That’s right, even if you only have one lousy lemon, you can still make lemon bars. I know because of necessity.
We have a Meyer lemon tree that we’ve been growing indoors year-round. It finally gave us a lemon and you can read all about that in my riveting article about growing a Meyer lemon tree indoors. That was last week’s post and it was chock full of information about growing a lemon tree inside.
Obviously, we were super excited about the one beautiful, perfect, yellow lemon that our Meyer lemon tree produced. But the question quickly presented itself…what can you make with just one lemon? I suppose you could make one glass of lemonade. But why not try lemon bars? Well, it turns out you can make four, very tasty, very lemon-y, lemon bars.
So today’s article, as promised, is all about making lemon bars. You can make these with lemons you buy at the store. Or from lemons you grew on your own Meyer lemon tree outside, or even…from lemons you grew on your own Meyer lemon tree inside. Which will make these the sweetest lemon bars you ever did taste. I promise. Or at least, you’ll have to say so, since you went to all the trouble of growing the things.
We started anticipating our lemon crop way back when the fragrant purple flowers started blooming a long 8 or 9 months ago. We assumed that we’d have all sorts of lemons to make lemon bars with based on how many flowers popped up. So to prepare for our lemonpalooza, we started off with Ina Garten’s lemon bar recipe. She’s the Barefoot Contessa, so what better place to start?
Her recipe calls for a whopping cup of lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of lemon zest. So you need about 5 or 6 lemons to get her recipe done and you will definitely hurt at least one finger making that much zest. No problem, we thought. We’ve got at least 10 blooms blooming on this tree. So, we bought 6 Eureka lemons from the store to try out the recipe and it turned out really, really, really, good. Because, again, it’s the Barefoot Contessa and she seems to know her way around the kitchen.
But about 8 or 9 months later, only one of those blooming flowers had actually turned into a lemon. Because someone forgot to pollinate the lemon blooms. Me. I find this terribly embarrassing as a self-professed indoor gardener with a whole indoor garden that I think about all the time, and who pollinates all of my other indoor crops all the time. But for some reason I just didn’t think about the need to help pollination along when it came to our indoor lemon tree. Duh. So, now with only one lemon available, we had to seriously rethink the recipe.
This brought me to a fascinating website called “One Dish Kitchen, the Simple Pleasure of Cooking for One“. It is actually a very sweet website and not at all sad, like I for some reason thought it would be. The author, Joanie, actually has a huge and stunning kitchen, and she clearly is ready to cook for more than one, any time she wants to. She started devising recipes “For One” when her son went off to school and she wanted to send him recipes he could make for himself. It became such a hit with college kids, young professionals, and travelers that it kind of took off. I thought that was kind of a neat story.
So she specializes in problems exactly like this, and has figured out the lemon bar recipe for a small batch. She even can recommend the dish size to use. Which is actually really important because if you cook it in the wrong size dish, it’ll either overcook or undercook and just in general not turn out as nicely. (Luckily, though, if you are putting these ingredients together – butter, sugar, and lemon juice – they almost always turn out to make something pretty yummy.)
One thing I loved about this recipe actually ended up being the small scale-ness of it. The whole thing didn’t seem like an endeavor. It was quick and easy with very little to clean up. I used one bowl, one fork, one spoon, one lemon and one egg and didn’t even have to break out the mixer. Not bad, right?
So, if you have lots of Meyer lemons because you actually remembered to pollinate your indoor Meyer lemon tree, kudos to you. You should try Ina Garten’s recipe because, well, it is a no-brainer. And if you have just one lemon like I did, that’s ok, we’ll get it next time. You could try to cut Ina’s recipe down to 1/6 and take your chances. Or, try the small-batch recipe below which is a little more precise and tested at this smaller scale.
I wanted to make sugary, tart-y, sticky, lemon bars that were glorious, yellow and irresistible. It’s a lot to ask from one lousy lemon. But I think we may just have nailed it.
One Lemon Lemon BarsCourse: DessertCuisine: Southern, AmericanDifficulty: Very Easy
This recipe is from the One Dish Kitchen. I added lemon zest to it, but that’s about it. It is made with one lemon, makes about 4 lemon bars, and doesn’t destroy your kitchen.
- For the Crust
2 1/2 tablespoons butter , room temperature
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
- For the Lemon Filling
1 large egg
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 tsp lemon zest
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Place parchment paper in either a 5″ baking dish or two 8.5 oz ramekins.
- Make the crust. Mix together the butter and sugar with a fork until uniform. Add the flour, cornstarch, and salt. Mix until the dough sticks together. Place the dough in the dish and press flat with your fingers or a spoon. Bake 15-20 minutes, until crust is golden brown.
- Make the lemon filling In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and sugar. Add the flour, lemon zest and lemon juice and mix well. Pour the filling on top of the crust and bake for another 20-25 minutes, until the edges begin to brown slightly and the center iis firm. Allow to cool for about 30 minutes before cutting. Top with powdered sugar, if desired,
- It is important, in these small batches especially, that you use the proper size dish to bake in. (That’s experience talking, unfortunately.)