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Lemon Squares

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I am the tenth, and youngest, child in my family. When I got married, the women in my family gave me a gift of a binder filled with their favourite recipes; each one is handwritten on a card, and separated into categories like "Casseroles" and "Cakes/Cookies/Pies". They are of the tried-and-true variety and part of my earliest memories. Deviled eggs at cookouts, Parker House rolls for Thanksgiving, Congo Bars after school, Baked Eggs for Easter brunch...it's impossible to separate the memories from the menus.

Some of the recipes are named for their creators (Boozie's Apple Cake), some are remnants of dinner parties past (English Muffin Appetizers), and some are imbedded in the history of New England (Anadama bread), but all are part of the very fabric of our family life. The binder took up residence on my "favourites" shelf that year (in fact, is was my very first favourite cookbook), and has never sat there for longer than a week without being used.

It's been a part of seven different homes and has crossed a couple of oceans; it started out by teaching two newlyweds how to cook and graduated to keeping a family well-fed. It was made with love, and a little bit of that love has gone into every dish and meal we've made from it ever since.

My oldest brother's only child is getting married in September. She is a wonderful woman, intelligent and talented, and her fiance is a gem as well. He is in the military, and after the wedding they will head for the first of many posts to come. Incredible adventures await, to be sure, but I know from experience that there will be tough times as well. I'm going to put together a cookbook for her to take with her on her journeys, one that has its roots in that binder that I received so many years ago. It will be printed and bound, and will include food photos, family photos and anecdotes in additional to the recipes. My hope is that it will be a warm reminder of the love and thoughts that are with her always- from so many people- across generations, time and distance. If she learns a little bit about cooking and baking along the way, well I guess that's good, too.

Lemon Squares were the first up on my list to make and photograph for the book, which thrilled my husband as they are his all-time favourites. This is my mum's recipe, and a perennial favourite at family get-togethers. The crust is tender and rich, quite similar to shortbread in texture, but holds up well without crumbling. The filling has a vibrant lemon taste with just the right amount of sweetness to balance it. It will be the first entry in the chapter on desserts, to my niece from her Nana.


LEMON SQUARES


CRUST

2 cups FLOUR
1/2 cup sifted CONFECTIONERS' SUGAR
1 cup (2 sticks) BUTTER, frozen


FILLING

4 EGGS, beaten
2 cups SUGAR
1/3 cup LEMON JUICE
2 teaspoons LEMON ZEST
1/4 cup FLOUR
1/2 teaspoon BAKING POWDER

CONFECTIONERS' SUGAR, for dusting


FOR THE CRUST:

Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 9 x 13-inch baking dish and line with parchment paper.

Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Grate the frozen butter (using the large holes of a box grater) into the dry mixture. Toss the butter pieces to coat, then rub the pieces between your fingers for a minute, until the flour turns coarse. Pour the mixture into the lined pan and press firmly with your fingers to form an even crust. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.


FOR THE FILLING:


Whisk eggs, sugar, flour and baking powder together in a medium bowl. Add the lemon juice and zest and stir well. Pour mixture into the pan on top of the warm crust.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until the filling feels firm when touched lightly. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool for 30 minutes. Grasp the parchment and carefully lift the bars onto a cutting board. Cut into serving size squares or bars, wiping your knife clean between cuts if necessary. Sieve confectioners' sugar over bars and serve.

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Comments

Oh my goodness! I LOVE lemon squares and your photos are absolutely gorgeous! I am SO craving a lemon square right this very minute.

Interesting use of a grater for the frozen butter! I bet the super cold butter is the secret to the crust.

Okay, now I must go make a cup of tea and yearn for lemon squares. Such a lovely post.

Stopping by to say "Hello, Michele sent me." Yes, Moira, TAG you are it. Now, back to my drooling.

Ms Moi, what a simply splendid, gorgeous gorgeous story. Really wonderful! What a heartfelt gift to make and give!

And! I love lemon squares too. Your pic has me droooooling.

What an absolutely wonderful gift! If they had done that for me, I wouldn't have had to call so much for recipes (and since I write them down, now they call me when they lose them!!) The lemon squares look mouth wateringly fabulous!!

Hello, Michele sent me! Have a wonderful day... I'll be back!!

Hi there, Michele sent me

Oh, and *droooooooooolll*

Moira, you might want to whip up a couple more pans of those beautiful lemon squares, as you are in for a lot of wonderful company today!

And while I usually come here to drool all on my own, today Michele sent me.

hi there Michele sent me.

more please

Hello, Michele sent me. Great foodie blog, and a wonderful idea in this post! I'm not much of a one for sweet things, but I'll check back now and again to keep an eye on your savoury options. (I already checked out the 'roasted root vegetables' - I love that with couscous and tsatsiki too!)

Oh gees, do you know how absolutely beautiful your lemon squares look? Your photography is brilliant!!! BTW, Hello, Michele sent me.... I will be back - great blog!!

Oh, my gosh- what a wonderful bunch of comments to wake up to! I *do* wish I could have all of you over for a warm cup of something and a lemon square (or two)...it would be divine.

Hello and hugs to those of you I know, and a warm welcome to my new friends that have popped by via Michele- pleased to meet you!

Hi Moira,

Your lemon squares look so delicious. I'm almost tempted to make some myself. Maybe this weekend. Have you tried to make this with lime juice? I've used key limes in a similar recipe with great success. In fact, I've been almost tempted to try this with blood oranges just to see what it would taste like. Maybe I'll do that instead. =) Will let you know how it turns out.

Yum yum YUM!

What a thoughtful gift you're giving to your niece... sounds like you have some wonderful traditions.

I like to cook & bake (& eat) so I'll be looking around some more!

Oh, and hello, Michele sent me!

And what a pleasure to visit you...

Oh my what a way to start a day! Hope your day is good. Michele sent me.

What a great idea for a wedding present!

Lemon squares... I adore lemon squares... those look fantastic.

Hmmm...are we thinking on the same wavelength here? I just made a lemon tart this morning...in fact I was holed up in the kitchen ALL morning baking all sorts of goodies for my husband to take to work tomorrow.

I seem to be flying through butter, sugar, and flour these days....just so many recipes to try!!!

P.S. You'll never guess (!) what I found in Milan over the weekend.

Yum!!!! Those look absolutely delicious! I'm here via Michele, and I'll be back!

The recipe sounds delicious, and the photos are WONDERFUL!

Oh, and Michele sent me! :)

That's a great idea for a wedding gift.
And thanks ever for sharing this heirloom recipe. This is the reason why I love getting recipes from blogs and previously in rec.food.cooking. The fact that they are tried and tested family recipes, they have very little chances of failing! cheers Moira!

Mmmm....that looks so yummy!!
My grandma did something like that for Christmas for me one year. I have a HUGE recipe book that has all these handwritten recipes from all my great aunts, grandma's cousins, and great-anybody related to me. I love it. I just wish I could cook (I'm in college living in a dorm = no place to actually cook).

Michele sent me, so I hope you don't mind me stopping in once in a while!!

Nice weblog and though I am not a big lemon pastry fan I am sharing this with others. Look forward to more recipes ..

cheers.
P.

Wow and Yum! You are a triple threat- you can cook , write and are a talented photographer....Lucky you and lucky us. Thanks for sharing. Michele sent me:-)

Ok, those lemon squares look to die for! I can see what I'll be making this weekend.

Oh, and Hello, Michele sent me!

yum, i can't wait to try this recipe, thanks. oh btw, michele sent me. i will be back.

What an amazing gift! I'm not big on lemon, but those lemon squares look gorgeous. I can feel my ass getting fatter just looking at them.

Oh, Michele sent me - I think she's sweet on you!

What a wonderful site. Hello, Michele sent me, now I have to go and hunt down my willpower as I'm supposed to be on a diet and it ran away when it saw those lemon squares :)

Yummmm....I am getting hungry...

And hello, Michelle sent me!

michele sent me to a great place this time.. i love desserts !

Wow those lemon bars look wonderful!!!!
By the way, Michele sent me and I'll be back

Oh MY, I love anything lemon and this looks fantastic. Michele sent me and now my mouth is watering.

You have an incredible website. I'm absolutely taken by your pictures, recipes, and content. Impressive. I'm blogrolling you, which is dangerous because I'm supposed to be training for a marathon, not taste-testing every recipe you publish! Cheers!
p.s. And Michele sent me.

Hello, Michele sent me...and now I'm hungry! :-)

Wow. Those look incredible, and bring back many great memories of my mother's lemon bars too. What camera do you use? (Yes I''m a dork). Oh and michele sent me, and I'll be back.

Lovely lemon bars! What a perfect wedding gift idea! As the mother of eleven, may I ask how your dear mother is doing? Michele sent me and I shall very reluctantly go back to my fruit and veggie cleansing fast! ;~)

Oh. My. Goodness.
That looks so good.
Now if only I could bake things without ruining them.

Michele sent me.

Simply looking at your photos of lemon squares is enought to send my willpower out to lunch! Hmmm...now to come up with a good excuse for making them!

Michele sent me!

I enjoy lemon squares----looks like a good recipe and I will be trying it.

Micjhele sent me....Hello!

I love the idea of that binder - if she doesn't like it, tell her she's an ungrateful woman and that she can send it my way!;-) The lemon squares look gooooood too!

Holy cow, you guys- this is amazing! Thanks so much to everyone for stopping by and leaving such lovely comments...I'm feeling more fortunate than ever today.

Some specific responses:

Reid: I have not tried to make them with lime or blood orange juice, but I bet either of those would make for an interesting bar...please let me know if you give them a go!

Elizabeth: Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Rowena: Hee, hee- great minds think alike! Those co-workers of your husband's are lucky fellows, indeed. Did you get 'Falling Cloudberries' in Milan?

Celia: Thanks, sweetie...I think it's so important to share these recipes...not just with family...it's one of the ways we stay connected and keep connecting, isn't it?

Erin: That's such a wonderful gift from your grandmother, and it will be waiting for you when you're able to cook again- isn't that great?

Paul: I'm not a big lemon fan, either, but these are pretty awesome. Let me know what you think!

MommaK: What a sweet and thoughtful comment to leave...thanks a mil!

Megan: Bwaaahaaahaaa! The trick with fat-ass prevention is to give the majority of the pan away *immediately*. This is something I'm working on.;-)

Michael: Thank you for your very kind comments; of course you may blogroll me (why does that always sound vaguely obscene?;-))! Marathon training, huh? My husband used to be a competitive triathlete, and his motto was "Man cannot live (well) on coffee and PowerBars alone.";-) Stop on by for ideas when you need to stockpile those calories before the race...

Wavybrains: Thanks for stopping by! I use an Olympus C-5060WZ. It's fairly simple to use, takes TWO 512MB cards, and shoots in RAW, TIFF, and two different JPEGs.

Bonnie: Thanks! My mum is doing great- she will be 87 in June, and still works part-time at her local library. I hope you'll be back after your fast is done!

La Nina: You could do this recipe...really! I could send you a photo tutorial, but I'm sure you could make these on your own. Let me know how it goes!

Cori: Could you make them as a surprise for someone? That way you could indulge in a one or two, then put the rest on a nice plate, wrap them up, and give them away!


Cheers to one and all...you have *more* than made my day!

Great food blog. I live over a bakery...which happens to be right NEXT DOOR to another bakery. It's bad enough that I have to LOOK at that food every day... now after reading your post, I'VE GOT TO GO GET SOMETHING SWEET....NOW!!!!

Seriously, Michele sent me. And I'm glad she did. Have a great day!

Hello, Michele sent me and boy and I glad she did! I adore Lemon Squares and this post left me with a terrific hankering for some. Great idea about the cookbook, by the way. :-)

Hello, Michele sent me! Now I'm hungry for lemon bars. What a beautiful story and tradition!

That's an awesome gift and those lemon squares look so yummy!!! Glad Michele sent me along to meet you today!

Hello, Michele sent me. What a lovely post about love and memories. I'm a hopeless cook, but I might persuade hubby to make these for me...

sweeeeeeeet.. a blog about food!.. definitely coming back to this one :)

and Michele Sent ME :)

I LOVE lemon squares! Now, since Michele sent me here, can I send you to my house to cook all these delightful things!?

I love the idea and the irony- a family cookbook, meant to serve as binding for a lifetime, starts with a Lemon squares recipe. Even on the days that serve up lemons, there is always a certain sweetness to be found at home.

Moira,
You have to enter the photos into a contest-they're amazing! I love that your family put that recipe book together for you as a wedding present. We a beautiful & thoughtful gift.

this is quite possibly the most breathtaking blog I have ever seen.

I love it. Can you tell?

And Michele sent me.

Hello, Michele sent me.

I love lemon squares. And the idea for your nephew's bride-to-be is wonderful and heartfelt. Growing up in a military family, it was always comforting to eat the foods that were rooted somewhere.

OH I LOVE Lemon Squares. My mom gave me the same recipe. I don't make them as often as I should!!

Oh, BTW, Hello!!!! Michele sent me!

Oh wow! Those look too fabulous!! Gotta go get me some lemons...
And I really love the idea of making and giving a cookbook of tried & tested recipes as a gift.

Hello everyone and thank you so much for all of your wonderful comments. It's been an incredible couple of days, and I don't think I'll be coming down from this cloud for quite awhile!

All the best,

These look sublime. If you're a lover of lemon squares, a great recipe to try is Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Ultimate Lemon Butter Bar, in the book Rose's Christmas Cookies. There's also an orange-chocolate variation that I've got to try one of these days.

Great pictures! I got hungry just looking at them.

Hi Julie...I've just *got* to get some of her books! The orange-chocolate variation sounds divine.

Hi Barbara...thank you!

Moira...I don't even know you but I could HUG you!! I have been on a mission to find an outstanding, to-die-for lemon bar recipe. And THIS.IS.IT. I am NOT kidding. Hubby is gone for the weekend and I spent most of the day trying various recipes (4, to be exact). Your's was the third one. My search is over. They are absolutely heavenly.

Question #1: Do you think a food processor with frozen butter would do the same job as grating? I'm just a wimp. I got tired grating the butter. (It's still worth it!)
Question #2: Have you tried freezing these? I'm sure they aren't nearly as heavenly as 30 minutes out of the oven, but I'm hoping they will freeze and still be the best darn lemon bars ever.

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!

Hi Sally...how very sweet of you to stop back and leave such a lovely comment! I'm just thrilled that you were happy with the results and that your search is over...yay!

About the food processor, I think the blade would provide too much heat on the cold butter, so (sadly) I think you'll have to muddle through the grating to get a good result. I don't have a food processor myself, but I think I recall a blurb in 'Cook's Illustrated' about this very subject. Please let me know if you find out otherwise!

About freezing, I haven't ever tried it, but I honestly think the filling would suffer. It's a bit like lemon curd, so I think it might become grainy. Again, let me know if you experiment and it works out.

Thanks again for your kind words...

I'm cooking/baking/freezing for the first two weekends in July. We're having 8-10 guys come to help frame/roof our house. Because I'm in "stocking up" mode, I froze the batch I made yesterday. We tried one of them tonight and they're still the best darn lemon bars evah! They didn't get grainy (at least not yet). But they're definitely the best when they're fresh. I'm going to go ahead and freeze them. It's better than store bought. In the future, they will be made fresh and eaten immediately!

I don't suppose you have a brownie recipe that's this good, do you? (I *had* to ask!)

Hi Sally...I'm so glad freezing the bars worked for you! I don't think they would get grainy that quickly, but let me know if that's still the case in a couple of weeks. Good luck with the stocking up for the roofers...I don't envy you one bit!

I *do* have a fab brownie recipe, which I need to get ready for my niece's cookbook, so I'll post about it in the next couple of weeks or so. It's dead simple, too- always a nice quality in a prospective recipe, right?

Hmmmm.... I'm really not such a great cook. I don't know much about the nuances of freezing lemon bars (or anything else that isn't written down in a recipe). I'm crossing my fingers those bars will be OK. Maybe I'll just have to sample them in 2 weeks and see how they're doing. :-) If I have to, I'll make more just before the event.

I'm looking forward to the brownie recipe! And easy is always good.

Hi Sally...I googled it, and www.krusteaz.com said:

'The baked bars will freeze nicely for up to 2 weeks in a sealed, airtight container. Allow four hours to thaw to room temperature. Thaw completely before dusting with powdered sugar.'

Now, they are referring to their box mix, but I'd imagine that they're not so dissimilar to my recipe. *Definitely* let me know what your bars are like in two weeks!

It's me again.... I have one of those vacuum sealer devices. I have the lemon bars in a shallow tupperware (no lid) and vacuum sealed. I'm hoping that will help extend the "freezer life". However, I was planning on using them more than 2 weeks out. I may have to plan on making a couple of fresh batches before that weekend. Thanks for the info.

My God, I've never seen such overwhelming and enthusiastic commenting on anything on any food blog I think..so I just had to try these lemon squares. I made them yesterday and they are absolutely FANTASTIC!!
Dear Moira, congratulations to you site, it has become one of my favorites. Such a style, kindness, sophistication shining trough the words..I love it. Please more entries!!

Hi zsofia...thank you so much! It's really one of the most fantastic things about food blogging, that you can share recipes that you love so that other people can love them, too! Thank you for your very sweet words as well. I'm struggling with posting right now, but I'm going to try to get back on track soon.

Cheers,

Greetings again Moira! We made it through the roof-raising weekend unscathed. Thank goodness! No injuries, not even a sunburn. I wanted to let you know that for the most part, the lemon bars survived freezing. If I really paid attention, I could detect some graininess, but the flavor was still outstanding. Everyone complained when I set them out because they'd have two (or three) and feel stuffed, but they loved them. In the future though, I will prepare them right before eating to maximize the experience. Fresh is much, much better than frozen, but frozen was still better than any lemon bar I've had before.

I'm waiting oh so patiently for the brownie recipe ;-) It sounds like you're very busy right now, but I will be checking in for the that recipe periodically. If it's anything like these lemon bars, it will be worth waiting for. Thanks again for your blog. It's a treasure!

Sally

Hi Sally...YAY! I'm so glad they survived freezing and were a hit! I swear, I'm going to post about the brownies soon, and hopefully you'll like those just as much.

Thanks for checking back and updating me on the bars, and I hope you're having a great summer. I really appreciate your kind comments.

Cheers,

Hey Moira, I've just got back from a weekend of eating and partying for my dad's 60th bday. I made yr lemon squares for Sunday, recovery day after the big party, and everyone loved them!! Everyone commented on the delicious balance of flavours and textures. I'm about to have one for breakfast with a cup of tea. Thanks so much for posting this lovely recipe. One question - are you supposed to make the crust go up the sides of the tin, or do you just press it into the base? I was a bit nervous working with the pastry, think I need to work a little faster next time. I can't wait to try the cookies next!!

Hi kookiegoddess...alright, another lemon bar lover! I'm glad they worked out so well for you and were such a hit. About the crust- no, just press it into the base...no need to go up the sides. Thanks for letting me know how they worked out!

Hi! First time visitor sent by Michele. Great stuff! Who needs Emeril Lagasse anymore when we have your site! Stop by and say hello anytime!

i'm staring at your pictures and i'm FRIKKEN HUNGRY AND CRAVING FOR ONE!...
GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I just tried this and its the best lemon bar yet, Thank you so much. My 18 year old thinks this must have taken ages to make ( lol little does she know its so easy )and she loves them.
Thanks again

Carol

Your story made me cry...thanks a lot!
;-)

Somehow after googling lemon bars I found this site. I tried the recipe and it will now be THE only lemon bar recipe for me!
I had a fabulous lemon bar about 15 years ago in a little antique shop in Edmond, OK. and have tried many times to no avail to remake them with new recipes. These are it!!
I did undercook them a little and they were pudding-ish in the middle ( but the top was browning)=) and I didnt want to overcook! The edges were perfection.Should a knife in the middle come out clean?
Anyway thanks for the recipe, the camera recommendation- fabulous pictures and such a clever website...ps who's Michelle? =)

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