It is summer. Unequivocally summer. Also, I most definitely had to look up how to spell “unequivocally”.
Anyway, around this time of year, I like to make things that I normally wouldn’t make. I find myself going to picnics, barbecues, showers of all kinds and just general parties where my go to chocolate filled treats just don’t quite fit the tone of the day. I have to break away from my comfort zone and try something lighter, simpler and more refreshing.
Enter the lemon square!
They are so delightful and bite sized, they are perfect for a get together, a shindig, or a hootenanny. For definitions of those, please see Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 3, episode 2, Dead Man’s Party. Seth Green gives a good breakdown of each. #blahblahbuffy
To make the crust, you have to cut butter into the flour mixture and then press it into an 8×8 baking dish and bake it before adding the filling. Seems easy enough right? Funny story time. You all know how much I hate cutting baked goods. I always muck it up somehow. I thought to myself, Self, you’re going to just make these in your dessert bar pan and they are going to pop out perfectly. Ya’ll. It was a disaster. I wish I had pictures of how bad it was. The butter was not evenly distributed among the squares in the dessert pan, so half of the squares had no butter and half had too much butter…the crusts were all off and didn’t bake up right at all. I ended up finishing the bad batch off anyway and calling it lemon cobbler. I started over and actually followed the right steps to make the crust and, shocker, it worked out just fine.
All this to say, sometimes just don’t take the shortcut.
Once I got past that stage, everything was much easier and less stressful. Make the filling, pour the filling, bake the thing.
Now, this is important. Are you listening?
Are you really?
Put down your phone and listen.
Let. Them. Cool. Completely. I mean, I waited about an hour or so. I had Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone on and I’m pretty sure I pulled this batch out when the troll attacked Hermoine in the bathroom and didn’t actually do anything else with them until Harry faced off with Quirrell at the end. It was also the extended cut, so you know, a while.
Make the glaze, glaze the things. I just carefully poured it over the entire pan in a back and forth motion. No fancy piping here because…again…I’m lazy and tend to muck it up.
I think it worked out…
And here is my tip for getting squares that are awesome and a lemon filling that is set and holds its shape and a glaze that has that lovely snap (you know the glaze snap I’m talking about: Put them in the fridge and be patient. Seriously. Even though you cooled them before glazing them, the extra cold of the fridge will help everything just…stick together. Once they have been in the fridge for an hour or 2, go ahead and cut them. To make things easier, I lined the baking dish with parchment paper so you should be able to lift the entire dish worth of lemon goodness out of the baking dish (which also makes clean up wicked easy) and then place it on a cutting board to slice them up.
Voila! I love that they are cute and bite sized and something just a little unexpected. People like lemon bars but generally, you don’t see them as often as cookies or cakes. Something refreshing like this for a 4th of July event or a backyard dinner will be a home run on a hot day.
Yield: 16 squares ish depending on your cutting skills Prep: Oh guys, it takes a while because of all the chilling…maybe 15 minutes to actually prep anything but then…like 2 hours of total chilling time Bake: 15 minutes for the crust, another 20-25 for the final bake
1/2 c butter, cold. Like put it in the freezer for 15-20 minutes before you actually do anything with it cold.
1 cup unbleached flour
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs, beaten
2 Tbsp lemon juice
zest of 1 medium lemon
dash of salt
3/4 cup powdered sugar
lemon juice- you’ll end up just eye balling it when you make the glaze until you get the right consistency
- To prep the crust: In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour and powdered sugar. Grate in the frozen butter using a regular cheese grater. It’s the best way. Trust me. As you grate the butter, heat from your hands may cause the butter to start melting. If this happens, go ahead and wrap the butter in a paper towel and place back in the freezer for a few minutes. Keep grating until it is all gone. Toss this mixture until all the bits of butter are evenly distributed and covered in flour.
Press this mixture into an 8×8 baking dish lined with parchment paper and bake at 350° for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool slightly before adding filling
- To prep the filling: In a small mixing bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, salt and baking powder. Add in eggs, lemon juice and lemon zest. Stir to combine.
- Pour this mixture over the crust and bake for 20-25 minutes. (Mine was 23 minutes, but you know…your oven might be totes different). You will know it is done when the edges bubble and there is an even layer on top that looks juuuuuust set. It might wobble a little bit in the middle, but it won’t be crazy.
- Place on a wire rack to cool completely before glazing.
- To make the glaze, stir together powdered sugar with lemon juice. You will have to eye ball it. When it is thin enough that it doesn’t cling to a fork or spoon, but thick enough that it forms a little ribbon shape when it lands back in the bowl of glaze, you have hit the right consistency. If it is too thin, add more powdered sugar, if it is too thick, add lemon juice. Pour the glaze over the cooled bars and place in the fridge fro 1-2 hours.
- After chilling, remove from fridge. Pull the contents out of the baking dish by the parchment paper and place on a cutting board. Cut squares to desired size.
- Serve room temperature or cold. Either one will do, but cold is better in my opinion. Like a sugary, lemony, cold lemonade dessert. Thing.