Lovely Lemons

My baby.

See that beauty of a Meyer lemon up there?

Yup, I grew that.

That might not seem so remarkable until you realize that I’m the woman otherwise known as “Black Thumb Jung.” Yes, that’s what my dear husband calls me. With the utmost affection, of course.

Admittedly, I’m not the world’s greatest gardener. I have killed ivy and cactus, after all, which are supposedly indestructible. Just not in my hands, though.

I wasn’t born a gifted gardener like my late-Mom was. She could grow anything — even tubs of sweet, juicy tomatoes inside our family house, which too often was enveloped in dreary San Francisco fog to give those delicate seedlings a fighting chance outside.

But that’s not to say that I don’t give it the ol’ school-girl try. Every year, I fill my backyard planters with new soil, new plants, and a bushel of hope. Yes, the utmost optimism that something, anything will actually go on to live and flourish. Usually, at least a few things do. Oh sure, I’ve lost my share of cilantro, tarragon, roses, snapdragons, and butter lettuce that blossomed brightly, then in an instant just died out. Gosh, was it something I said?

Fortunately, a few things actually do go on to thrive. I can grow basil like there’s no tomorrow. Rosemary and I get along just like that. And I once had a tomato plant that not only produced for a full summer, but somehow managed to endure a rainy, cold, neglected winter only to sprout beautiful round orbs once again the following year. Go figure.

So, last year, I planted a dwarf Meyer lemon tree, and waited with bated breath. Sure, many of my friends already have such trees and are only to eager to load me up with their abundance of lemons. But there’s just something wonderfully satisfying about growing your own.

I watched as the blossoms turned into little, hard green spheres that grew and grew, and slowly started turning taxi-cab yellow. I picked the first few last month, all the while beaming with pride.

Dig in.

So, what to do with these special lemons that I grew with my very own black thumb?

Why, make lemon bars, of course.

San Francisco Pastry Chef Emily Luchetti’s, to be exact.

In her book, “Classic Stars Desserts” (Chronicle Books), she writes that these lemon bars are so incredible that complete strangers have written to her saying that they’ve tried loads of lemon squares recipes, but that this one was the most lemony and most perfect of all. My friend Charlen, to whom I had given a copy of the book as a gift, also raved about them when she made them.

So, how could I resist?

There’s a full cup plus 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice in these lovelies. The Meyer lemons, which are less tart than Eurekas, also lend a very appealing floral quality.

On the bottom is a buttery shortbread crust. In the middle, the smoothest, thickest, most velvety lemon curd-like filling made with six eggs for extra richness.

The bars bake up with a thin, ivory-colored, crisp-chewy top. Once cooled, refrigerate them to let them firm up even more. Then, cut them into squares and dust with powdered sugar.

Lemon bar perfection.

They’re not too sweet. They’re not too tart. Even my husband, who often forgoes lemon desserts because he finds them too sour,  declared these bars just right.

They have a perky, bright taste and the look of pure sunshine.

They’re the best lemon bars ever, and the perfect finale for my noble lemons.

Thick, creamy and wonderful.

Lemon Squares

(Makes 24 squares)

For crust:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

6 ounces (12 tablespoons) cold unsalted, butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

For filling:

6 large eggs

3 cups granulated sugar

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

For garnishing:

About 3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

To make the crust: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine flour and confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on low speed until mixed. Add butter and continue to mix until butter is the size of small peas, about 30 seconds. The mixture will be very dry. Gently press mixture evenly onto the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.

Bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool to room temperature. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees.

To make filling: In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and granulated sugar until smooth. Stir in lemon juice and then the flour. Pour filling on top of crust.

Bake until lemon filling is set, about 40 minutes. Let cool to room temperature and then put in the refrigerator for 1 hour or keep at room temperature for 3 hours before cutting. Cut into squares measuring about 2 1/4 inches and dust the tops with confectioners’ sugar.

Planning Ahead: The squares may be made a day in advance, covered, and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before serving.

From “Classic Stars Desserts”

More: My Q&A with Pastry Chef Emily Luchetti

More: Emily Luchetti’s Gingerbread with Warm Apples and Cider Sabayon

More fun with lemons: Make Your Own Preserved Lemons

More fun with lemons: Make your Own Meyer Lemon Vanilla Bean Marmalade

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  • I’m a total black thumb with a queen bee gardening mom as well. =( It looks like you may be turning green though cause that’s a beautiful Meyer lemon.

  • Oh please, please, please send some of those lemon bars our way!

    In lieu of that, would you enter this post in our Grow Your Own roundup this month? Full details at

  • I love getting to grow lemons in my backyard! I have two meyer lemon trees, and they to produce well only every other year, but this is a good year. I have to try these bars!

  • Waw,…those lemon bars look so tempting!! They are looking grand!!!

    I also love the other recipes!! MMMMMMMMMMM,….lovely!!

  • Congratulations on your successful gardening! And your lemon bars look like they belong at Tartine–truly gorgeous. I’ll have to make these…SOON.

  • Mmmhhh, I love anything tangy and lemony! Those bars look to die for!



  • Oh, you know I’d be salavating for those lemon bars!! I wish I had a backyard or even a patio in my apartment so I can grow things, but nada. So I just have to rely on the generosity of neighbors. Luckily, one friend in the neighborhood has a meyer lemon tree so I get a supply from him regularly. I love them. I bet it’s more tasty making a lemon bar with lemons from your own backyard though. Good job!

  • Oh, yes!!! I will do this, for sure!!

    I just dealt with a massive harvest of Meyer lemons, too. Made lemonade, lemon sorbet, and lemon drop cocktails. You should try these, they’re really good. Same recipes as last year. See:

    for the squeezing episode (the juicer attachment for my food processor is a dream to use!). That links to the sorbet and lemon martini (really not a martini) recipe. The lemonade is newer:

  • Mmmmmm lemon bars. One of my favorite desserts ever! I’m so jealous you can grow Meyer lemons. I have always wanted to try them but can’t seem to find them where I live. Hopefully one day I will find them and then taste their deliciousness 🙂

  • Happy New Year Carolyn! Oh! Your Meyer lemons look so good…I just planted one last year when we moved and was able to harvest a few, hope this year I can get more Meyer lemons. Your lemon bars look so yummie, I adore everything that is lemony…great pictures as well 🙂

  • I have a black thumb too!! (but not the cool nickname .) Congratulations on your lemons…and the lemon bars look perfectly divine.

  • Congrats on growing the lemons! Your mom would be proud of you! What beautiful-looking lemon bars as well. Yum!

  • This is the friend Charlen,who loves the lemon bars so much, I juice my meyer lemons and pre-measure the amount for the lemon bars and freeze it in containers. When the urge strikes to make the lemon bars, I just unfreeze the juice and I am ready to mix.
    This recipe is so good, I won a lemon bar bragging right amongst a group of friends.

  • Great job on growing the lemons! Growing your own fruits and vegetables is so satisfying… The lemon bars sound amazing! It’s been years since I made lemon bars; it’s about time… 🙂

  • There’s nothing better lemony bars – not too sweet – no problem love the sweet-tart balance.

    Can I eat the squares of the screen? Please!!



  • These are the lemon bars I make! They are the best! I’ve never tried them with Meyer Lemons though. I’ll bet they’re even better! Emily’s Cheesecake Brownies from that book are terrific too!

  • Oh, I am semi cursed with a lack of green thumb too, Its random what grows for me. Those bars look amazing, and I think I’d be in heaven with a meyer lemon tree.

  • I love lemon desserts and your lemon bars look amazing!

    I am also very impressed with your ability to grow lemons-I killed several herb gardens.

  • What beautiful photos and lovely, yummy-looking lemon bars! I personally prefer sweet, tart bars, but I would still eat these up in a second! I’ll be bookmarking this recipe ASAP.

  • Nate: Just entered your contest. Uh, do I win a green thumb if I win? 😉

    Moe: Oooh, a lemon drop cocktail? Sounds like just the thing to kick back with on a Friday night.

  • I don’t even like lemon bars but every once in a while crave them for some reason. Neighbors and friends have been offering up their lemons to me lately – so I will definitely try this recipe. Any idea how many lemons are needed to make the amount of juice needed?

  • How wonderful that you grew your own Meyer lemons! And the bars look so heavenly delicious!

  • Lisa: Lemons, of course, range in size, so it’s hard to to say exactly how many you’ll need to make 1 cup of juice plus 2 tablespoons. I would say it’s probably about 5 to 8 lemons, depending upon how large they are. Hope that helps! Happy baking to you.

  • MMMMmmmm. Yes, E.L. is a class act, and knows her stuff, too. Thanks for the post!

  • this recipe just made my day. i bet it is going to taste delicious:)

  • I just made these! omg, they are soo good! I substituted the granulated sugar for splenda and it tastes just as wonderful!

  • I have some Meyer Lemons I’m working with this weekend that I got from my Grams tree. I’ll have to try this recipe!

  • Pingback: Lovely Lemon Bars – Food Gal | Happy Happy Joy Joy

  • I love lemon bars/ squares and with Meyer lemons…. Heavenly!

  • I have a super black thumb too! I can’t keep anything alive. 🙁 I love lemon bars, but I’m sure it won’t be quite the same since I won’t have fresh lemons from the backyard. Nevertheless, you’ve made this recipe sound so amazing I might just have to try it with supermarket lemons anyway!

  • Ooooooh! Cannot wait to try this recipe. Just made lemon bars the other day and while they turned out superb, I bet these will taste even better w/more than a cup of lemon juice.

    The dwarf meyer lemon tree that we planted years ago turned out to be a dud! Glad your tree has grown so wonderfully.

  • Oh! Can’t wait to try this. My dad has a Meyer lemon tree…and it’s a blooming. Thanks for this recipe! – mary the food librarian

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  • My mom used to love lemon squares. I am going to make this recipe in her memory. 🙂

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  • I’m literally making these right now. Just put the whole thing in the oven for the last time. Before I added the lemon mixture, I took a taste of the crust. It is amazing! So buttery and sweet, but not too sweet. I’m definitely going to make these again.


  • Mmmm, these look delicious. We have a dwarf Meyer lemon tree, too, and it is such fun making lemony stuff this time of year 🙂

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  • It would be nice if we could print just the receipe and not all the other comments and the story behind the receipe


  • I brought these to my in-laws Easter lunch and everyone liked them. I prefer a more traditional bar that is more firm, but if I considered this as a pie, I would have to say it’s excellent. Just not the typical texture of a lemon bar. I am going to try and use this in a tart b/c I think I would like it better in a pie form since that’s what the silky filling reminds me of. My hubby really loved them a lot–thanks for sharing the recipe!

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  • i made your lemon bars… AWESOME!
    it was such a hit, my flatmates scarfed them all up!
    will definitely be making these again 😀

  • I made these lemon bars last night and they were the best I’ve had! Just the right combination of tangy and sweet! And this recipe is easier than the others I’ve tried. One thing that surprised me, the lack of grated lemon rind. Of course I had to add a bit out of habit. Yum!

  • MMMMmmmm……wowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww

  • I just had the best lemon bar from the bakery on Dominquez Street in Berkeley, and vowed I’d make some with my abundance of Meyer lemons. Thanks for the recipe!

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