I'm all for doing things the hard way if the results are better, but with lemon bars I didn't have great results making them from scratch. The Kitchn pointed me to an easier and tastier solution, based on a recipe by Rose Levy Berenbaum. The crust is crumbly and crisp, and the lemon topping is thick and intensely lemony.
The secret is essentially more butter and better technique - making a lightly sweetened, buttery shortbread, using rich, buttery lemon curd as the topping, and cooking the crust before assembling the bars.
Her original recipe involves making lemon curd from scratch with all manner of grating and boiling, but these are cheating lemon bars, and I got my lemon curd from the store. You can stir in some fresh lemon juice if you like a tart lemon flavor. You'll end up with an 8x8 pan worth of very rich bars.
Even better, you can make the crust very quickly in a food processor.
Preheat the oven to 325. Combine the powdered sugar and granulated sugar in the bowl, and pulse a few times.
Add ten tablespoons of cold butter and pulse a few more times until you can't see the sugar. Also, do not even think of not using real butter - shortbread is butter. Seriously. Butter is in the title of the recipe. No substitutions allowed.
Add 1 1/4 cups of flour and process until the bowl is full of what looks like fine crumbs.
You could also mix the crust by hand or electric mixer, creaming softened butter with the sugar and then adding the flour.
Pour the crust mixture into the bottom of the 8x8 metal pan, and press down with your fingers to evenly cover the bottom of the dish. Prick it with a fork to prevent bubbling. Bake the crust for 30-40 minutes, taking it out before the top begins to brown.
Spread a layer of lemon curd over the crust and return it to the oven 5-8 minutes. Right before serving, sprinkle with powdered sugar. I recommend cutting them really small so you can eat more of them.
Dickinson's sells other curds like lime, coconut, banana, and vanilla creme that would work here, and the shortbread crust would also be a great base for homemade jam and a streusel topping. I'm thinking homemade strawberry freezer jam with a peanutty crumb topping.
Let me know if you make the lemon bars or think of a good variation!
Cheating Lemon Bars
2 Tbl. granulated sugar
2 Tbl. powdered sugar
10 Tbl. unsalted butter, cold
1/14 c. all purpose flour
1 jar of lemon curd (approx. 10 oz.)
1/8 c. powdered sugar