summer camp musings, and the all-butter pie crust dough, revisited

Madeline wanted to attend a sleep away camp this past summer, but I didn’t let her go. I couldn’t imagine having her gone for an entire week. She would miss home too much. We would miss her too much.

Back when I was a kid, probably Madeline’s age or a little older, I wanted to go to camp in the summer. I remember pouring over brochures for camps in other states, far away states like North Carolina and Maine, and I investigated attending the YMCA’s Camp McConnell here in North Florida. As I debated the merits of each camp, my thoughts were filled with images of singing songs around a campfire, roasting marshmallows for s’mores, boating in the lake, and horseback riding. And then I thought about being away from my parents for an entire two weeks. I chickened out. I never went to summer camp.

When the flyer from Camp McConnell came home in her backpack a month ago, Madeline begged us to let her go. Not wanting her to have the same regrets I did, I agreed. After all, it was just for two nights, not fourteen.

In the weeks that passed after I signed the registration and paid the fee, I offered to let her back out of going. Just in case she was getting the jitters, like I was. But she wasn’t. Unlike me, Madeline was resolute in her decision, and she wasn’t nervous about being away from home at all. And as we dropped her off early Friday evening, she radiated with excitement…and independence.

With Sam away at a football game on Saturday, and with Madeline away at camp, Oliver and I were left to our own devices. That morning, we went to a bat festival with my friend Julia and her three boys. The afternoon was quiet, though, and my thoughts turned to baking. With Oliver occupied by a Disney movie (Peter Pan), I decided to make pastry dough in anticipation of baking a pie on Sunday.

My original dough is wonderful, and I use it all the time during pie-baking season. However, after rolling out the two disks, there isn’t enough left over for making decorative touches, for patching holes in torn crust, or for, you know, nibbling. So, I reworked the recipe, adding extra flour and adjusting the amounts of butter, salt, and sugar.

I like this new and improved version of the recipe better than the old one. The taste is very similar, if not the same, but there is more dough to work with. And to nibble on, if you so choose.

And the weekend camp? Giving Madeline a little freedom was just what she needed. She had a wonderful time, made some new friends, and loved being away from home. She tells us she wants to go back in the summer. She did amazingly well. And you know what? So did I.

Yield: 1 9-inch double pie crust

All-Butter Pie Crust Dough

This recipe makes enough for one 9-inch double pie crust. If you're only making a single crust pie, cut the recipe in half. For best results, chill the flour and the food processor bowl and blade in the refrigerator first.

I like to save time by cubing the butter in advance and storing it in a tightly sealed container in the freezer. This way, the butter is ready when I am.


3 cups (12.75 ounces; 375 grams) all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons (1.5 ounces; 43 grams) granulated sugar
1-1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2-1/2 sticks (1-1/4 cup) unsalted butter, cubed, well-chilled or frozen
2/3 cup ice water (approximately)*


Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl, then add the flour mixture to the bowl of a food processor. Add cold cubed butter and pulse just until a coarse meal is formed. Add 8 tablespoons water to the dough and pulse a couple of times. Add more water by the tablespoon, pulsing after each addition, until the dough begins to clump together in moist clumps.

Scrape the dough out onto a work surface and divide dough in half. Flatten each dough ball gently into a thick disk and wrap each tightly in plastic wrap. Chill for at least an hour before rolling.

Make ahead: Dough can be kept in refrigerator up to one week. You can keep it in the freezer for up to 1 month; double wrap in plastic prior to freezing.

*Note: You may need a little more or a little less water than 2/3 cup. I keep a bowl of ice water on the counter right next to my food processor and measure the water out by the tablespoon as I go.

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25 Responses to “lovely lemon bars”

  1. Cooking Rookie — March 7, 2010 @ 12:11 am

    Certainly “lovely” 🙂

  2. Liren — March 7, 2010 @ 2:14 am

    Wow, they came out beautifully!

  3. Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite — March 7, 2010 @ 7:59 am

    I absolutely LOVE lemon bars – they remind me of my childhood. Now that spring is here (kinda sorta!) I think I will make a batch of these too!

    • merrygourmet replied: — March 7th, 2010 @ 8:34 am

      Cooking Rookie & Liren – thanks so much! I was really happy with how they turned out. Nice to have something work out the way it’s supposed to. 🙂

      Mardi – I’ve only discovered lemon bars in the last five years, and I’m so glad I did! Yes, they do seem to usher in springtime. Just wish the weather would follow suit!

  4. tina — March 7, 2010 @ 8:33 am

    Lemon Bars – I love them too, and yours are perfect!

    You may have just given me a great way to spend a rainy afternoon.

  5. chefgwen — March 7, 2010 @ 4:48 pm

    Think I like that half cookie/half filling combo. Nice post! A good thing to read on this dreary, rainy day.

    • merrygourmet replied: — March 7th, 2010 @ 6:19 pm

      The one-to-one ratio of shortbread to lemon filling really is more my preference too. Turns out they’re pretty addictive. 🙂

  6. Belinda — March 7, 2010 @ 8:20 pm

    Looks great, MJ! Thanks for posting the recipes too!

    • merrygourmet replied: — March 7th, 2010 @ 9:56 pm


  7. I love lemon bars, my grandmother always made them for me! So delicious. Her recipe was a little different so I am excited to try this one out.

  8. Lucy — March 14, 2010 @ 1:22 pm

    I am such a fan of utterly anything lemon, so can never resist lemon bars. Love the thick shortbread layer – delicious and beautiful.

    • merrygourmet replied: — March 14th, 2010 @ 2:58 pm

      Thanks, Lucy. These were definitely hard to resist.

  9. Fuji Mama — March 14, 2010 @ 2:38 pm

    We never get sick of lemon bars at my house! I have to be careful about when I make them though, because if I don’t have enough people around to eat them, I end up eating way too many myself.

    • merrygourmet replied: — March 14th, 2010 @ 2:57 pm

      Lemon bars can definitely be dangerous! I know what you mean about eating too many — a hazard of the job, I find. 🙂

  10. Rachel Winter — March 29, 2010 @ 8:29 pm

    LOVE THESE BARS!! can’t stop eating them
    Thanks for sharing.

  11. merrygourmet
    merrygourmet — March 29, 2010 @ 9:26 pm

    Rachel – Yay! I’m so glad you liked them.

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  15. Julia — October 14, 2011 @ 12:39 pm

    I made these this morning, they’re PERFECT! I highly recommend them!

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — October 15th, 2011 @ 9:10 am

      I’m so glad to hear! Thanks so much. 🙂

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  17. Alana — July 6, 2013 @ 7:22 am

    Just made this – turned out amazing! Very very yummy. We actually ate it hot with vanilla ice cream and strawberries. A bit like a warm lemon tart. Thanks for a great recipe!

  18. Jan Beaumont — November 5, 2013 @ 3:35 am

    Can you please tell me the difference between kosher salt and ordinary salt? Thanks so much!

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — November 5th, 2013 @ 2:25 pm

      Essentially kosher salt crystals are larger than ordinary, table salt. If you prefer to use table salt, feel free.

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