Friday, April 26, 2013

Youth Revisited: Lemon Squares

 photo IMG_0283_zps0abac871.jpg When Alyssa and I first talked about doing a Youth Revisited post about food, I was kind of stumped. I spoke to my mother about the problem later:

Susan: So, Alyssa wants to see a recipe I loved from childhood.

Susan’s Mother: [noncommittal hmmmm]

Susan: But it’s hard, isn’t it? I mean, I loved Taco Night…but all you have to do is brown meat and use a seasoning packet.

SMother: That wasn’t all you ate.

Susan: Right. There was Spaghetti Night…brown meat and add it to a jar of marinara sauce. London Broil…roast slab of meat and serve with ketchup. Pizza Night…order pizza.

SMother: Those wouldn’t be very good recipes, would they?

Susan: So I think I should just do a dessert and call it a night.

SMother: Grandma’s cookies? You can’t post that recipe.

Susan: Lemon squares?

SMother: Oh, that’s fine then. That’s not our family’s recipe.

The real conversation probably had something more along the lines of how hard it is to think back to my pre-veg days, when the vegetables we ate were bland and the meat was the main focus of the plate. I’m also sure that somewhere in the real conversation we must have acknowledged how much we love lemon squares. And by lemon squares, I specifically mean our lemon squares. If we try to buy them from bakeries or diners, we are invariably disappointed. Our lemon squares are extra-lemony, extra-moist, and so sweet I have to wonder how we get away with giving plates of them to our dental office every December.

As I ate a lemon square for breakfast (and various other meals, like Noonish Prelunch) today, I concluded that lemon squares are made for bright, sunny, spring days. Maybe it’s the sprinkle of powdered sugar so reminiscent of pollen counts. Maybe it’s the cheery yellow hue. But I think it’s to do with the texture, and the feeling that winter’s ice is melting.

Lemon Squares

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 cup butter (2 sticks)

4 eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

  1. Preheat oven to 350oF.
  2. Sift together 2 cups of all purpose flour and a 1/2 cup of confectioners’ sugar. I would recommend against using a sifter, and instead using a basic wire mesh strainer. I’m not entirely sure you couldn’t just whisk them together either, but the idea seems to be that the flour and sugar should be very thoroughly combined.
  3. Cut in the butter. Unlike the sifting chore that I think could be superfluous, cutting in butter instead of creaming (pressing the butter into the sugar) it makes a huge difference in the quality of the crust. We want the crust to be somewhat flakey rather than dense, so do not use a spoon for this step.
  4.  photo IMG_0205_zps0c922cda.jpg  photo IMG_0216_zps2e2ee25f.jpg
  5. When the mixture starts to form pebble-like clumps, press it evenly into the bottom of a 9”x13” pan to make the crust. I greased my glass pan, but it’s not a requirement.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes.
  7. About five minutes before the crust is ready, beat together the eggs, granulated sugar, baking powder, lemon juice, and remaining flour for three minutes. For me, the medium setting of my electric mixer is best.
  8. When the crust is done (there may be a tinge of color forming, and it looks a little dry), remove it from the oven just long enough to pour the wet mixture over it. Bake for about 25 minutes, until the top is firm to the touch.
  9.  photo IMG_0227_zps8aaaa547.jpg  photo IMG_0248_zps331c98f4.jpg
  10. Cool for at least an hour before dusting the top with confectioners’ sugar. Cut into squares, and find a nice place to picnic.
 photo IMG_0258_zpsc10d63da.jpg  photo IMG_0263_zpsfc8a1bdd.jpg


becky l said...

going to try this tonight. will let you know if the taste buds tingle.

becky said...

The taste buds did tingle. Lemon bars make a great breakfast! How did you get the crust spread in the pan? It kept sticking to the spatula. Then I had a brainstorm--I put a serving spoon in the freezer for a few minutes. Once the metal was cold I took it out, dipped it lightly into some flour and voila! It worked much better.
I love anything lemon (might even try liver again if it was somehow made with lemon) but these lemon bars were superb.

Susan said...

Hi Becky! I'm so glad you liked them! My crust batter was sticky too (my butter had sat on the counter to the point that it was mushy instead of merely soft), so I resorted to using wax paper to pat it into an even layer. And I think I ate three squares for breakfast the morning after I baked them! ;-)

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