Food

The Winning-est Lemon Squares

Canadian Living
Food

The Winning-est Lemon Squares

This is the third of 6 posts about the December 13 Canadian Sweet Treats: Food Experts Debate the Classics. Presenting the case for lemon squares Toronto Cookbook Store manager and all round food guru Alison Fryer. While lemon squares don't have the Canadian culinary history of butter tarts or carrot pudding, Canadians have embraced the concept of bars and squares. They carry well to parties and potlucks. For a busy baker, squares are less fussy than even the simplest drop cookies, and are usually plenty sweet, satisfying out collective love of sugar. Lemon squares are about the most popular kind of square.  From about 1900, lemons became available in Canada - the burgeoning citrus industry in the States plus refrigerated rail cars brought the sunshine fruit into Canadian kitchens. I had always associated Lemon meringue pie with 30s and 40s diners, small town restaurants and special family occasions,  and was frankly  astonished how rooted lemon meringue pie was in turn of the 20th century cookbooks. From pies to squares took about 50 years, and we have never looked back.  So, how did the lemon squares do when moderator Fiona Lucas polled the crowd: Lemon Squares won. Hands down, or rather, hands up. Alison Fryer's favourite lemon squares come from San Francisco, to be precise, Jeremiah Towers's Stars Restaurant, alas no longer in existence. This is the recipe Indira Ramnarine, Pastry Chef at Food Studio @ the ROM used to make the winning-est lemon squares for the tasting part of the event. Lemon zest is called for in many lemon square recipes  - but not in this recipe, so no bitty bits in your mouth. It's pure freshly squeezed  lemon juice, eggs, sugar and some flour to help firm up the filling. If you can get eggs with bright yellow yolks you will be rewarded with sunny yellow lemon squares. Alison recommended organic eggs, and the squares I baked in my kitchen for this post were sensational with organic eggs. Good to look at, we do eat with our eyes first, and raves for their flavour.   [caption id="attachment_828" align="alignleft" width="450" caption="Trim the ends and sides for neater squares, and to afford the baker a taste preview. You wouldn't want to serve these squares before first verifying their tangy deliciousness."]Trim the ends and sides for neater squares, and to afford the baker a taste preview. You wouldn't want to serve these squares before first verifying their tangy deliciousness.[/caption]     The Winning Lemon Squares What's exceptional about these squares is the depth and tanginess of the filling. There is just more of it than in many other recipes,  providing just the right balance of tartness and buttery shortbread base. Base: 1-1/2 cups (375 mL) all-purpose flour 1/2 cup (125 mL) icing sugar 3/4 cup (375 mL) unsalted cold butter Filling: 6 large eggs 3 cups (750 mL) granulated sugar 1 cup (250 mL) plus 2 tbsp (30 mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice 1/2 cup (125 mL) all-purpose flour 3 tbsp (45 mL) icing sugar . Line a 13- x 9-inch (3.5 L) metal cake pan with parchment paper or grease; set aside. . Base: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and icing sugar. Cut the butter into 1/2-inch (1.25 cm) cubes. With a pastry blender, cut butter into the flour mixture until the mixture is crumbly with some pea-sized pieces.  . Press the base evenly into the prepared pan. Bake in the centre of a 325°F (160 °C) oven until pale golden, about 20 minutes. Let cool to room temperature. Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F (150°C). . Filling: Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat the eggs until frothy. Beat in the sugar, then the lemon juice and finally the flour to make a smooth mixture. Pour over the base. . Bake  until no longer giggly and slightly more golden around the edges, about 40 to 45 minutes.   [caption id="attachment_829" align="alignleft" width="450" caption="You won't notice any imperfections once you've dusted the squares with icing sugar. "]You won't notice any imperfections once you've dusted the squares with icing sugar. [/caption]     . Let cool on a rack; refrigerate until cold and set, at least 1 hour or preferably up to 1 day before cutting. (Make-ahead: Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.) . Using the parchment paper, lift the squares out of the pan and onto a cutting board. . Add the icing sugar to a small sieve, being careful to prevent the sugar from falling out before you have a chance to tap it evenly over the lemon squares. . With a long sharp knife, trim off the outer edges to neaten the edges. Cut into squares or bars, using a damp clean cloth to wipe the knife between cuts.  . Makes 48 squares. Tip: Cut the Lemon Squares bite-size and serve them in bonbon cups with a selection of truffles and coin-size shortbread. Tip: HIDE THESE SQUARES UNLESS YOU WANT THEM EATEN UP BEFORE YOU PLAN TO SERVE THEM.
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The Winning-est Lemon Squares

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