Making lemon bars is the essential sign that I am ready to welcome summer. There is just something about the simplicity of the shortbread, the light lemon custard, and that fresh dusting of powdered sugar that all comes together to create a dessert that’s sweet and refreshing. For this variation, I wanted a very easy twist, just to add a little extra depth, which is how I ended up with these classic lemon bars made with earl grey tea.
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What You Need to Get Started
You can easily find all of the ingredients for these classic lemon bars at your local grocery store. If you want to use curbside pick-up or home delivery, check out Instacart to shop online from your favorite local grocery stores.
- Pantry: Flour, Sugar, Earl grey tea bags (Twinings decaf is my favorite!), Powdered sugar
- Fridge: Butter, Eggs
- Spice Cabinet: Salt, Vanilla extract
- Produce: Lemon
- Equipment: 8×8 Baking dish, Parchment paper, Mixing bowls, Whisk, Glass measuring cup, Microplane zester, Citrus juicer, Mesh strainer
Let’s Make Earl Grey Lemon Bars
My favorite thing about lemon bars is the way the custard interacts with the shortbread crust, so you need to start with a good base. To make the crust, you’ll start by preheating the oven and preparing the 8×8 pan by lining it with parchment paper.
Then whisk together flour, sugar and salt until they are combined. The little bit of salt in the shortbread accents the flavor in the lemon bars, so it’s a must. Then you’ll add room temperature butter and use a pastry blender to cut it into the flour mix, along with the vanilla.
Switch to your hands to continue mixing. The dough will be crumbly, but it should stick together when you press it between your fingers. Pour it into the lined pan, and press it down on the parchment paper. Make sure there are no gaps, and it’s pretty even all around. You don’t want a ridge around the edges.
Bake the crust for 20-25 minutes, until it is dried out and the edges are starting to get golden brown. While it’s baking, prepare the lemon custard filling. Start by steeping the tea in boiling water for 5-7 minutes.
Then you’ll want to zest and juice your lemon. The zest adds a lot of flavor, so I don’t recommend leaving it out. You may find that without it the lemon flavor is much more subtle.
At this point, you can begin mixing the custard. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and sugar until they are fully combined, and there are no lumps. If you have a sifter, you can use that to quickly mix and aerate instead.
Then add in the eggs, and continue whisking until they are fully incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Next, you’ll add the lemon zest, salt, and vanilla extract. Again, you want to make sure everything is really well mixed.
Now go back to your tea. It should be ready at this point. Be sure to squeeze the tea bag to get out the excess, so you don’t miss out on any of that Earl Grey flavor. I like to put the bag in a sideways spoon, and then use the little cardboard tag to press out the liquid.
Add both the brewed tea and the lemon juice into the custard mixture. You’ll do a bit more whisking, just until everything is smooth and combined. Because of the tea, the color of the custard will be a little bit darker and warmer than traditional lemon bars. But it’s barely noticeable after they are baked.
When the crust is ready, pull that out of the oven, and pour the custard on top while it’s still warm. This will allow some of the custard to soak into the crust, so you get three layers: shortbread, lemony-shortbread, and lemon custard!
Carefully put the pan back in the oven, and cook for an additional 20-25 minutes. You’ll know the lemon bars are done when the filling is set and doesn’t wobble in the middle when you move the pan. The edges will also start to get a caramelized golden brown. This is the best part!
At this point, you can remove the pan from the oven and then you’ll have to be patient. It’s tough, but these need to cool all the way to room temperature, and then they are even better if they’re further chilled in the fridge. I always suggest making lemon bars the night before you want to enjoy them.
Once completely chilled and you’re ready to serve them, pull the bars out of the pan using the edges of the parchment paper, and place on a cutting board. Dust with powdered sugar, by adding it to a fine mesh strainer and lightly tapping the side of it with your hand. This helps the sugar look a little nicer, but it’s not necessary. Cut the lemon bars into 16 squares.
If you don’t want to serve these all at once, you can store them in the fridge. Cut the bars without dusting with sugar. Then place in an airtight container for 3-4 days. Just before serving, add powdered sugar on top of each individual lemon bar.
Lemon bars are a total classic! Try this version with a fun twist – Earl Grey tea.
How to Serve Earl Grey Lemon Bars
These cool and refreshing lemon bars are the perfect summer treat. Serve them chilled, right out of the fridge, or let them sit at room temperature for 20 minutes for a chewier crust.
They make an excellent dessert, quick snack, or even breakfast side. Try serving them alongside vegan carrot “bacon” wrapped water chestnuts for a party spread. Or pair with a glass of dragon fruit raspberry sangria for a summer afternoon snack.
Use Up Leftover Ingredients
- With earl grey tea you can make one of my favorite hot drinks, a London Fog! Follow my perfect latte instructions with a handheld frother or use an espresso machine to froth the milk. Then add 8 oz of brewed tea and vanilla syrup or sugar to taste.
- Lemon is a common ingredient in many cocktails. Try raspberry lemon mojitos, bourbon mint lemonade, or a cucumber basil gin cocktail.
- Add a sprinkle of powdered sugar on top of whole wheat jelly donuts, or whipped into the filling of cream cheese oatmeal cookies.
Classic Lemon Bars with Earl Grey
- 1 Cup All Purpose Flour
- 2 Tbsp Sugar
- 1/4 tsp Salt
- 1/2 Cup Unsalted Butter room temperature
- 1/4 tsp Vanilla
Lemon Curd Filling
- 1/3 Cup Boiling Water
- 2 Earl Grey Tea Bag
- 1 Cup Sugar
- 2 Tbsp All Purpose Flour
- 3 Eggs
- 1 Lemon
- 1/2 tsp Vanilla
- 1/4 tsp Salt
- 2 tsp Powdered Sugar
- Preheat the oven to 325F. Line an 8x8 glass baking pan with parchment paper, so a bit hangs over the edges. This will make it easier to remove and cut the lemon bars.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt until combined. Add the butter and vanilla, and use a pastry blender to cut in the butter until the dough stick together when you pinch some between your fingers.
- Pour the dough into the prepared baking pan, and press down using your fingertips. Bake for 20-25 minutes until slightly browned at edges.
Lemon Curd Filling
- While the crust bakes, begin to prepare the filling. Add the tea bag to the boiling water and let steep for 5-7 minutes. Remove the tea bag, squeezing out any remaining liquid.
- Zest the lemon until you have 1/2 tbsp of zest, and squeeze out the juice until you have 1/4 cup.
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and sugar until thoroughly combined and no flour lumps remain. Add in the eggs, and continue whisking until smooth.
- Add the lemon zest, salt, and vanilla, mixing in. Then add the lemon juice and earl grey tea. Whisk everything together until fully combined. Then pour on top of the still-warm baked crust.
- Bake the lemon bars for 20-25 minutes, until the edges are beginning to caramelize, and there is no jiggle in the middle.
- Allow to cool in the pan completely, at room temperature. You can also chill these in the fridge, but allow to come down to room temperature first. Once cool, use the parchment paper edges to lift out of the pan. Dust with powdered sugar, and cut into 16 pieces.
- Serve chilled, shortly after dusting with sugar. If you want to make these ahead, the lemon bars will last for 3-4 days in an airtight container in the fridge. However, you should add the powdered sugar just before serving, or it will get absorbed by the custard.
- If you don't have any Earl Grey tea, or you're not a fan, you can make different variations using other types of tea, like lavender, chamomile, or peppermint.
- If you see little tiny white bubbles on the top after your lemon bars have baked, that's totally okay! Sometimes it happens, and sometimes it doesn't. Either way, you're going to sprinkle sugar over the top.