The combination of lemon and peanut butter isn’t necessarily the first thing people think of in terms of flavor combinations. Sure there’s the banana and peanut butter combo that Elvis made famous, chocolate and peanut butter combo that Reese’s made into a treat and the grape jelly and peanut butter combo that every school kid loves, but lemon and peanut butter isn’t an automatic combo. That’s sad, because the tart bright flavor of lemon really pops against the earthy salty sweet peanut butter.
In the end, I brought a batch of these bars to a party down in Los Angeles that I was helping to host, and my friend Sara had taken a bar while I was preoccupied with hosting duties. As I mixed and mingled amongst my friends, Sara cornered me and told me in no uncertain terms that “These. Bars. Are. The. Best. Thing. Ever.” And yes she said it with periods between each word.
The secret with the bar is the honey. The sticky floral sweetness is the link between the lemon and the peanut butter. The Bee’s Knees has the honey already mixed into it, so all you need to do is add a little extra honey to the lemon curd and you’ve got a lemon bar that has people using superlative words. They’re that good.
I like to serve the lemon bars from the refrigerator, cold and refreshing like a glass of lemonade on a hot day. That said, they’re equally fantastic at room temperature, a little more gooey, a little sweeter (the cold cuts the sweetness), and perfect with an evening cup of tea or coffee.
Prep time: 8 hours and 25 minutes (includes 8 hours chilling time, or overnight)
Cook time: 1 hour
Total time: 8 hours 25 minutes
Yield: 12 bars
Peanut Butter Crust
½ cup confectioners’ (powdered) sugar
1½ cups all purpose flour
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons salted butter at room temperature
½ cup The Bee’s Knees peanut butter
Honey Lemon Curd
¾ cup all purpose flour
1¾ cups white sugar
Zest from 2 medium lemons
½ cup wildflower honey (or whatever honey you prefer)
1 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
¼ teaspoon salt
For top layer
4 squares semi-sweet chocolate (1 ounce each)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon Dark Chocolate Dreams peanut butter
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly coat a 9” x 13” rectangular baking pan with cooking spray and line it with a piece of parchment paper, with the paper sticking up by 2” on two sides (the cooking spray will help the parchment paper stick to the pan and let you pull the bars up from the pan without having to dig into the pan and scratching it).
2. Make the peanut butter crust by sifting the confectioners’ sugar and the flour together into the bowl of a standing mixer (you might be tempted to skip this step, but confectioners’ sugar has a tendency to clump together and the sifting breaks it up, making it way easier to incorporate). Add the butter and The Bee’s Knees peanut butter and beat until the dough is smooth and comes together.
3. Gather the dough together and press it into the bottom of the baking pan, smoothing it out evenly (I used my fingers and the bottom of a flat drinking glass to spread the dough out). Cover with a piece of parchment paper and fill with ceramic pie weights, dry beans or dry rice. Bake in the oven for about 23-27 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and dry, rotating the crust 180°F once to ensure even baking.
4. While the crust is baking, make the honey lemon curd by placing the flour, sugar and lemon zest in a large mixing bowl. With a balloon whisk, vigorously stir the dry ingredients together until they are evenly distributed.
5. Combine the honey, lemon juice and vanilla in another medium bowl and stir until the honey is dissolved in the juice.
6. Beat the eggs, egg yolk and salt in a medium bowl until the liquid is uniformly yellow and you can’t see anymore of the white. Then pour it and the honey lemon juice liquid into the bowl with the flour and sugar. Whisk until well blended.
7. Once the crust is golden brown, remove the parchment paper with the weights on it, and pour the honey lemon curd onto the hot crust and put back in the oven. Reduce the heat of the oven to 300°F and bake for an additional 28-32 minutes or until the curd is set and it doesn’t jiggle in the middle anymore when the pan is shaken.
8. Let cool in the pan to room temperature and then refrigerate overnight to chill and let the curd set. Remove by pulling the parchment paper straight up from the pan and placing the bars on a cutting board to be divided. Generously dust with confectioners’ sugar.