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Aunt Martha's Perfect Lemon Bars

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Last Modified: April 18, 2019
Published: April 18, 2019

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Nothing says spring and summer better than these tangy, refreshing bars!

I was sooo lucky and blessed to receive many bonuses when I married my farm boy all those years ago. Lucky for him, the rascal, it was the least he could do! I was blessed with an instant extended family living nearby that I never had as a first generation American. My husband gave me a gaggle of wonderful aunts on both sides of the family that immediately made me feel like I belonged.

And I'm gonna tell you, they all could cook! Every one of them! I told you awhile back about Aunt Dora and her fried apples.

Well, Aunt Martha was the baby girl in that string of nine Streff children. I'll always picture her sitting on "her" end of the couch passing out Juicy Fruit gum. I loved her so much! Before she retired, Martha lived in Omaha for many years where she worked as a live-in cook for wealthy families and she had quite a recipe box! (P.S. If you look back on that post, it's Martha on the far right wearing glasses and clowning around peeking through the car window in the other photo!)

Now Aunt Martha didn't have a food processor but her recipe for lemon bars is made with ingredients you probably have on hand today so you can whip up a panful in no time and you don't even need to wash the food processor between steps!! Easy peasey, lemon squeezey! (I had to get that in here!

Here's just how easy it is!

Combine flour, powdered sugar and cold butter in food processor and pulse till it looks sort of like coarse crumbs.

Press that into a 13" by 9" pan. I like to use glass but metal works too.

Bake that crust for 15 minutes while you make the filling. AND YOU DON'T NEED TO WASH THE FOOD PROCESSOR! Oh sorry, was I shouting? I just get excited when it's this easy.

I used fresh squeezed lemon juice this time just because I had one in the fridge and besides, I love the smell and I love using the old green juicer the Streff aunties gave me. See the chip on the handle? Just part of why I love it so much. I added a little bottled lemon juice to make 1/4 cup and when I don't have a lemon, no sweat, I use bottled juice. (But I do miss adding a little lemon zest like I do when I use fresh.)

Give the filling a good spin in the food processor.

Pour filling mixture over crust while it's still hot and bake til the top is a little blistered and ever so lightly browned.

Don't you love the teeny sifter? I sure do! It's old as the hills, another hand-me-down from the Streff sisters. It's the perfect size to sift a little powdered sugar over the bars while they're coming out of the oven.

Oh happy day! Lemon bars.

One bite and my thoughts drift back to those spring days when my little girls and I would pay a visit to the low white house with a broad front porch on a corner lot. It was bustling with three doting aunties who gave us hugs, love and Juicy Fruit gum.

My little summer girls. Sigh.

Aunt Dora had summoned them to the front porch for a picture in the cute dresses she sewed for them using her own pattern made of brown paper sacks. Such proud little fashionistas. The Streff aunties were a blessing and a joy.

Aunt Martha's Perfect Lemon Bars

Light, buttery crisp crust with a pie-like lemon filling that forms a slightly crunchy powder-sugar-dusted top.


  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup cold butter (cut in pats)


  • 3 Tbsp flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp lemon extract
  • 1 to 2 tsp lemon zest, to taste (optional)
  • 4 Eggs
  1. Pulse crust ingredients in food processor til well blended. Press into ungreased 13" x 9" pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

    While crust bakes, combine filling ingredients in food processor and process until well blended. 

    When crust is baked, pour filling over the still-hot crust and bake for an additional 25 minutes or until top is slightly blistered and lightly browned. Dust with powdered sugar while still warm.

    Cut into squares and serve with fruit if desired.

Cookies and Bars

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