Recipe Review

The $3 Pantry Ingredient That Makes Martha Stewart’s Lemon Bars So Good

published Apr 2, 2020
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Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Brett Regot; Design: The Kitchn

As I was narrowing down contenders for our lemon bar showdown, I was tempted to include Martha Stewart’s recipe based on its name alone. Doesn’t Creamy Lemon Squares just sound so delish? Luckily, its extremely short and unique ingredient list allowed me to justify its inclusion.

Martha’s lemon bars call for just seven ingredients total. The filling itself is only three ingredients — egg yolks, lemon juice, and sweetened condensed milk. I love sweetened condensed milk, so I was excited to see how it would play out in a lemon bar. I was also intrigued that the sweet milk replaced the need for granulated sugar entirely.

This recipe also promised to be the fastest of all the ones I tried. You don’t have to chill the dough before baking, you don’t have to cool it afterward, and the filling is made in a bowl, not on the stovetop. I had to find out — was this recipe too good to be true?

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Brett Regot; Design: The Kitchn

How to Make Martha Stewart’s Creamy Lemon Squares

You’ll begin by heating the oven to 350°F. Butter an 8×8-inch square baking pan, then line it with enough parchment paper to hang over the sides of the dish. Using a stand mixer, beat softened butter, sugar, and salt until fluffy. Add the flour and mix until it’s just incorporated. Press the dough evenly into the baking pan and 1/2 inch up the sides. Prick the crust with a fork and bake (without chilling) for 20 minutes. 

In a large bowl, whisk 4 egg yolks, 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk, and 3/4 cup lemon juice until smooth. Pour the mixture directly over the hot crust and return to the oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Cool to room temperature in the pan, then chill for about 2 hours before slicing and serving.

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Brett Regot

My Honest Review of Martha Stewart’s Creamy Lemon Squares

This recipe yields an absolutely delicious and perfectly-balanced lemon bar. The sweetened condensed milk mellows the sharpness of the lemon without taking away its lemony brightness, and the crust, thanks to the addition of powdered sugar, is sturdy enough to stand up to the filling. I love that it uses up the full can of milk, too — it can be tricky to know what to do with leftovers from cans.

What really makes this a winning recipe, however, is how easy it is. There are no fussy extra steps, and there’s no need for a strainer or a thermometer, or even an offset spatula. If you’ve got an electric mixer (it can be a stand mixer or hand mixer), a square baking pan, and a whisk, you’re well on your way to lemon-bar perfection.

Credit: Amelia Rampe

If You’re Making Martha Stewart’s Creamy Lemon Squares, a Few Tips

I racked my brain for any tips I had, but kept drawing a blank. This recipe is perfect as-is.

Rating: 10/10

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Brett Regot; Design: The Kitchn