Lemon squares are a confectionery high-wire balancing act. There’s the balance of tartness and sweetness in the lemon custard. Then there’s the balance between the sharp custard and the rich buttery shortbread crust.
Which is why it actually took me quite a long time to get the proportions to how I liked them. Most recipes for lemon squares that I’ve gone through in the past have had a measly thin base with nothing more than a glaze of lemon.
But I want a lemony POW! in your taste buds when you bite into one of these squares. So, for me, my perfect lemon square is generous with its custard (that’s ever so slightly too tart), accompanied by a base just thick enough to ease the sharp flavour.
Oh, and did I mention these are super easy to make?
For the base:
- 100g butter, melted
- 180g all-purpose flour
- 100g caster sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
For the filling:
- 1 cup lemon juice (approx. 3-4 lemons)
- Zest of one lemon
- 220g(+/-) caster sugar
- 4 eggs
- 35g all-purpose flour
Step 1: Preheat your oven to 175°C (300°F). Grease and line an 8-inch square tin.
Step 2: Mix together all the ingredients for the base until it looks clumpy.
Step 3: Press the mixture evenly into the base of the tin. Use the back of a spoon to help smooth it out. Bake the base for 20 minutes.
Step 4: Combine the lemon juice, zest and sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Now at this point, taste the lemon mixture. If it’s too sour, add in more sugar.
It’s a simple but important step. All lemons are different. Some might be more sour than others. And it’ll depend on your own preference as well. Personally, I prefer my lemon squares on the tart side, so I’m usually happy with 220g of sugar. (It’s also hilarious to see my friends’ faces pucker up when they bite into these lemon squares!)
And a quick side note on zest: use a fine grater and grate off the outermost layer of the lemon rind, avoiding as much of the white pith underneath as possible. The rind contains the aromatic oils, but the white stuff is just bitter. If you don’t own a grater, just use a vegetable peeler to get off the rind, then chop it up finely.
Step 5: Beat in the eggs. Sift in the flour and mix in thoroughly.
Step 6: If you’ve timed this correctly, 20 minutes should have elapsed and the base should be lightly browned by now. Remove it from the oven, pour on the lemon filling and bake for another 25 minutes.
Step 7: Remove from oven and cool. Then refrigerate the lemon squares for at least 2 hours to help firm up the custard. Cut into 16 squares, dust with icing sugar if you wish, and enjoy the lemony goodness!
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade, as they say. Sometimes life isn’t so generous with its lemons, in which case I’ve used bottled lemon juice and a teaspoon of lemon extract. You still get wonderfully tart lemon bars albeit not as good as ones made with fresh lemons.