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Silky Lemon Squares

These lemon squares are from the Barefoot Contessa …we made them a few years ago during a lazy weekend at the old Rowland house. We used a standard sized cookie sheet and they exploded all over the oven – but were no less delicious for it. I saw the recipe in the Barefoot Contessa cookbook last year when I got my own copy – but could not find it in my cookbook stash when I went to make them last week. After a call to Maressa who affirmed that yes – they did exist – and it was Barefoot Contessa I located the recipe on Smitten Kitchen (the BEST baking blog) with some delicious photos that just cemented my resolve to remake these tasty little delicacies. I was hoping to make them for a friends baby shower last weekend – but the Petit Prince got sick and I barely even made the shower – lemon bars were out of the question (sorry Shen – I will make them for you this summer). I read somewhere in all my baby prep that there is nothing more pathetic than a sick baby  – except his or her parents. I think the poor Telehealth Ontario reps who fielded a myriad of rediculous questions from me last week would agree (read- “s0, if his nose is plugged is he still okay to drive in a car?”).

Back to the point. I bought about a million lemons with the intent of making a double batch for the shower – and did not end up using any. When I got home, after the boy got better, I set to making some – but by the time I made them there was an absolutely rediculous amount of lemon juice and lemon zest left over. Luckily – it was Maressa’s birthday yesterday – and I was able to spin all that citrusy goodness into a gigantic lemon curd cake that was large enough to feed at least twice as many people as it needed to. I promised myself I would make a small cake but of course it blossomed into my usual monstrosity – making big cakes is somehow irresistible to me. Sometimes it borders on the rediculous – in this case the cake would have been better as an eight-incher as it was too dry around the outside – but I just can’t seem to help myself! I think the best word for them is “creation” as coined by Nadine yesterday –“Oh Emma, I always enjoy your creations” – some hybrid between a cake and a monstrosity…but boy are they fun to make!

But I digress. Again. So – once you have the zested lemon and lemon juice these bars are easy and fast. A microplane grater makes short work of zesting a lemon if you have one (if you don’t and you like to cook/bake it will be the best 15$ you have ever spent). I use a handy little  attachment that screws onto the front of my mixer to juice the lemons but you can get a few different types of citrus reamers for under 20$ at any well stocked kitchen or department store.

This recipe makes a rather large lemon layer – and so feel free to reduce it to meet your needs. I ended up using a slightly larger area then recommended so my bars were a bit on the thin side – something lots of people like but I am going to go back to the original next time so will post that one. The pics were taken a bit late so they look a bit flatter even than they are when just baked – and I must add that these really are better the first day. If you insist on saving them (perhaps because like me – you made an entire tray for no reason other than to eat yourself) – pop them into the fridge and redo the icing sugar before serving.

Mom O Meter 4/5 :   I really like that these lemon squares do not require making the filling in advance – I hate making lemon curd. They don’t make too many dishes provided you keep the lemon juicing under control – and while there are two steps they roll by pretty quick if you make the crust and then do the filling while the crust is in the oven. If you are especially well prepared – you can do the lemon zesting and juicing the day before and just refrigerate it until you are ready to make the squares. They are harder to make than your average cookie or muffin – but present especially well for a shower or other party so are worth the extra effort.

Recipe adapted from the Barefoot Contessa

Ingredients – crust
1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Ingredients – filling
6 extra-large eggs at room temperature
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest (around 4 lemons is usually plenty)
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup flour

Icing sugar –  for dusting at the end

1. Preheat oven to 350 and butter a rectangular 9×13 inch pan (if you have one). Otherwise these can be made in a cookie sheet with a high lip or a combo of a 9×9 inch square and a loaf pan. Just be sure to do the math and make sure the area is roughly similar.

2. Beat butter and sugar with a paddle attachment of an electric mixer until nice and light (this can be achieved by hand with a wooden spoon and some triceps action as well). Whisk together the flour and salt in a small bowl, then scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl and turn the mixer down low before adding the flour. Gather the dough into a ball (you can turn it out onto a floured surface but I just stick my hands into the mixing bowl and do it there as I am dishes averse). Press into the prepared pan(s) until of a uniform depth with it coming up the edges by about 1/2 of an inch. Chill until ready (in this weather I just stick the pans outside instead of trying to make room in my tiny fridge).

2. Bake the crust for around 15 minutes depending on thickness until it is a very light golden and has puffed up a little. Let cool a little bit while you make the topping.

3. Whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest and flour. Pour over the crust and bake from 30-35 minutes depending on the thickness of the lemon layer (less lemon = less time). Let cool to room temperature before cutting into triangles and dusting with icing sugar.


* use a fine meshed strainer or sifter to spread the icing sugar evenly on the triangles – and avoid dumping on huge globs like I did!

  1. January 25, 2011 at 1:38 am

    Those lemon squares look fantastic. Their sunny color and that lovely touch of sugar on top is just calling my name. I have a new dessert linky going on at my blog and I’d like to invite you to stop by and link this up. http://sweet-as-sugar-cookies.blogspot.com/2011/01/sweets-for-saturday-1_21.html

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