Beginner’s Lemon Bars

Makes about 36 bars

Whether for weddings, funerals, church suppers or picnics, lemon bars are always popular. I love making them because I know they’ll be a hit. For those who are preparing to take their first steps to making pies and custards, this is a no-fail recipe. The “short” crust — really a cookie crust — pats out, and the lemon custard goes on top. Take special care to grate just the yellow rind of the lemon with no white pith attached. — Nathalie Dupree

Ingredients

21/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

4 large eggs

Grated rind of 1 lemon, no white attached, optional

Confectioners’ sugar for finishing

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 9x13-inch baking dish. Mix together 21/4 cups of the flour, butter and confectioners’ sugar with a mixer, food processor or spoon until a soft dough forms. Remove and press dough into prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap and smooth out top with the bottom of a glass. Remove plastic wrap. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from oven.

Beat the granulated sugar, lemon juice, remaining 1/4 cup flour, eggs, and optional lemon rind until well-mixed. Pour over hot crust. Return to the oven and bake an additional 20 minutes, or until set.

Cool on a wire rack, then cut into bars. The center will be soft like a custard or pie filling. Sift confectioners’ sugar over the top and then remove bars from the pan. Separate with parchment or waxed paper if layering to store. These will keep a couple of days, covered at room temperature, refrigerated up to 1 week, or wrapped well in an airtight container and frozen up to 3 months.

Nathalie Dupree is the author of 13 cookbooks, most recently “Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking.” She lives in Charleston and may be reached through Nathalie dupree.com.