The only thing that made me hesitant about baking them was the fact that I already posted twice about lemon squares on the blog, neither being very successful. I've been baking lemon squares since the early beginnings of my baking adventures and although I don't think you can really go that wrong with them, I hadn't found the perfect "aha!" recipe. So I had to do some serious searching.
With the lemon square, I like them super tart super sour. Not painfully sweet, but definitely needs the sugar rush punch. The cookie must not be soggy or too hard, but perfectly crispy on the outer edges, soft and crumbly in the inside. And so after the rigorous and painstaking search, I found it at last, on the great website called epicurious.com!
I was convinced at the author's own description of her lemon butter bar: "This classic cookie combines two of my favorite sweets: buttery-tender Scottish shortbread and satiny lilting English lemon curd." Lilting. Wow. Good word. Also with all the great reviews and ratings, I knew this was the recipe. The recipe requires a tad bit more work than the typical recipe you'll find, but it's worth every stir you make on that stove. The result is simply glorious! And YES, it definitely hit the spot.
Let me reenact it for you.
sarah baker the yoon: [In the kitchen, cutting up the bars to serve to friends, sneaks in a test taste] Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm~~~~
[Cue silent yet violent happy dance for 2 minutes]
That's right. It really is that good. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!!
The Ultimate Lemon Butter Bar
recipe from epicurious by Rose Levy Beranbaum (Below recipe is written by Rose, not me!)
make 1 1/2 dozen 2 2/3-inch by 1 1/3-inch bars
10 tablespoons unsalted butter (soft) (5 ounces = 142 grams)
2 tablespoons powdered sugar (0.5 ounce = 14 grams)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar (0.75 ounce = 25 grams)
1 1/4 cups bleached all-purpose flour (dip and sweep method) (6.25 ounces = 180 grams)
Lemon Curd Topping
4 large egg yolks (2 full fluid ounces = 2.5 ounces = 74 grams)
3/4 cup sugar (5.25 ounces = 150 grams)
3 fluid ounces (use a liquid measuring cup) lemon juice, freshly squeezed (about 2 1/2 large lemons) (3.25 ounces = 94 grams)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (softened) (2 ounces = 57 grams)
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons lemon zest (finely grated) (4 grams)
2 tablespoons powdered sugar for dusting (0.5 ounce = 14 grams)
8-inch by 8-inch by 2-inch baking pan, preferably metal (if using a glass pan, lower the oven temperature 25°F.), bottom and 2 sides lined with an 8-inch by 16-inch strip of heavy-duty aluminum foil.
Electric Mixer Method or by Hand
In Scotland, it is said that the best shortbread is mixed with the fingers and that each woman's fingers lend something distinctive and special to the finished cookie. I find that the texture is more delicate when the dough is mixed with the fingers rather than in a machine. For either method, use superfine sugar for the best texture and be sure to soften the butter.
1. Place 1 oven rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat oven to 325°F.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugars. In a large bowl, cream the butter with the sugars until light and fluffy. With your fingers or with the electric mixer, mix in the flour until incorporated. If using the mixer, add the flour in 2 parts.
3. Pat the dough into the prepared pan. Use a fork to prick the dough all over. Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned and the top is pale golden (do not brown).
While the shortbread is baking, prepare the Lemon Curd Topping.
Lemon Curd Topping
1. Have a strainer, suspended over a bowl, ready near the range.
2. In a heavy noncorrodible saucepan, beat the egg yolks and sugar with a wooden spoon until well blended. Stir in the lemon juice, butter, and salt. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, for about 6 minutes, until thickened and resembling hollandaise sauce, which thickly coats a wooden spoon but is still liquid enough to pour. (A candy thermometer will read 196°F.) The mixture will change from translucent to opaque and begin to take on a yellow color on the back of a wooden spoon. It must not be allowed to boil or it will curdle. (It will steam above 140°F. Whenever steaming occurs, remove the pan briefly from the heat, stirring constantly to prevent boiling.)
3. When the curd has thickened, pour it at once into the strainer. Press it with the back of a spoon until only the coarse residue remains. Discard the residue. Stir in the lemon zest.
4. When the shortbread is baked, remove it from the oven, lower the temperature to 300°F., pour the lemon curd on top of the shortbread, and return it to the oven for 10 minutes.
5. Cool the lemon curd–topped shortbread completely in the pan on a wire rack. Refrigerate the pan for 30 minutes to set the lemon curd completely before cutting into bars. Place the powdered sugar in a strainer and tap the strainer with a spoon to sprinkle a thick, even coating, entirely covering the lemon.
6. Run a small metal spatula between the sides of the pan and the pastry on the 2 sides without the aluminum foil. Use the foil to lift out the lemon curd–covered shortbread onto a cutting surface. Use a long, sharp knife to cut the shortbread first in thirds, then in half the other way, and then each half in thirds. Wipe the blade after each cut. The powdered sugar will start to be absorbed into the lemon curd after several hours, but it can be reapplied before serving.
Store in an airtight container at room temperature, or in the refrigerator or freezer.
Keeps 3 days at room temperature, 3 weeks refrigerated (individually wrapped in plastic wrap to prevent drying), or 3 months frozen.