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Bruleed Lemon Bars

Recipe Info

Difficulty: Easy
Mess Level: Low
Yield: 12 Servings
Prep Time: 20 min
Cook Time: 40 min


For the Crust:

  • 2 Cups Flour
  • ¼ Cup Sugar
  • 1 Cup (2 sticks) Cold Butter
  • Pinch Kosher Salt

For the Filling:

  • 4 Large Lemons
  • 4 Eggs
  • ¼ Cup Flour
  • 1 ½ Cups Sugar
  • Pinch Salt

For the Brulee:

  • 1 ½ Cups Coarse Raw Sugar


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 Fahrenheit.
  2. Cut the butter into small cubes and pop it back in the fridge to keep it cold. In the food processor, add the flour, sugar, and salt. Pulse to combine. Add in the cubed butter and mix until it's the texture of small peas, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  3. Grease a 9x13 pan with cooking spray or butter. Pour in the crust mixture (It will be dry) and pat it down firmly with your hands or the back of a measuring cup.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, make the filling. Add your eggs, sugar, salt, and flour to a bowl and beat to break up the eggs.
  6. Wash your lemons and zest them on a microplane. Roll them firmly with your hand to soften them, then halve and juice them into the filling bowl.
  7. Add the zest and beat the mixture with a whisk till it’s well incorporated. Start gently so you don’t splash lemon juice everywhere.
  8. When the crust comes out of the oven, pour the filling directly over the crust. Return to the oven and bake for 20 more minutes...
  9. Allow the lemon bars to cool till they are room temperature, then put them in the fridge until very cold, at least 2 hours or overnight.
  10. If serving the whole pan at once, you can brulee it all. Otherwise, brulee only the squares that will be eaten right away.
  11. Lightly sprinkle on raw sugar to coat the top, try to make sure it’s even so you get an even brulee.
  12. Turn on your torch and run it over the sugar coating until the sugar bubbles. Allow to sit for 30 seconds so the crust can harden before eating. Enjoy!

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Savannah Says...

  1. Can I brulee these in the oven?

    1. Ummmm.... No!
      I tested this for you and it did not work. If you don’t wish to use a brulee torch simply dust them with powdered sugar instead.
  2. Do I have to use the lemon zest?

    1. Sometimes you don't feel zesty...
      Nope, that’s entirely up to you, it just adds a little extra flavor and makes use of the whole lemon but it’s not necessary.
  3. What if my oven it tilted and the filling isn’t even during baking?

    1. Get out the hydraulic jack or...
      Use a shim to level the oven prior to baking, or if that’s not possible just rotate the pan of lemon bars halfway through baking.
  4. How long do I brulee the sugar for?

    1. It's kind of like roasting a marshmallow....
      You should hold the torch over the sugar long enough to see it bubble. But you can always stop bruleeing and start again where’s if you burn it black, the only thing to do is try and remove the burnt sugar, sprinkle more on and try again.
  5. Do I have to use a food processor?

    1. Nah... Just roll up your sleeves...
      Not at all, you can absolutely use a pastry cutter or even a fork to mix the butter into the crust. You can also grate your cold butter on a cheese grater to make it easier to mix in.

Ramblings of a Line Cook

The making of these lemon bars has been an experience to remember. Have you ever seen a restaurant with one of those giant, butane torches? Most restaurants and bars have one, though they’re used semi-frequently. Tony used to own one and as the story goes, he was building a firepit in his backyard in Colorado and used the torch to get the fire going. Somehow in the process the entire torch got too hot and wouldn’t shut off, meaning it was a giant, hot, pressurized can spewing flame out the end.

I found this to be hilarious having used them many times in the restaurants I’ve worked at. Granted, myself and some of the line cooks would do things like light pilots on the gas stove that had gone out by turning the gas on to a whole row of them, lighting one, and then using a spray can of cooking oil in an arc to light the rest in one, big, glorious whoosh of flame. So I really wasn’t concerned about the dangers of a flaming butane torch, however valid those concerns may be.

Well, Tony wouldn’t budge on getting another one after his experience and so we compromised with one of those tiny, handheld torches you can get at Walmart or cookware stores. You have to manually fill it with a can of butane which works like a can of hairspray, you have to depress the stick when you fit it into the torch and it’s supposed to fill. Well, the stick on this can was too short and so Tony goes about researching to elongate it.

Youtube directed him to get a ballpoint pen and a candle, which he did and he removed the little pen tube like you would if you were going to trache someone in the field. He then cut the pen tube, fit it onto the can tube, melted some wax down and used the wax to hold the two together. Obviously, no way this goes wrong, right?

Once the wax had solidified Tony went trotting back into the kitchen to try and fill the torch and I followed, walking around the corner just in time to see him depress the can of butane and a giant wall of flame leaped up out of nowhere and singed half the hair off his arm.

It turns out one wick of the three-wick candle was still burning right underneath where he tried to fill the torch. Poor Tony, he just has rotten luck with these torches. And a girlfriend that began laughing as soon as it was clear he wasn’t hurt.

Well… We went to home depot a week later and found the proper can to fill the torch with. It was filled with no further excitement and might I just say, before you laugh nervously and navigate to the page on chocolate chip cookies where no torch is required, butane torches are not scary, and they’re actually quite easy to use. Provided you buy the proper can the first time, and don’t use them around open flames. 😉

And these lemon bars are amazing! The perfect bite of shortbread crust with the most tantalizing, dreamy lemon filling. Follow it up with a crackly, hard sugar coating and you’ve made a restaurant-worthy dessert. Not kidding, I made these for a dessert at a restaurant once and we sold them for $8 a pop with piles of whipped cream and fresh berries.

So if you’re feeling like you want to put on a show for, maybe your 4th of July guests? Everyone’s already there and stoked to see some fiery action, go ahead and whip up these lemon bars the day before and let them chill. Then brulee them to order (Far, far away from the grill or campfire) right in front of your guests. And you might just steal the show from those firecrackers.

More questions on how (not) to use a butane torch? Check out "Savannah Says" above.

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