Lucy's Lemon Squares

I was going to start this off by saying that I don't know who Lucy is but she sure has the best lemon squares I've ever had. 

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But on closer research (thanks, Google) and a thorough reading of the recipe explanation, Lucy is actually Lucy Van Pelt from The Peanuts! Like many of my family favorites, this recipe is an ancient thing. It's the lemon square recipe that appeared in the "Peanuts Cook Book" in 1969. Mind blown. Or, I need to learn how to read instead of skipping straight to the recipe. I've encountered this recipe many, many times throughout my life but it was always Kristen who made them and I who ate them. It was something she always made at Popo's when we were kids, like I always made lemon meringue pie. They were always evenly cut and carefully arranged on this vintage square plate with lilikoi flowers. We used to joke that maybe the plate was worth something but on closer inspection, it's only worth $10. But really, it's worth more in sentimental value.

Popo has copied the newspaper clipping of this recipe numerous times. It seems like she always has one on hand to distribute to curious family members. The print-out is faded, and well loved. In the upper right and bottom, there's the faded outline of a border which I distinctly remember being carefully drawn by Kristen in her younger years. And barely readable is Popo's scrawling handwriting with notes to use the lemon zest, line the pan with foil and that it's possible to use a food processor to make the crust. 

We're always finding ways to tweak the recipe. Kristen likes to add a little bit of nutmeg, we're both fans of cutting back the sugar in the original recipe, and this time around, I used meyer lemons and added a bit more filling so that that filling to crust ratio was 1:1. But now, I'm curious to see how other citrus would fare. 

Lucy's lemon squares start with a basic shortbread crust of flour, butter, and powdered sugar which is blended until thoroughly mixed. Then, it's evenly patted in the bottom of a pan and baked for 20 minutes.

The filling is whisked together and poured into the par-baked shell. Then, back in the oven for another 20 minutes until the top is golden brown. 

Be careful of wanting to use more lemon juice in the filling. It may seem logical to add more lemon juice to increase the lemon flavor but this results in a filling that leaks and does not hold its shape. Instead, reduce the sugar and the lemon will shine through.

Cool slightly and dust with powdered sugar. Per Kristen's expertise, peel the edges away from the foil slightly so that it doesn't completely stick when it cools. You'll get some of the filling that pulls away with the foil but those are extra chewy and crispy edges reserved only for the baker. When completely cooled, cut into squares. 

Let me tell you, my mouth has been watering since shooting these photos, editing them and writing this post. These lemon squares are light, buttery, tart and creamy all rolled into one delicious square. Or maybe two, or three. 

Lucy doesn't always give the most constructive advice but I'm thankful for her delicious lemon squares.

If my 11-year old sister can make them by herself, then you can, too. 

That's the beauty of simplistic but delicious recipes. 

That'll be 5 cents, please!


Lucy's Lemon Squares

Adapted from Lucy's Lemon Squares from the "Peanut's Cook Book"

Yields: Sixteen 2-inch lemon squares

Notes

The original filling recipe calls for 2 eggs, 1 cup granulated sugar, ½ teaspoon baking powder and 2½ tablespoons lemon juice. I find this to be too sweet and too little filling, hence the measurements above. However, if using a 9-inch x 9-inch pan, double these proportions but reduce the sugar to 1 cup unless you want them really sweet.

These don't necessarily have to be squares but can also be baked in a round 9-inch cake pan. See above notes on doubling the filling.

Be careful of wanting to use more lemon juice in the filling. It may seem logical to add more lemon juice to increase the lemon flavor but this results in a filling that leaks and does not hold its shape. Instead, reduce the sugar and the lemon will shine through.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour

  • ¼ cup powdered sugar

  • ½ cup butter, cubed

  • 3 eggs

  • ¾ cup granulated sugar

  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder

  • 3½ tablespoons lemon juice

  • Zest of 1 lemon

  • Dash of nutmeg

  • Powdered sugar for dusting

The Steps

Pre-heat the oven to 350ºF. Line an 8-inch x 8-inch pan with foil. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and ¼ cup powdered sugar. With clean fingertips, a pastry cutter or a food processor, blend in the butter until well mixed. Dump into the 8-inch x 8-inch pan and press evenly into the bottom of the pan making sure to get the corners as well.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. In the meantime, whisk together the eggs, granulated sugar, baking powder, lemon juice, lemon zest and nutmeg until thoroughly combined. Once the crust has finished par-baking, pour in the filling and return it to the oven for another 20-25 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

Let the lemon squares cool for about 5 minutes and dust the top with powdered sugar. Gently peel the foil away from the edges of the lemon squares to ensure it doesn't stick when completely cooled. Don't worry if there is some minor sticking. Cut into 16 squares, and dust again with more powdered sugar if desired.