Verdict: These lemon squares have a simple buttery crust with a lemon topping that is tart yet perfectly sweet. A secret family recipe that is a potluck favourite.
This recipe comes from a good friend and former roommate. Not being an avid cook, she would rarely measure out ingredients, she would simply use the same spoons and eye-ball amounts as she went. This serves as the only print recipe she kept on hand when we first met (a year later, she would move away from Canada to the U.K. with a large binder full of recipes from her mom and I).
In our household of misfit professionals from B.C., Ontario, and Quebec, a shared love for cooking gradually flourished. After many hours together in the kitchen making Sunday family dinners and imparting lessons (ie. Thai curry and chocolate Skor cookies), my friend finally shared her family’s recipe for making lemon squares. This was a photocopy of a photocopy passed along to the family, a page torn out of a magazine, its origins unknown.
With our sleeves rolled up, she taught me how her grandfather taught her to make the crust of these lemon squares: the trick is to use your fingers, not a fork or pastry cutter.
With the two of us working together, the recipe came together in no time. We exchanged stories about our grandparents as my friend prepared the crust and I prepared the lemon topping.
The original recipe directions were very simple. The recipe presented here adds details on how to make the best crust (use your fingers) and how to make a light weight topping (combine the topping ingredients together immediately before pouring onto the baked crust).
Note 1: Recipe can be halved and put into 8X8 square pan (pictures above), cooking times remain the same though.
Note 2: The amount of lemon juice and zest in this recipe is very flexible. We love very tart lemon squares (it balances the sweetness of the dessert perfectly) so we prefer to use 4 lemons. If it’s your first time making this recipe, try using the juice of 3 lemons and the zest of 2 lemons.
Serves: about 6 | Prep: 20 minutes | Cook: 40 – 45 minutes
- 1 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 cup icing (powder) sugar
- 3/4 cup cold butter
Preheat oven to 350F. Combine ingredients, mix and crumble between fingers and palms until mixture is crumbly. Press into 13 x 9 inch pan (size of the typical lasagna pan). Bake 15 min at 350 F.
- 3 tablespoon flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 1/2 cups white sugar
- 1/2 to 1 cup of lemon juice (we go for the juice of 4 lemons)
- Zest of 2 – 3 lemons (we go for 3)
- 4 eggs
- Icing (powder) sugar for garnish
- Variation: 2 – 3 tablespoon of shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
1. Mix flour and baking soda together in a small bowl. Add sugar to a large bowl then juice and zest the lemons in into this bowl. Wait for the crust to finish baking.
2. When the crust is finished baking, take it out of oven and set aside. Now add the flour and baking soda to the sugar-lemon juice mixture. Bubbles will appear due to lemon juice and baking soda – this will make the custard light. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until fully incorporated before adding the next egg.
3. Pour this mixture onto the baked crust base. Bake 20 – 25 min at 350 F until lightly browned and set to your liking. If like the lemon filling more soft, bake only for 20 minutes. If you like your filling dense (and crispy edges), bake for 25 minutes.
Variation: for a crunchy coconut topping, add a few tablespoons of shredded coconut 5 minutes before the end of cooking. This is just enough time for the coconut to be toasted.
4. Cool in pan. Sprinkle with icing sugar and cut into squares. Store in an airtight container, separating layers with parchment paper, and keep refrigerated.