These squares are everything you have ever dreamed of in a lemon bar, plus more. They were our dessert this past Fourth of July. Unfortunately, I started a bit later than I expected and didn't let them cool enough before I cut them. That's what you get when you are hassled and try to do too many things at once. Baking shouldn't be one of them.
The crust is an almond crust and it is nice and firm, not soggy as in a lot of recipes. The filling is lemony but not too and perfectly sweetened. The addition of raspberries is the icing on the cake. I had two boxes of blueberries in the refrigerator and toyed with the idea of making the squares, half raspberry and half blueberries to see the difference. In the end, I decided to save the blueberries for muffins at another time. Glad I did. Loved the raspberries!
The only thing I would change is to cut back on the final cooking time to 8 minutes instead of 10 to 13 minutes so the raspberries don't cook so much and come out firmer. I have a convection oven which runs hot and that was perhaps my problem. Just a thought, it's up to you, but watch that final cooking time. If you do that, make sure you cook them previously for 35 instead of 30 minutes so the lemon filling is really cooked and set.
The recipe comes from Dorie Greenspan's new cookbook Baking Chez Moi and was developed for Driscoll, the raspberry company. That was what prompted me to try it. You know what Madame Mere says.....
This is not a quick recipe to make. It has a lot of "down time". The original tells you the cooking time is 30 minutes. Between the crust, the filling and the final baking of the bars, it is more than 80 minutes. Plus the waiting time to let the curd and the crust cool. Give yourself the morning to make it or, better yet, make it the night before. They are much easier to cut when they are cold. Do make them, you will be well rewarded and asked to make them again and again.
Lemon Curd Filling
- 4 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
- 2/3 cup freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice (from 8-10 lemons)
- 2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons (9 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
Crust and Crumbs
- 2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons (9 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup almond flour
- 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 packages (6 ounces each) Driscoll's Raspberries (3 1/2 to 4 cups)
- Confectioners' sugar, for dusting (optional)
Working in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan, whisk the eggs and sugar together until well blended. Whisk in the zest and lemon juice, then drop in the chunks of butter. Put the saucepan over medium heat and start whisking, taking care to work the whisk into the edges of the pan. If your whisk is too big to clean the edges, switch to a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula. Whisk without stop, and, in 8 to 10 minutes, the buttery curd will thicken. It won't get terribly thick--it thickens more as it chills--but you'll notice that your whisk leaves tracks. The sign that the curd is ready is a bubble or two burbling to the surface, then popping. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and scrape the curd into a heatproof bowl. Place a piece of plastic film against the surface and refrigerate the curd until it's cold all the way through. (Packed airtight, the curd can stay in the fridge for a couple of weeks.)
When You're Ready to Bake
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 9-x-13-inch baking pan. Cut a piece of parchment paper to about 13 x 17 inches or so that about 2 inches hang over the edge of each side of the pan. Place the parchment paper inside the pan and butter the paper.
To Make the Crust and Crumbs
Put the butter, sugar, salt and vanilla in a food processor and whir until the mixture is blended. Add the almond flour and blend until smooth. Add the flour and pulse, stopping as needed to scrape the bowl, until you've worked the flour into the other ingredients and have moist, bumpy curds of dough. Reach in--if the dough holds together when you pinch it, it's ready.
Turn the dough out onto the counter and knead it gently to gather it together. Cut off one third of the dough, cover it and set it aside. Press the rest of the dough evenly over the bottom of the lined pan. Prick the dough all over with a fork.
Bake the crust for 15 - 18 minutes, or until it's pale golden all over. It will puff a bit and still feel soft to the touch, so judge its readiness by its color. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let the crust cool to room temperature.
If you've turned off the oven, heat it to 375 degrees F again.
Scatter 1 package (1 3/4 to 2 cups) of raspberries over the crust. Stir the chilled curd to get it moving then, using a long offset spatula or the back of a spoon, spread the filling evenly over the berries. Pinch off small pieces of the reserved dough and scatter them over the filling - you'll have enough dough to almost completely cover the curd.
Bake the lemon squares 30 minutes, rotating the pan after about 20 minutes. Working quickly, remove the pan from the oven and scatter the remaining raspberries over the crumbs, gently and lightly pressing them into the topping. Return the pan to the oven and bake for another 10 to 13 minutes. The filling will puff - and it should puff all the way to the center - the lemon curd will caramelize around the edges (my favorite part) and the crumbs will be golden brown. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let stand for at least 2 hours (and up to 6 hours) before cutting.
Use the edges of the parchment paper to carefully lift the lemon squares out of the pan and set on the counter or rack. Invert a plate over the lemon squares and turn the plate and lemon squares over and then peel away the parchment paper. Using a long, slender knife, cut the cake into 12 squares, about 3 inches on a side. Serve now or chill - the bars are delicious at room temperature, when the crust is almost as tender as the filling, and just as good chilled, when all the elements are firm but the filling melts in your mouth.
Dust with confectioners' sugar, if you'd like, just before serving.
Storing: Well wrapped, the squares will keep in the refrigerator for about 5 days; wrapped airtight, they can be frozen for up to 2 months. Defrost the squares, still wrapped, overnight in the refrigerator.