We’re well into Spring and Summer is right around the corner. If you’re in the South you’re probably wiping the sweat off your upper lip every 5 minutes. One thing I love about this time of year is my refrigerator is constantly stocked with pints of blueberries! And I always have a bag of lemons. So it only makes sense to make lemon blueberry bars. These bars are the perfect combination of tart and sweet. And one of the easiest desserts I’ve ever published!
The Components of Lemon Blueberry Bars
Think of this recipe just like a pie. It has a crust and a filling. You’ll make the dough in a mixer and the filling in a pot over the stove.
The crust is a simple mixture of lots of butter, sugar, and flour. It creates a super soft but sturdy enough base for the filling. I’m obsessed with its melt-in-your-mouth consistency and I think you will be, too. I’ve never made a more simple, almost hand’s off, dough. It’s a press-in crust which can’t get any easier. Oh, and if you’re like me and you’re addicted to butter, you’ll be one happy camper. This crust is decked out with TWO STICKS of butter. Yeah, you’re into it.
The lemon blueberry filling is basically a lemon curd with added blueberries. Although there are lots of blueberries in this recipe, these are definitely lemon bars. If you’re into a tart, sour, pucker-your-mouth kind of dessert, you’ll love this recipe. The blueberries are the offset to the tartness. The best part about eating these bars is the burst of sweet, jammy blueberries after tasting the mouth-puckering lemon curd. It’s all about balance! To give it an extra bump of sweet, these bars are dusted with a generous amount of powdered sugar.
How To Make Shortbread Crust
Shortbread is one of the easiest things you can make. Can we just have a little moment for this next thing I’m gonna tell you? It can be a crust or a cookie! You can literally roll out some chilled shortbread dough and make shortbread cookies. How fun is that?! Or you can press the dough in a pan and make a crust. Either way, it’s super easy and delicious. For this recipe, we’ll be using shortbread as the crust. But you can call it a cookie crust if you want. Here are the steps to making this easy shortbread crust:
- Cream softened butter and brown sugar together until light and fluffy
- Mix in egg yolk
- Mix in flour and a pinch of salt
- Press dough into buttered pan
- Bake it
That’s as simple as it gets, folks. Just make sure you don’t overbeat the dough once the flour is added. Mix until it’s just combined so the dough stays tender.
How to Make Lemon Blueberry Filling
Here’s the fun part. The lemon filling is actually the first thing you’ll make and the blueberries will be added at the very end. To get that thick and creamy lemon filling, follow these steps:
- Mix eggs, sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch, and a pinch of salt in a pot off the stove
- Put over medium heat and stir constantly for 7-10 minutes until thickened (reaching 165 degrees)
- Strain the filling (for any egg bits)
- Fold in the blueberries
Once your lemon blueberry filling is ready to rock and roll just pour it over the crust and pop it in the oven. Baking the filling will help it set up and not be so runny. You’ll know the bars are done when the filling stops jiggling when shaken.
Tips and Tricks for Lemon Blueberry Bars
Here are a few tips to ensure perfect lemon blueberry bars. It may seem long but it’s mostly common sense stuff!
- Grease your pan – This is something I failed to do when I first made these bars. I thought the dough wouldn’t stick because of all the butter. But I was sorely mistaken. If you don’t grease your pan, you’ll be prying your lemon bars with so much effort you may sling them halfway across the kitchen.
- Bake your crust until it’s golden brown. Oven temperatures vary greatly from oven to oven. You may go over or under the time suggested. The edges will start to brown first, but make sure to bake a little longer to ensure the middle of the crust gets cooked. You want a solid crust so you don’t have to eat your bars with a spoon.
- Don’t overbake the filling. The eggs in the lemon curd will get a funky taste to them, especially around the edges, if overcooked. Avoid baking the filling too long where the edges start to brown. The taste is metallic-y and weird.
- Strain the filling. Please, please, please. I know I already said it before but it’s important. Anytime you cook eggs in custard or curd, you want to strain the mixture after cooking to remove any cooked egg. Nobody wants scrambled eggs in their lemon blueberry bars!
- Use fresh or frozen blueberries – obviously fresh is best but you can surely make these any time of year with a bag of frozen blueberries. My favorite brand is Wyman’s of Maine frozen wild blueberries.
- Don’t stress when you cut the bars – Here’s your warning: the blueberries get in the way when cutting. When you’re sliding your knife, some blueberries may come out of their spot. Don’t panic. Just encourage them to go back where they came from. This is not Martha Stewart magazine. And from the results of an Instagram poll, my followers believe taste is what really matters. They know what they’re talking about.
- Refrigerate until ready to serve – the consistency of these bars is like almost pudding-like. If you take them out too soon they may start to droop in a hot environment. Keep them cool until ready to serve and then douse them in powdered sugar.
Lemon Blueberry Bars
For the Crust:
1/4 c plus 2 Tbsp (80 g) brown sugar
1 1/2 sticks (170 g) butter
1 egg yolk
1 3/4 c (220 g) bread flour
1/8 tsp salt
For the Filling:
3 Tbsp (25 g) cornstarch
2 egg yolks
1 c (220 g) sugar
2/3 c (150 g) lemon juice
pinch of salt
2 c blueberries
For the Crust:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom and sides of a 13×9 baking dish. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy (1-2 minutes). Scrape down sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add egg yolk and mix on medium-low speed until just combined. Add flour and salt and mix on low speed until just combined.
Press dough in an even layer in the baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until crust is golden brown.
For the Filling:
While the crust is baking, make the filling.
In a medium, heavy bottomed pot mix together all the ingredients except for the blueberries. Turn the heat to medium and stir constantly for 7-10 minutes or until thickened. If you have a thermometer you want the filling to be at 165 degrees.
Once the lemon filling is thickened, remove from the heat. With a mesh strainer set over a medium bowl, strain lemon filling. Add blueberries and mix until just combined.
Pour the lemon blueberry filling over the crust and bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes (depending on your oven) until the filling doesn’t jiggle very much when shaken.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature. Once the bars are room temperature, cool for 2-3 hours in the refrigerator.
When you’re ready to serve, top with sifted powdered sugar. Cut into squares and enjoy!
- You can use frozen or fresh blueberries for this recipe.
- Keep leftovers in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.