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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Lemon Squares


My friend, Patricia introduced me to these lovely lemon squares many years ago.  She would make these in a tiny kitchen in her very small basement apartment she shared with her husband.  I could have eaten the whole pan but I asked her for the recipe instead.  She made them using a packaged lemon pie filling mix as do most people.  I've been making homemade filling lately and I'll share that recipe as well.

These are not the lemon squares you'll find on the Food Network but you do find them at Newfoundland homes and parties.  The coconut shortbread base and crumb topping are perfect with the luscious lemon filling.  Mmmmm. . . lemon and coconut.  That's tropical enough to make you forget about winter. 

Eggs yolks are responsible for the lemon yellow colour of lemon filling but supermarket egg yolks are as pale as a winter sun.  Wish I had a few of Martha Stewart's eggs she's always bragging about. But alas, I have no farm, no chickens, and no chicken keeper if I did have any.  If you would like a deeper colour add a few drops of yellow food colouring to the filling and pretend you just collected farm-fresh eggs with a nice wicker basket over your arm.  

Although lots of people freeze these squares I find they do not freeze very well because of the filling.  Cooked cornstarch does not freeze well and you may find the lemon filling has become spongy upon defrosting.  Nasty, nasty!  Make the crumb mixture well ahead and freeze in a zipper bag.  The day before you want to serve the squares, make up the filling and use the defrosted crumbs to bake the squares fresh. They really taste best freshly made.  

As you can see arrowroot flour is about 4x the price of cornstarch.
Now on the other side of the coin, these squares will freeze quite well if you use arrowroot flour instead of cornstarch in the filling. Arrowroot cooks up kind of strange and slimy but once the squares are cooked they are quite good.  I had a long day of experimenting and made two more batches of filling using the arrowroot, trying to see if one way was better than another.  Both arrowroot fillings turned out slimy compared to the cornstarch filling.  I eventually mixed the two together and made a small pan of squares to try them out.  They tasted good and looked the same as the ones I make with cornstarch filling.  So I took a chance and made a full pan of squares to freeze.  I'm going to take them to a church function during Christmas so it will be good to have them made well in advance.  (I won't put my name on the plate  just in case they are awful!  Ha, ha.  One must protect one's reputation.)

But do try this original recipe as it is the best one.  

Lemon Squares
Lemon filling* (See recipe below.)
2 cups flour
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups coconut
1 cup butter, room temperature

Make lemon filling and lay aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a 9x13-inch pan. Line with parchment paper or foil and grease again.  The gooey lemon filling can really stick to the sides of the pan so make sure you get the sides of the paper well greased. Let the ends of the paper hang over the long sides of the pan.  This will enable you to lift the cold baked squares right out of the pan for easy cutting.

Mix dry ingredients together in large bowl.  Rub butter into dry ingredients until crumbly.  Press half of the crumb mixture in 9x13-inch pan.  Spread with lemon filling, trying to keep a narrow margin free from filling as it will spread while baking.  Top with remaining crumbs; pat down lightly.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes until crumbs are starting to turn a golden colour. You do not want the squares to brown. Cut in squares when cool.  These may be cut in smaller cookie size squares or larger dessert size which would be served with a fork (and possibly with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or dollop of whipped cream or both!).  Makes 30-40 small squares or 15 dessert size squares.

Lemon Filling
⅓ cup cornstarch
1 ¼ cup sugar
½ cup cold water
1 cup boiling water
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons butter
⅓ cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Yellow food colouring, optional

Mix cornstarch and sugar in medium size saucepan and add ½ cup cold water and mix until smooth and all lumps are gone.  Add the 1 cup boiling water, stirring until smooth. Cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil and is clear and thick, stirring constantly.  

In a small bowl beat egg yolks and add a little of the hot mixture, stirring as you do.  (This will temper the eggs so they don't cook like scrambled eggs.)  Add the mixed egg yolks back into the hot mixture, stirring to blend.  Add 2 or 3 drops yellow food colouring, if using. Go easy on the colouring.  You don't want your filling to look like a neon sign.  Cook an additional 2 minutes over low heat.  Remove from heat.

Add butter, lemon juice and zest stirring gently until mixed.

Cover with plastic wrap and keep in refrigerator until ready to use.  


This is excellent as lemon pie filling as well.  Use the leftover egg whites for meringue. 

*You may use a package of lemon pie filling mix made according to package directions or in a real pinch use a can of lemon pie filling.  But homemade is best!


Mix cornstarch and sugar together and add the cold water.

Add boiling water to the sugar and cornstarch slurry and bring to a boil.

 Beat egg yolks and add a little hot mixture to temper the eggs.

 Over low heat, cook an additional 2 minutes until egg is cooked.

Grate lemon zest (peel) before juicing the lemon.  

I like to use a citrus reamer to juice lemons.  
Add lemon juice and zest last.  The cornstarch should be cooked before the acidic juice is added.

For the crust, mix the coconut, flour, sugar and other dry ingredients together.  
Rub the butter through until coarse crumbs formed.

Grease and line pan with parchment paper leaving extra paper hang over the sides for easy removal.

 Pack half the crumb mixture in the pan.

Spread filling over bottom crust and cover with remaining crumbs.  Pat down lightly.

 
Baked squares out of the oven.  See how the sides are just beginning to turn a golden colour. 


Lifting the cold squares out of the pan with the parchment paper is so easy.

 
The cold squares can be cut with little difficulty once they  are removed from the pan.  
We usually keep the first row to taste.

 

4 comments:

  1. These are really good. I made them and everyone liked them.

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  2. Thank you for posting this! My mom made these all the time when I was a little girl growing up in Newfoundland. She died before I could get her recipe, but I know by the pictures that these are the same ones! My family will be having wicked good lemon squares come Christmas!! Thanks again!

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    Replies
    1. I'm so happy I was able to help you. Happy eating.

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