- Preheat oven to 350F. If the pan does NOT have a removable bottom, line it with foil (it will help you lift the finished dessert out). If the pan DOES have a removable bottom, butter the bottom and sides.
- Melt the butter and whisk in sugar and salt. Sift and mix in the flour.
- Press into a ¼” thick layer at the bottom of the prepared pan (you can make it curl slightly up the sides to help keep the filling/topping from sticking too much to the sides) and bake for about 25 minutes, until golden brown (this is a little crispier than normal shortbread cookies). Take out and set on a cooling rack. Prick the surface lightly all over with a fork - only halfway through the shortbread, not all the way through. This will help the filling to “stick”.
This was originally a part of the super-lemony lemon tart, but I broke it out into its own recipe because I ended up using it for several other things, such as the other tart-tasting sweet, the cranberry tart. This ended up such a simple, reliable recipe that it's now my go-to substitution for quite a lot of things!
If you love tart desserts but are tired of always defaulting to lemon-based sweets, this cranberry tart is perfect. While the original recipe called for a nut-based crust, it seemed too finicky and the reviews seemed to indicate a bit of trouble getting it just right ... so I just subbed in the shortbread crust from the extremely lemony lemon bars which worked absolutely beautifully.
This started out as an experiment as I had read a Cook's Illustrated article on how to make an intensely lemon-y lemon bar without the fillers starting to get in the way. It's a tough balance between the liquid - the lemon juice - and the dry ingredients - the flour - because you can't really increase one without increasing the other. Adding more lemon means it becomes a runny mess unless you add more flour, but adding more flour simply cuts into the lemony taste.
Unfortunately, I've since lost the link to the Cook's Illustrated article, but it talked about a secret ingredient - cream of tartar. And from its detailed descriptions, I worked backwards from a standard lemon bar recipe and reconstructed the following for a crisp, crunchy shortbread topped with a truly lemony curd.
Beautifully lemony, I found this recipe here. Even better, it achieves the easy-peasy rating because you literally throw all the ingredients into a blender and a food processor and you're done! Per usual, I've adjusted the sugar levels a bit - not only do I usually apportion only 1 cup of sugar for something cake-sized these days, but I felt it really lets the brightness of the lemon shine through.
Part of the reason I started baking was because I like my goodies to be less obviously sweet - I want to taste the flavor, not just the sugar. So most of these recipes will have the sugar dialed down.