- 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 balance between the liquid - the lemon juice - and the setting dry ingredients - the flour - and you can't really increase one without increasing the other, except adding more flour simply cuts into the lemony taste, but without more flour, it would just become a runny mess.
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.