Lemon Squares


Photo by Danielle Tsi.

While I’m someone who could enjoy a chocolate based dessert every day of the week most chocolate baked goods are as colorful as mud. Luckily there are alternatives to chocolate (shocking, I know). Spring has been slow in coming and I needed some bright color in my life, stat. Enter the lemon square.

A lemon square is basically a shortbread cookie with lemon curd on top. Both are pretty easy to make and the result is a delicious sweet-sour combination.

Lemon Bars
Servings: 16 squares
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 2 hours


  • 1 3/4 cups plus 3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour, divided
  • 2/3 cup powered sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 3/4 tsp.plus 1/8 tsp. fine salt, divided
  • 12 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. grated Meyer lemon zest
  • 2/3 cup Meyer lemon juice (from 5 lemons)
  • 1/3 cup half and half


  1. First,make the crust. Line a 9″ square cake pan with a crisscrossed sling of parchment. Spray the parchment with baking spray. Set aside.
  2. Combine 1 3/4 cups flour, powdered sugar, cornstarch and 3/4 teaspoon salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 2 or 3 times to combine. Add butter and process for 8-10 seconds to blend. The result will have a sand-like texture. Press the mixture into the bottom of the lined cake pan, using the bottom of a cup or another cake pan, to create a well compacted even layer.
  3. Chill crust for 30 minutes. While crust chills preheat the oven to 350°F.
  4. Bake the crust for 20 minutes. It may not brown much.
  5. While crust bakes prepare the filling. It should be ready to pour onto the crust as soon as it comes out of the oven. In a metal bowl (or the top of a double boiler) lightly beat the 4 eggs. Combine the remaining 3 tablespoons of flour, granulated sugar, salt and lemon zest in a separate bowl; stir until well combined. Add the flour mixture and lemon juice to the eggs, mix well.
  6. Place the bowl containing the filling over a water bath. Stirring constantly, heat until the mixture reaches 170°F. Cook for about 1 minute longer; it will remain very loose until it reaches 170 and it will begin to magically thicken.
  7. Remove from the heat and stir in the half and half. Pour the filling through a fine-mesh strainer onto the baked crust. Spread the filling over the crust int a even layer.
  8. Reduce the oven temp. by 25°. Bake the lemon squares for approx. 20 minutes, rotating the pan once during baking. The bars are done when the filling at the edges is set while the middle remains slightly wiggly when the pan is shaken.
  9. Transfer the pan to a wire rack. Cool for at least 30 minutes; longer is fine.
  10. Use the parchment sling to remove the squares the pan. Fold down the paper and cut the squares with a chef’s knife; wiping the knife clean between cuts.
  11. You can gild the lily by dusting the cut squares with additional powdered sugar if you like.

The filling recipe could also be used for a lemon meringue pie.

I don’t know anyone who actually owns a double boiler. I use a stainless steel metal bowl that is wide enough not to fall into one of my saucepans.

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