I’ve made lemon bars both ways, and hoped to prove my suspicion: that in this case, the easiest route is also the best. (Let’s call it kitchen wisdom, not confirmation bias.)
I set out to forge a single recipe that could stand out at a picnic or potluck, and also sweep confidently into a dinner party in tart form.
Lemon bars belong to the family of bar cookies: Along with brownies, pumpkin bars and dream bars, they are distinctly American sweets. Tarte au citron is one of the defining French desserts, and there are hardly any recipes more British than shortbread and lemon curd. Lemon chess pie, beloved in the South, has a similar flavor profile.