Tangy lemon bars are always a favorite and this recipe adds a little stripe of strawberry for a subtle flavor shift… plus, they’re really pretty! A perfectly refreshing summer dessert, these scrumptious strawberry lemon bars are easy to make, yummy to eat and look beautiful on a dessert tray.
Mmmmmmm… anything with lemon in it is always going to be a hit with me! I’ve been making lemon bars for years and I always love them. They are just so deliciously smooth and tangy and refreshing.
One great thing about lemon bars is that they require relatively few ingredients. And you don’t need any specialty ingredients to make them, just items that are usually on hand, like sugar, eggs, lemon juice from fresh lemons, flour, butter…. like that.
So, having baked lemon bars over the years, this summer I was enjoying some gorgeous strawberry jam that I made recently and got to thinking of interesting uses for that jam. Usually, we just spread it on toast or stir it into yogurt.
This summer, I’ve made lots of jam – strawberry, plum, raspberry, orange marmalade, oh, so many! I haven’t posted recipes for them because it’s pretty simple and I don’t get into “canning” or preserving the jams, I just make one fresh small batch and then we eat that, rather than storing jars of jam.
I go with a basic recipe of 2/3 fruit to (approximately) 1/3 sweetener (natural sugar in my case) and let it boil on high, then lower heat until thickened. If the fruit is not completely ripe you might need to add a bit of water to get it softened enough… it’s really a matter of taste.
I adjust the sugar, adding more if the fruit is more tart, then test it by putting a spoonful on a plate and if it sets up and doesn’t run, it’s ready. See, easy peasy!
So while I was admiring my strawberry jam, I decided to fancy-up my usual lemon bars by adding a layer of strawberry. I thought it might add a nice flavor change and also look pretty. It took a few tries, but I finally got it right!
The thing about these bars is, the flavor doesn’t change all that much. Just a hint of strawberry, so don’t be concerned that you’ll loose that lemon lusciousness that you love.
Let’s Make Some Strawberry Lemon Bars
First, we’ll mix up all of the ingredients as per usual for lemon bars. The crust gets pressed into a baking dish. In the past, I’ve always had a difficult time removing the bars from any baking dish, especially glass, because the bars have to be chilled before cutting. That makes the shortbread crust harder to cut. In my experience, anyway.
I tried using a metal baking dish, but the lemon combining with the metal creates a nasty metallic taste in the lemon bars… especially if you store them in that same metal dish. So now, I like to line the baking dish. I even go up the sides with parchment. Then, I can just remove the whole block of lemon bars and cut it easily outside of the pan.
So, if you line the baking dish, any dish will do!
After baking the crust until it’s slightly browned, you’ll remove the dish from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes.
You’ve already mixed up your lemon filling while the crust was baking, so now you’ll remove about 1/3 of the lemon mixture and place it in a separate bowl. Be sure to whisk the filling ingredients well before removing the 1/3.
To that 1/3 of filling, you’ll add in some strawberry syrup. I took a bit of my strawberry jam and siphoned off the syrup because that batch of jam happened to be nice and syrupy, but you can either make strawberry syrup for this purpose or do as I did, using strawberry jam that you have on hand. I didn’t want to use the fruit of the jam because I wanted the little strawberry layer to have the same usual creamy texture of the lemon layer.
You’ll pop the baking dish back into the oven to let the strawberry layer firm up; it won’t take long because the layer is so thin. You’ll then remove the pan from the oven, letting it cool for several minutes.
Next, you’ll whisk the remaining lemon filling again to make sure it is blended and very carefully spoon the remaining filling over the strawberry layer. I say “very carefully” because in one of my attempts, I just poured on the filling and it created a crater in my strawberry filling and destroyed the layer!
Ugh… they ended up tasted great but looked awful, they didn’t even look cute and marbled… nope, just messy. So that taught me a big lesson! Spoon the lemon filling on the strawberry layer and don’t just add it in one spot, but spread it out over the whole dish. You can use a ¼ measuring cup or a large tablespoon, whatever you think works best.
Then back to the oven, and your lemon layer will bake up as usual. When the top lemon layer is set but not yet browned all over, just a tiny bit on the edges, (don’t over-bake!) the bars are done.
Now all you have to do is wait until the bars are entirely cooled before cutting. Because I have lined the baking dish all the way up the sides, after chilling in the refrigerator for at least an hour, I just pinch the edges of the parchment and remove the whole batch of bars. I place it on a chopping board to cut. You’ll have to peel down the sides of the parchment from the filling of the bars and then they are quite easy to cut with a large knife.
I just love how beautiful these strawberry-lemon bars look! With a sprinkling of powdered sugar on top, they really are lovely.
By the way, I have tried many, many lemon bar recipes and for this recipe, I use flour instead of cornstarch for the filling layer. There’s enough flour to allow the layers to firm up, without adding a floury taste to them.
It also makes them easier to cut, as sometimes using cornstarch firms up the lemon layer, but it is a bit softer than needed to ensure that the bars keep their form when cutting… especially for this recipe, where you really want the strawberry layer to be distinct.
If you love lemon bars and you love strawberry, you should definitely check out these bars if you want something yummy, summery, easy, and beautiful to look at when serving.
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Scrumptious Strawberry Lemon Bars
- 2 cups flour
- ½ cup sifted powdered sugar, more for dusting
- 1 cup chilled butter
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 1 pinch salt
- 4 eggs
- 1½ cups granulated sugar
- 6 TBSP fresh lemon juice
- 2 TBSP strawberry syrup
- 3.5 TBSP flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
For the crust:
- Before cutting and juicing lemons for the filling, zest 2 teaspoons of lemon rind
- In a large mixing bowl, add the lemon zest, 2 cups of flour, ½ cup sifted powdered sugar, 1 cup chilled butter (cut into small pieces) and a pinch of salt.
- With your fingers or a pastry cutter, mix ingredients until it resembles coarse crumbs, then form into a ball.
- Line an 8×8 or 9×9 square baking dish with foil or parchment paper, all the way up the sides of the dish for easy removal after baking.
- With your fingers, press the dough into the bottom of the dish, making an even layer for the bar crust
- Bake in pre-heated oven (350°) for at least 15 minutes or until crust begins to lightly brown.
- Remove crust from oven and set aside.
For the filling:
- In a medium sized bowl, add the eggs, granulated sugar, 4 TBSP of flour and baking powder. Whisk to incorporate the ingredients, making sure that there are no flour lumps.
- Add lemon juice and whisk to thoroughly blend ingredients.
- Remove approximately ⅓ of the mixture and place in a smaller bowl.
- Add strawberry syrup to this small amount of lemon filling mixture and whisk to blend
- Immediately pour the strawberry mixture gently onto the crust, covering the crust completely in a thin layer; the crust should be completely covered.
- Return the pan to the oven and bake until the strawberry layer is set, approximately 10 minutes. Check to see that the layer is set and does not jiggle before removing from oven.
- When strawberry layer is set, remove pan from oven and set aside to cool for 5 minutes
- Briskly whisk the remaining lemon filling mixture and very carefully spoon the filling onto the strawberry layer of the bars, gently moving all over the surface, not just pouring the filling in one spot.
- Return the baking dish to the oven and bake until the lemon layer is set and just beginning to brown at the edges. The layer should not jiggle when set.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool, then refrigerate for at least 1-2 hours
- When you want to slice the bars, remove from refrigerator and with your fingers, pinch the baking paper or foil and pull out the bars from the dish. Set on a chopping block.
- Before slicing, sift powdered sugar lightly over the bars to decorate.
- Pull the foil or paper from the sides of the bars and with a large knife, slice the bars into even squares.