Salty lemon squares

By Antoni Porowski
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I spent a couple of summers when I was young in Knowlton, Quebec, where my Auntie Magda had a summer home she ran as an unofficial sleepaway camp for all of the cousins. Our carefree days were spent horseback riding, face painting, running about in the yard, and, of course, eating. Auntie Madga was a fantastic cook who put a touch of Polish in every dish. Her daughter, Maïa, two years my elder, likely inspired by her mum, was a passionate young baker. Maïa spent most of her mornings in the kitchen, baking something delicious so that we could all have treats after lunch. That first summer at “cousins’ camp,” she was obsessed with lemon squares. Brand-new to me, they were sweet and tangy, bright and cookie-like, and I ate them with abandon. But what also struck me was the idea that cooking is not necessarily a chore that somebody else does for you while you’re playing outside. If you love cooking, it’s fun. Today, whenever I make these lemon bars, which are a slight riff on Maïa’s original, I think back to that time that helped shape both my palate and my life path.

YIELDS
16 5 CENTIMETER SQUARES

Ingredients

Crust:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled

Filling:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • Finely grated zest of 1 large or 2 medium lemons (1-1/2 to 2 tablespoons)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 1 large or 2 medium lemons)
  • Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
  • Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, for sprinkling

Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 350ºF, with a rack in the middle. Line a 20 centimeter square baking pan with two sheets of foil, shiny side up, crisscrossing them to leave an overhang on all sides. Lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray or grease with butter. 

Crust:

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the cooled melted butter and stir to combine. Turn the mixture out into the baking pan and press evenly over the bottom. Bake until the edges are just beginning to brown, 18 to 22 minutes.

Filling:

  1. With an electric mixer, beat the eggs in a medium bowl until combined. Add the granulated sugar, baking powder, lemon zest, and lemon juice and beat on medium-high until the mixture is frothy, two to three minutes.

To assemble:

  1. Pour the filling into the hot crust. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the filling is just set, 22 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack, at least one and a half hours. For the best flavor and easiest cutting, chill in the refrigerator at least four hours, or up to one day. (The bars can be covered and refrigerated for up to three days or frozen for up to one month. Thaw, unwrapped, for one hour at room temperature before serving.)
  2. To serve, cut the bars into five centimeter squares, then dust with confectioners’ sugar and sprinkle with flaky salt.

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Antoni in the Kitchen

This recipe appears in Antoni in the Kitchen (© 2019)

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