-blend.
- Whisk or hand-blend the all-purpose flour into the mixture.
- Pour the mixture over the par-baked crust.
- Bake at 300F/148C for 30-40min. or until the filling is set.
- Hydrate the gelatin in cold water and reserve to use later.
- Whip the heavy cream to soft peaks in a stand mixer with a whip attachment. Reserve the whipped cream in the cooler to use later.
- Warm the lemon juice over medium heat. While the lemon juice is warming, squeeze the excess water from the hydrated gelatin and have it on hand to use.
- Combine the sugar and cornstarch and add to the lemon juice while whisking.
- Whisk the mixture over medium-high heat until it thickens and just begins to boil.
- Remove from the heat and add the gelatin, whisking until it is fully dissolved and incorporated.
- Cool the thickened lemon juice over and ice bath until it is near room temp (25-30C).
- Fold the whipped cream into the mixture.
- Cast the lemon cream over the baked and cooled lemon bar and freeze.
- Cut the lemon bars using a hot knife and garnish with lemon zest and the lemon macaron.
Marilyn Ciccotosto says
Hello,could you tell me where I can find this half sheet cake frame? This looks like the answer to my prayers!Thank you so much ,this recipe …as all others,looks fabulous!
I’m so glad you like the recipe and blog! This is the frame I use. If you wanted to search for other options, “pan extender” is a good keyword and a few companies that make them are Paderno and Matfer. I hope this helps and you give the recipe a try!
Cheers – Chef Scott
Marilyn Ciccotosto says
Thanks so much
Laura Armato Tyler says
That cake is amazing! Thanks for sharing it with us. I’ve had the honor of making two cakes for Icing Smiles; what a great organization. Lemon bars are one of my absolute favorites, too, so am excited to try your recipe. I made your apple pie recipe for Thanksgiving last year, and am going to make it again next week. It was fabulous! Love your blog; it is the first thing I look for on Saturday mornings.
Viany Iskandar says
Hi Chef Scott!
This recipe looks awesome!!!
I was very excited to see this recipe popped up on the news feed! I LOVE any dessert with lemon in it too, and I will have to give this recipe a try soon! I also love the addition of the lemon cream layer on top, because I feel that sometimes lemon bars are a bit too heavy. Thanks for the recipe, Chef SG! 🙂
I’m so glad you’ll give this a try! Make sure to let me know how it turns out. Lemon bars can definitely be overly sweet, so hopefully this one is just right for a lemon lover like yourself! Hope all is well.
Cheers – Chef Scott
Looks Amazing! I love the step By step… Thank you
You’re welcome Susan! Hope they’re a hit when you make them!
Cheers – Chef Scott
The directions state to “freeze” the bars after pouring the lemon cream over the lemon bars. Do we freeze them or just put them in the refrigerator to cool and set?
I would freeze them so there’s a solid surface to then pour the lemon mousse over. Freezing also makes them easier to cut nice and clean!
Cheers – Chef Scott
Oprah Davidson says
Chef!! Thanks for being so thorough. I had a question as to whether or not the lemon cream was interchangeable with other fruit juices or purees and sure-enough the answer was there. I usually don’t read an entire blog (I just head straight to the recipe), but I wanted to make sure I wasn’t asking a redundant question. Saw the link to your cherry tart recipe and clicked on it. So glad I did. I’ve been looking for a way to make a more fruit-forward mousse. Can’t wait to try this recipe!! I’m working on an adaptation of the lemon tart using other fruits. I’ll let you know how it goes. As always, thanks for being such an inspiration (***Yes, I’m fan “girl”ing over here***)
Side question: In an effort to come up with a base cremeux recipe I’d like to know what exactly constitutes a “cremeux”. Google isn’t quite distinct enough for me. How does it differ from a mousse, or a cream, or diplomat, or… One source states that it’s a cross between a ganache and a mousse. Ok? Then how would I formulate a standard fruit cremeux where there’s no ganache present? Annnnd, could a curd with whipped cream and gelation folded into it be considered a cremeux? Or is there another fancy french name for that. If you have a post already covering this topic, forgive me. I’ll go search for it.
I’m glad you navigated to the cherry tart and the fruit cream recipe. It’s really versatile – I’m going to use it today, in fact, for a strawberry dessert at the restaurant.
Cremeux is really just a term for custard. Personally I wouldn’t call it a cross between a ganache and a mousse, it’s more so stabilized pudding. To give you a quick breakdown:
cremeux = heavy cream and/or milk (or fruit puree in full/partial substitution of the cream) + yolks and/or whole eggs + sugar + gelatin (sometimes)
mousse = mousse base (fat or fruit) + whipped cream and/or meringue + gelatin (sometimes)
diplomat cream = pastry cream + whipped cream + gelatin
So, to make a fruit based cremeux you use fruit puree (better than juice because of the solid content) substituting some or all of the heavy cream and then proceed as normal. If you substituted about 80% of the heavy cream for the fruit puree, that would probably be a good place to start in developing a good fruit cremeux. Hope this helps!
Cheers – Chef Scott
Thanks for responding! This is really helpful. I made the lemon bars and they were DELICIOUS! I’m not really big on lemon desserts, I was making it for a friend, but I ended eating a bunch of them. The extras I bought to work and EVERYBODY loved them.
Ok, so according to your description would it be safe to say a cremeux is like a pastry cream without the cornstarch? (And subbing the fruit purée as needed). I’m thinking of using a standard pastry cream or pudding as my base recipe to then tweak and adjust
Also, when using fat as a mousse base, are you just referring to using a pate a bombe, or are there others as well?
I’m glad the lemon bars were a hit!
You’re pretty much right, the big difference between the two is the stabilizer – cornstarch v. gelatin (although many cremeux use all heavy cream instead of whole milk). But that stabilizer does make a big difference in the two textures, and most importantly allows cremeux to be frozen, which you can’t do with pastry cream. For my pudding needs, I use a cremeux recipe about 99% percent of the time.
To me, a fat based mousse definitely means pate a bombe, but in my (jumbled) mind really refers to any fatty mousse flavors like creme fraiche, cream cheese, peanut butter, chocolate, etc. Just about all of those use a pate a bombe and then the flavoring together to create the mousse base.
Cheers – Chef Scott