Nothing improves a day like a bag of handpicked lemons from your biggest fan/hot baker brother, Kevin. Your eyes could be swollen and red from allergies and you may have had a rough morning but one deep breath of a San Luis Obispo lemon and you will perk up and start dreaming of lemon pasta, lemon pound cake, lemon vinaigrettes, lemon cookies, lemon doused artichokes…the dreaming doesn’t stop.
You could say that I have a weakness for lemons…I also have a weakness for classic rock. I grew up listening to it and have fond memories of my parents waking up early on the weekends, turning on the local classic rock station and cooking breakfast. I always thought my parents were pretty cool for listening to rock music when most of my friends’ parents listened to easy listening or country. Plus, my mom is a die-hard Pearl Jam fan and is known to crank the music up so loud that the neighbors can hear it. But she doesn’t care – she just dances and sings into the vacuum… I love that about her. On this Friday night after work I decided to turn on the local classic rock station and one of my favorite Scorpions songs was on. The weather was perfect, the windows were down and the lemons and I were singing and air drumming to “No One Like You”. Seems fitting, don’t you think.
My mom always made the most amazing brownies and lemon squares. I always loved baking with her and then proceeding to eat as many as I could before the rest of my family devoured them. We would make them so often that the recipe page in her Betty Crocker was nearly transparent.
My mom’s lemon bars are chewy, crumbly, rich, sweet and lemony. The buttery crust almost melts in your mouth and the lemon filling is just sweet enough to cut through the tart that inevitably finds its way into the back corners of your cheeks.
Start with the crust, a simple mixture of butter, flour, powdered sugar and lemon zest. Never underestimate the power of lemon zest. Finely grated zest can add so much more flavor to any dish and it’s a key ingredient in this recipe. Don’t hold back, it will be worth it. After pressing the crust into a pan and putting into the oven, mix the rest of the ingredients until they are light and fluffy, pour it onto your hot crust and bake.
Be prepared to spill crumbs all over the couch when you think you can sneak a quick snack in…it’s worth it.
This recipe is from my Grandma Halsey’s Betty Crocker Cookbook.
Prep time: 15 minutes Cook time: 45 minutes
1 cup all-purpose flour or half whole wheat flour and half all-purpose
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter softened – make sure the butter is really soft.
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
3 teaspoons grated lemon peel
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Heat oven to 350ºF.
Mix flour, butter, powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon of zest. Press in ungreased square pan, 8x8x2 or 9x9x2 inches, building up 1/2-inch edges. Bake crust 20 minutes.
Beat granulated sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, baking powder, salt and eggs with electric mixer on high speed about 3 minutes or until light and fluffy. Pour over hot crust.
Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until no indentation remains when touched lightly in center.
Cool; dust with powdered sugar. Cut into about 1 1/2-inch squares.