Luscious Lemon Squares
Most of my close friends love to cook, and the ones that don’t at least love to eat, so it’s inevitable that no matter where our conversations start, we always end up talking about food. Whether we’re exchanging recipes, recounting meals at restaurants, griping over picky eaters, or getting to the root of why we ate all those brownies when we knew we shouldn’t, it never gets old.
One of my dearest friends and cooking cohorts is Melissa. Melissa is one of those people who could take or leave chocolate, but give her lemons, limes or oranges and she’s in heaven. One day, we got on the subject of Lemon Squares. Neither of us had a perfect recipe so we decided to get in the kitchen and create one of our own.
Well….we must have made at least 200 lemon squares. I don’t think our poor husbands, ever the willing taste testers, would care if they never ate lemon squares again! But finally, perfection: a crisp and buttery shortbread crust topped with a luscious, tart-yet-sweet lemon filling. Generously dusted with snow white powdered sugar, they’re as pretty as they are delicious.
To make them, you start by lining your pan with aluminum foil and spraying it with nonstick cooking spray. This makes removing the baked square easy, so cutting is a cinch.
For the crust, mix the flour, corn starch, confectioners’ sugar and salt in a bowl of a food processor. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal (think clumpy sand), then press into the prepared pan. Let the crust rest in the fridge for 30 minutes, then bake until lightly golden.
To make the topping, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, and flour. As soon as the base is cooked, pour the lemon filling over top. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the topping is set and firm. It should look like this…
Cool, then use the foil overhang to lift the square out of the pan and onto a cutting board. Trim the edges and cut into squares.
Dust with powdered sugar and serve.
Naturally, they’re best enjoyed over coffee or tea with a good friend, preferably discussing what you ate last night or what you’re going to eat tomorrow.
“One of the delights of life is eating with friends, second to that is talking about eating. And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends.”
Laurie Colwin, Home Cooking
Luscious Lemon Squares
For the Crust
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup Confectioners' sugar, plus more to decorate finished bars
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
For the Lemon Topping
- 3 large eggs
- 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest (be sure to zest before juicing the lemons)
- 5 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 2-3 lemons)
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Make the Crust
- Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Cover a 9-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil. Push the foil neatly into the corners and up the sides of the pan, using two pieces if necessary to ensure that the foil overlaps all edges (the overhang will help removal from the pan). Spray the foiled pan with nonstick cooking spray.
- Place the flour, corn starch, salt and Confectioners' sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment and mix for a few seconds. Add the butter and mix to blend until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds. Sprinkle the mixture into the prepared pan and press firmly with your fingers into an even layer, building up a thin ½-inch edge around the sides (this keeps the filling from spilling beneath the crust). Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Bake the crust until lightly golden, 15-20 minutes.
Make the Topping
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, and flour.
- When the crust is ready, give lemon mixture a quick final stir and then pour over top. Immediately return the pan to the oven and bake another 20-25 minutes, or until the topping is set and firm. Let cool on a rack to room temperature, or at least 30 minutes, then cover and chill in the refrigerator until cold -- the bars are much easier to cut when cold.
- To cut, use the foil overhang to lift the baked square out of pan and onto a cutting board. Loosen the foil from the edges of the crust, using a knife if necessary. Using a sharp knife, trim the edges off, then cut into 2-inch squares. Use a fine sieve to dust the squares with Confectioners' sugar. Store finished lemon squares in the refrigerator and serve chilled.
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