For such a seemingly simple dessert, I feel like Lemon Squares (aka Lemon Bars) are one of the most difficult to pull off. Some people like them tart and lemony, others prefer more sweetness, and still others grew up eating them from a mix and will only be satisfied by that exact taste. It was almost enough to discourage me from even trying altogether, but the truth is I can’t resist a challenge, and the prospect of possessing the perfect Lemon Squares recipe is just too good to pass up–it would probably be more impressive to some family members than my doctorate!
So, is it perfect? Let’s just say, if there were a Platonic Ideal of Lemon Squares, I think this might be it. Of course, this recipe comes from none other than the great Martha Stewart. It’s simple and effective, and is more tart than sweet–if you use fresh-squeezed lemon juice, you can’t go wrong. If you do prefer your Lemon Squares on the sweet side, you can change the proportions of juice to sugar in the filling–I actually added another tablespoon of flour and another tablespoon of sugar myself, and the filling set quite nicely and was silky smooth.
Martha has a few other recipes for Lemon Squares out there (including one for Creamy Lemon Squares that I’d like to try one day.), but what I liked about this one is that it sticks pretty much to the essentials, and can be easily customized to taste. For instance, I may add lemon zest and a bit more sugar next time around, and not use every crumb of the pie-crust mixture so I can get them just a little bit thicker. Also, this recipe makes use of some very interesting techniques that I had never heard of , like freezing and then grating the butter for the pie-crust to make it easier to work with, and lining your glass dish with parchment. Once it’s done, you just lift the parchment paper and transfer to your cutting surface, and voilà–you have yourself a giant Lemon Square ready for cutting and sprinkling with confectioners’ sugar. If you’re looking for a dessert to bring to a BBQ or other gathering this summer, this might be just the thing–sometimes the simplest desserts can be the biggest hits.