Here’s what happens when you add a blow torch to your kitchen arsenal: you find an excuse to toast or brûlée everything in sight. When you have fire from a portable gun, why wouldn’t you top everything in sugar and crisp it? It’s foolish not to, frankly.
Can we make nachos with a kitchen torch? There’s only one way to find out.
Let’s focus on the matter at hand: buttery shortbread crust, sweet and tangy Meyer lemon filling, topped with caramelized and crisp sugar. Brûléed sugar, because we have actual torch fire in our hands.
Classic lemon bars, with a small stroke of genius.
We start with the crust.
Crust is a scary word but this is a press-in shortbread so rest easy!
Softened shortbread and powdered sugar and Go!
Flour and salt are added to the fluffy butter and sugar mixture.
That’s it! That was too easy, right?
The crust goes away to bake in the oven while the filling is real-quick whisked together.
I used Meyer lemons for this recipe because I LOVE how they smell, they’re slightly sweeter than regular lemons, and they were the same price as regular lemons at Whole Foods and I was like, wait a minute… Meyer lemons are more fancy and classy than regular lemons so why would I buy these boring old regular lemons when these Meyer lemons are looking mighty fine and wait… why am I spending 99cents per lemon anyway… I need a lemon tree that I won’t kill, GEEZ!
So that’s why we’re using Meyer lemons. Cool story.
Eggs are whisked with the sugar.
Yes, that’s a pie plate I’m using as a mixing bowl. I was like… which bowl will I hate the least when I have to wash it? This one! Scalloped edges. I dunno.
Lemon zest in with the sugar and eggs. Lots of flavor in that zest. Don’t sleep on the zest.
Flour, lemon juice, and a splash of vanilla extract to finish of the super easy filling.
You’re right. It smells delicious.
The filling is poured over the warm, baked shortbread crust.
Baked until fragrant and firm. Golden brown around the edges.
We’re almost at torch time!
The lemon bars are cooled and sliced.
It helps to run a knife along the sides of the pan to help the lemon bars out of the pan.
I like to slice the bars before brûlée-ing them to avoid cracking the crisp sugar with slicing.
Sliced and sugar sprinkled. A thin but aggressive layer of granulated sugar.
A wave of the magic wand kitchen torch will brown, caramelize and if you’re not careful, quickly burn the bars. A light touch. It’s fire and sugar.
I like to brûlée the bars just before serving to ensure that they’re freshly crisp, otherwise the sugar may tend to soften and weep.
Now… what are we going to torch next!?
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- big pinch of salt
- 2 large eggs
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 1/4 cup or sprinkling on top to brûlée
- 1 teaspoon fresh Meyer lemon zest
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup fresh Meyer lemon juice
- Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 8×8-inch baking pan, line with parchment paper (so that it over hangs slightly from the pan) and grease the parchment paper. Set aside.
- To make the crust, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add flour and salt. Beat on low speed until dough is incorporated. Dough may come together, but if it remains shaggy, that’s fine too.
- Dump the crust into the prepared pan, lightly coat fingers in flour, and use your fingertips to press the dough into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes until just browned around the edges.
- You can make the filling while the crust is baking! In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and sugar until well combined and slightly thick. Add the flour, lemon juice, and zest and whisk until blended.
- Pour the filling over the still warm baked crust. Return to the oven and bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until lightly browned on top and no longer jiggling in the center.
- Allow to cool completely in the pan. Run a knife around the edges of the pan. Slice lemon bars into nine squares and remove from the parchment paper. Just before serving, generously sprinkle each lemon bar square with granulated sugar. Use a kitchen torch to caramelize the sugar until amber or golden brown. Allow a few minutes for the sugar to harden and crisp before serving.