Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Lemon Squares

Just as I start to get into the swing of baking and photographing and blogging, I have to go back to school. The place where blogging (and motivation) go to die. It's not that I can't bake in my miniscule kitchen, it's just that I don't have all the ingredients. So I'll have to make a list, then go to the store, then lament over all the things that I need to buy because my house always seems to have flour/butter/sugar/vanilla/eggs and my apartment is oddly lacking all those things at any every given moment. Hence, I am easily deterred from baking. Which is OK (for now) because (hopefully) someday in the future I'll own my own bakery where baking will be a daily necessity.

Yes, I'm aware that's just a picture of (nicely stacked) lemons. But there aren't many things to photograph whilst making lemon squares (only the shortbread crust and the lemon mixture - which is just all the ingredients whisked together - and neither of those are wildly visually appealing). Anyway, these are the quintessential summer dessert. Except that my family clamors for them in every other season, too.

Be warned though, that while it is almost difficult to have two of these in one sitting because they have such a strong flavor (though I have managed to push through), these little squares will soon become smaller and smaller as the people in your household will very sneakily slice off the edges so that it doesn't actually look like they've had 5 whole squares in a single day.

Not that anyone in my family does that.. I'm just saying.

Lemon Squares
(makes one 9 x 13 inch pan)
6 large eggs
2 1/2 c. sugar
2 tbsp lemon zest
1 c. lemon juice (about 5 lemons)
1 c. flour

For shortbread crust:
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. confectioners' sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 stick plus 1 tbsp (9 tbsp) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 large egg yolk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Generously butter a 9 x 13 inch pan. Set aside.

In a food processor (or in a bowl, my food processor is temporarily broken so I've been making this without one - works just fine the old fashioned way), combine flour, confectioners' sugar and salt and pulse to mix.

Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely combined. The pieces of butter should be different sizes, some smaller and some larger.

Stir the egg yolk and add it to the mixture a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is completely in, pulse for about 10 seconds at a time until the dough starts to come together and form clumps.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface and lightly knead just to incorporate any dry ingredients that didn't get mixed in. Gently press the dough evenly over the surface of the pan and slightly up the sides. (The dough should be about 1/2 inch thick). Freeze for at least 30 minutes before baking.

To partially bake the crust, butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and press it, buttered side down, against the frozen crust. Put the pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. (If you want to fully bake the crust for another recipe, bake an extra 8 minutes).

Set the pan aside and lower the oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine all the ingredients for the lemon squares. Whisk together and pour over fully-cooled crust. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until about 5 minutes after the bars are set. Let cool to room temperature, dust with confectioners' sugar and cut.

*A trick for getting the most juice out of citrus fruits: roll the fruit against a hard surface, applying pressure with your hand. Then, microwave the fruit for 20 seconds before slicing and squeezing.

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