Luscious Lemon Squares for a Green Gables Picnic
May is here in all its springtime glory, and what better way to celebrate than with a lavish lemon treat and Anne of Green Gables for company?
There's no better time than now for a fresh, fruity treat to spark up a solemn day with the taste of spring. With such an outcome in mind, I thought I'd try a lemon-y recipe this week, and I came upon Keri Fisher's glorious "Creamy Lemon Squares" from an old Cook's Illustrated Magazine, Spring Entertainment 2011. I looked for a similar recipe to link my readers to, as the original is not published online, and I discovered a King Arthur Flour version that follows much the same methods. You can find that recipe here.
Keri Fisher's recipe, as I used, called for the following ingredients:
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
Pinch table salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
4 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
1 cup granulated sugar
Pinch table salt
1 tablespoon grated zest plus 2/3 cup juice from 4 lemons
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting
8"x8" baking pan
Following Fisher's recipe, I first set the oven to preheat at 350°F while I prepared aluminum foil in the baking pan, leaving enough past the edges to lift the bars out after they're done baking.
I combined the crust ingredients by hand with a pastry blender, although a fork can work just as well. Instead of chopping the butter, grate it cold-out-of-the-fridge with your handy cheese grater through the largest holes. You'll be amazed at the result. I worked at the crust until the butter was well worked into the flour, resembling fine meal. I poured the crust into the pan, smoothed it to the edges, pressing firmly, and baked for 20 minutes. The recipe recommended 15 to 20, until light golden brown, so be sure to time according to your oven's unique settings.
While the crust was in the oven, I set to working on the filling. There's no need to get the filling done in a hurry to pour over the crust when it's out—you can bide your time peaceably. I whisked together the eggs, sugar, salt in a medium-sized saucepan, then added in the lemon zest and juice. I then cooked the mixture for about 9 minutes (8 to 10) over medium-low heat, being sure to stir constantly throughout. Light boiling may occur; that's fine! Just don't let your eggs scramble! It should thicken to a nice, yellow, lemon curd.
At this point, have a taste for your own pleasure—it's worth it! (I wonder if this is actually how you make lemon curd, as it tastes just like it! I may have to make some just for English muffins and little tartlets... :)
The next step is the most important for getting that smooth, luscious, no-lump filling. The King Arthur recipe omits this step, so if you're following theirs, be sure to do this: press the hot filling into a fine-mesh strainer in a medium-sized bowl. If you don't strain it, you'll have lumpy filling. Next, stir in the butter and heavy cream, and feel free to lick the spoon when you're done!
I then poured the filling over the crust in the pan, and instead of spreading it out with a spatula, I simply tilted the pan until the filling reached every corner and covered the crust evenly--it's the best method. Let the bars bake for 15 minutes, then cool untouched in the pan for at least an hour. Lift them from the foil, cut into 9 squares, and use a small sieve to dust the individual bars with confectioners' sugar. Only dust what you intend to serve, as they tend to keep better in the fridge when undusted.
These lemon squares turned out incredibly, and I think I'll have to make them a springtime staple. They are perfectly lemon-y, not too rich, nor too sweet/sour. I wouldn't change a thing!
While I sat enjoying these decadent squares, I thought it reminded me distinctly of something Avonlea-ish, right out of L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables. I wonder if Anne would have made such a treat, or perhaps there might have been some lemon squares as these at the Sunday-school picnic where she is invited by bosom friend, Diana Berry. I consulted my books for hearsay.
These squares + a little Anne is the ultimate spring comfort treat.
Do drop a comment below if you try these straight-outta-Avonlea lemon squares, and let me know how they turned out for you!
Have a fabulous week! I'm back Thursday morning with a new post. :)
"Keep good company, read good books, love good things, and cultivate soul and body as faithfully as you can." -Louisa May Alcott
Fisher, Keri. "Creamy Lemon Squares." Spring Entertaining, Cook's Illustrated Magazine, 2011, pp.56-57.