Tuscan Lemon Bars


The lemon bar has got to be one of one of the most nostalgic desserts ever. Lots of delicious memories attached to these for so many people, myself included. It’s one of the first baked treats I started making and sharing with people way back when and it was alway one of the most popular. My husband is a lemon bar fanatic and the smell of that shortbread crust and lemony filling baking always brought him running to the kitchen without fail-and still does! I made the same recipe for years because it was always such a hit but I couldn’t resist playing with it a bit to make this version Tuscan version of luscious lemon bars with an Italian twist! These are everything a lemon bar should be with a thick lemon filling made with fresh lemon juice and zest and a perfect filling to crust ratio. A little creamy mascarpone cheese and rich Limoncello liqueur in the filling, as well as crushed ladyfinger cookies in the crust takes gives them their delicious Italian flair for a little taste of Tuscany in every bite. 

Too good to keep to yourself, these Tuscan Lemon Bars are meant to be shared with and devoured by all the lemon lovers in your life. Put a batch in the oven and watch them all come running!

Ingredients:

For the Crust:

  • Unsalted butter for greasing
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 crushed ladyfinger or biscotti crumbs finely ground in a food processor from about 8 whole(if you don’t have ladyfingers or biscotti in hand, substitute and additional 1/2 cup flour or you could use 1/2 cup toasted coconut for another added dimension of flavor!)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 powdered sugar, plus more for garnish
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For the Filling:

  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 ounces mascarpone cheese, room temperature-Very important that the mascarpone is room temperature otherwise it will not blend completely into the mixture and you will end up with chunks of the creamy cheese dotted through the filling.
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon fresh grated lemon zest
  • 2/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 6 lemons)
  • 1/3 cup limoncello liqueur (if you prefer not to use the liqueur, substitute an additional 1/3 cup lemon juice)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350. Line a 9×13 or 10 inch baking pan with foil and grease the foil. (I use the inside of one of one of the butter wrappers after I remove the stick of butter.)

Mix the dry crust ingredients in a food processor about 30 seconds or until well combined. Cut sticks of cold butter into small 1/2 inch pieces and add to processor, then pulse until well incorporated and mixture has the consistency of small peas and starts to stick together.

Pour the filling into the bottom of the lined pan and distribute evenly over the bottom of the pan pressing down and partway up the sides of the pan. If you like you can reserve 1/2 cup of the crust mixture to sprinkle on top of the filling before baking.

Bake the crust for approximately 20 minutes, checking after 15 minutes to make sure your crust isn’t browning too quickly, as oven temperatures vary. Remove when golden and let cool slightly while you make the filling. Lower oven heat to 300 degrees.

For the filling, combine sugar and mascarpone cheese in a mixing bowl beating well with a stand or hand mixture on medium speed until blended. Add in the eggs one at a time beating well after each is added. Add the flour, followed by the lemon zest. Turn mixer to low speed and slowly add in the lemon juice and limoncello if using.

Pour the filling into the baked crust and place back into the oven to bake at 300 for approximately 20-25 minutes or until filling is set.

Remove and let cool completely before slicing. Lift the bars out of the pan by grabbing the edges of the foil and peel away from bottom. Cut into bars and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Then watch them disappear!


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