Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tangy Lemon Squares

Since I had my copy of the  Rosie's Bakery All-Butter, Cream-Filled, Sugar-Packed Baking Book out while I was making yesterday's Rustic Rhubarb Squares, I kept going with the theme of baking bar cookies - not least thanks to the Tart Lemon Squares recipe I spotted on the opposite page! The element that really drew me in was the fact that the recipe called for the juice of not one or two, but six lemons in with the typical eggy custard. It looked good - but where was the lemon flavour? Without any lemon zest going into the filling, the bars would just be sour-sweet custard on shortbread. But the rest of the mixture looked so fantastic that I had to try it out with my own twist!

To combat the minimal lemoniness in the original, I added the zest of all the lemons I'd be using for juice to the recipe (5 lemons' worth in the filling, the remainder in the crust). I had no use for an extra yolk after using it's white for glazing the base, so it went into the custard along with a spoonful of custard powder and a pinch of salt. I reduced the sugar slightly to enhance the brightness of the citrus too. In retrospect, I would have made a 3/4 batch of the shortbread for the base instead of the full amount too - since you can see in the photos that the filling isn't overly thick by comparison. Even with the too-thick crust, I was immensely pleased with what came out of my oven - it reminded me of the lemon bars we would buy from a roadside farm and bakery stand on summer road trips in my childhood, but more refined and (dare I say) better! They're not cloying at all, and actually help cut through the stodgy heat and humidity of the Summer air before a rainstorm.

Tangy Lemon Squares
Makes 20 squares

Base
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup flour
3.5 oz non-hydrogenated shortening
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 tbsp lemon juice
1 egg white, for glazing

Topping
4 eggs
1 egg yolk
1 1/4 cup superfine (instant dissolving) sugar
zest of 6 lemons
1 tbsp flour
1 tbsp custard powder (like Bird's)
pinch salt
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 6 lemons)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F and generously grease an 8" square pan.
  2. In a coffee grinder, process the sugar to a fine powder. Add to a bowl with the flour and nutmeg.
  3. Add the shortening and blend with a fork or pastry blender until crumbly, then add the vanilla and water and mix until the dough comes together.
  4. Press into the bottom of the pan and brush generously with the egg white.
  5. Bake 25 minutes. Remove from oven (leave oven on) and place into the freezer for 30 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat together the eggs, egg yolk, sugar, lemon zest, flour, custard powder, salt and lemon juice.
  7. Pour onto the base.
  8. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the top is set and golden.
  9. Cool to room temperature, then cover and chill overnight before cutting and serving.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 145.6
Total Fat: 5.7 g
Cholesterol: 46.3 mg
Sodium: 17.7 mg
Total Carbs: 20.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.2 g
Protein: 2.3 g