Mrs. Rhymes' Lemon Squares

Over the weekend, a fellow ex-pat friend of ours had a party to celebrate the fact that he just got his British citizenship. Judson and I went to celebrate with him, masking our jealousy with big smiles, cheap beer, and a batch of lemon squares. When we arrived at the party (which, with great irony and sass, he had themed as an American cookout), his British friends asked us jokingly (over and over) if we were 'ashamed' of him for defecting.

But no matter how many times they asked, it never ceased to shock either of us-- 'ASHAMED?' we would reply, shocked and confused. 'How could we be ashamed? We're just jealous!'*

Anyway, the party involved a whole roast pig, about a hundred boxes of cupcakes, beer pong, cornhole, and Jimmy Eat World songs. In short, it was the most American event I've been to in at least two years.

(It also involved a lot of Pimm's and haggis; Judson and I had to explain the rules to cornhole about a dozen times; the Brits refused to use actual beer to play beer pong with because 'the ball will make the beer dirty before we drink it;' and despite being the last weekend in May, the temperature never rose above 20C/68F, so it wasn't an altogether American party.)

So, in preparation for the party, when I found out we were tasked with bringing a side dish, I knew it was my chance to make a proper American dessert, and that was how I ended up making lemon squares-- my favourite dessert as a teenager. But I've never made lemon squares before, and I was nervous about the curd once I realised it wasn't cooked. Plus, I didn't have the right size dish or a pretty serving platter to take them to the party on... then we walked into the house and saw that someone had provided dozens of boxes of cupcakes from a professional bakery in our neighbourhood... and all we had to offer was a foil-covered cookie sheet covered in powdered sugar. I was embarrassed immediately; no one wants to be the person who brings the dish to the party that no one eats.

But as I set down the platter and pulled back the foil, the host walked by and immediately gasped 'ARE THOSE LEMON SQUARES?!' before grabbing a corner piece and taking a sweet/sour bite. 'THIS,' he said to everyone within earshot, 'THIS is the taste of an American cookout. You have to try one of these, they're my FAVOURITE!' And before I knew it, the cookie sheet was half-empty, and all around me people were covered in a light dusting of powdered sugar, licking it off of their fingers and shaking it off their shirts.

And THAT'S why I don't have any finished pictures of the squares to show you. But seriously, that's how you host a party. I don't know who Mrs. Rhymes was (chances are, Eleanor didn't either as this is just a newspaper clipping dating back several decades), but her lemon squares, with a few moderations, are great. The crust is crumbly, buttery, and delicious, and the filling is just sour enough to deserve a generous dusting of powdered sugar.

The crust, after mixing thoroughly, will be sandy in texture and not stick together at all. Be not dismayed! Just press it into your pan and thank me later.

The crust, after mixing thoroughly, will be sandy in texture and not stick together at all. Be not dismayed! Just press it into your pan and thank me later.

*Mom: before you panic, understand we're only jealous because it means he never has to apply for another visa. Don't worry, we're not applying for dual citizenship yet.

The verdict:

4 spoons out of five. Once I made the modifications listed below to make the quantities more reasonable, the final product was delicious. (Before modifying the quantities, I ended up with 2/3 more crust than I needed and only 2/3 as much filling as I wanted.) I prefer my lemon squares a little more tart, but Judson thought they were perfect as-is. If you want a slightly more tart square, use one less egg and ¼ c more lemon juice.





The recipe:

Lemon Squares


Preheat oven to 176C/350F.
Cream butter and sugar until well-blended.
Add flour gradually, beating until mixture resembles fine crumbs.
Dump crumbs into a 15x10x1 cookie sheet and press down until even and packed.
Bake 15 minutes or until slightly browned around the edges.
Remove from oven, but leave oven on.
While crust is baking, make the filling: stir together flour, baking powder, and sugar.
Beat eggs slightly at medium speed.
Add flour mixture and beat until blended.
Add lemon rind and juice, beat until blended, and taste for sweetness.
Pour filling over hot crust and return to oven.
Continue baking until golden brown and set, approximately 15 more minutes.
Upon removing from oven, sprinkle immediately with powdered sugar and allow to cool, adding more powdered sugar before serving if some has absorbed.
Cut with a sharp knife and serve once completely cooled.

the ingredients:
the crust:

2/3 c butter, room temperature and cut into slices
1/3 c sugar
1 1/3 c flour, stirred with a fork

the filling:

7 ½ tbsp flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
2 ½ c sugar
5 extra-large eggs
1 ½ tbsp grated lemon rind
¾ c lemon juice
powdered sugar (for dusting)