I was surprised to learn that it was home-baking icon Betty Crocker who printed the first known recipe for lemon bars, the prototype of today’s citrusy sweets, in 1963. Betty Crocker, of course, never existed, except in the imagination of General Mills. Nonetheless, “she” became a culinary icon to many women. This version of lemon squares – developed by my recipe tester, Sandra Osojnik, for today’s home cook – are nothing like Crocker’s. These have a sophisticated twist: They aren’t too sweet and the lemony punch really works after a heavy meal. Adding cornstarch to the pastry makes it slightly softer and freezing the dough for 20 minutes improves its baked texture. Homemade marshmallows are trendy right now and so simple to make. Just remember to watch them carefully while they cook under the broiler so they don’t burn. If you have a kitchen blowtorch, it will be even easier for you to caramelize them. If you don’t have a piping bag, cut the corner of a resealable sandwich bag and use it instead.
Servings: 16 squares
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1/4 cup icing sugar
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- 2 tsp grated lemon zest
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed
- 6 eggs
- 1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup lemon juice
- 2 tbsp grated lemon zest
- 2 egg whites
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 9-inch-square pan with parchment paper, letting sides overhang.
To make the dough, combine flour, sugar, cornstarch, lemon zest and salt in a food processor. Pulse until combined. Add butter and process until dough looks like small peas (about 30 seconds).
Gently combine dough into a ball and pat evenly into base of prepared pan. Freeze for 20 minutes or until firm. Prick chilled dough with fork and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until pale gold.
To make the filling, whisk eggs, sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest in a medium bowl.
Remove crust from oven. Pour lemon filling over baked crust and bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes or until filling has set. Remove from oven and set oven to broil.
To make the marshmallow topping, whip egg whites with an electric mixer until foamy. Gradually add sugar. Beat for 5 minutes or until stiff peaks form. Spoon whites into piping bag fitted with a large star-shaped tip. Pipe 4 rows of 4 marshmallow rosettes about ½-inch apart onto the lemon filling.
Place under broiler, leaving the oven door open. Broil until the top of the marshmallows are golden (about 1 minute). Watch carefully to avoid burning. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until cold.
Run a knife along the inside of the pan. Lift out using parchment handles. Cut into 16 squares using the marshmallows as guidance.