Given the choice between fruity/citrus and chocolate desserts, nine times out of ten I'll select the "not chocolate" option...especially if my other choice is a lemon dessert. So it's only natural that I'd take the Sugar Cookie Bars I made recently and make a lemon version of it. Since I didn't care for how chewy and raw tasting the cookies were last time (even baked for the full 15 minutes), I decided to do a longer 20 minute bake. The bars definitely rose higher and had a more cake-like texture, which I liked--but not my co-workers. Flavor got a thumbs-up, so next time I'll go for the middle ground and aim for a 17-18 minute bake time.
Lemon Sugar Cookie Bars (Makes a 13 x 18" pan)
1 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. lemon extract
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking soda
grated zest of one lemon
Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease a 13 x 18-inch half sheet pan with non-stick spray (I lined my pan with foil, then greased the foil).
Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each egg. Add vanilla and mix well. Combine flour, salt, and baking soda in a separate bowl and whisk to combine. Add to creamed mixture and mix until just combined. Press evenly into prepared pan (it helps to use damp fingers). Bake at 375°F for 10-15 minutes (You could even go to 18 minutes if you prefer a less dense cookie) or until light golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
pinch of salt
1 lb. (approx. 3¾ cups) powdered sugar
½ tsp. lemon extract
3 to 5 Tbl. lemon juice
yellow food coloring, if desired
yellow decorator sugar, if desired
Combine butter, lemon extract, and salt in mixer bowl. Using whisk attachment, beat until creamy and combined. Add about one cup powdered sugar, then mix to combine. Add 3 Tablespoons lemon juice and beat to incorporate. With mixer running at low speed, slowly add remaining powdered sugar. (You can add more liquid at this point, if needed). Once sugar has been added and mixed in, beat frosting on medium-high speed for 1-2 minutes or until light and fluffy. Blend in food coloring, if desired. Frost cookies, then top with sprinkles before cutting and serving. (For ease of cutting, I recommend placing the pan in the fridge for a quick chill to set the frosting.)
I also made a batch of the regular sugar cookie bars, which weren't as well received as either the lemon version or the less baked ones from last time. Still, they didn't go to waste!