The secret to expert-level pastry is that it's no different from cooking: it's a balancing act between sweet, salty, tart, and savory–or, like the title of one of my favorite cookbooks, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. For this reason, the grocery store pastries that come in a plastic box are great in a pinch but are often overly sweet and gelatinous and leave you thinking, "is this really worth it?"
Chef Jeremy, being the pastry wizard he is, has made lemon squares that check all the boxes in all the best ways: with a buttery shortbread crust (salt/fat), and tart, lemon-zesty curd (acid), all finished with powdered sugar, because it is a sweet indulgence after all, these lemon squares are a delight for the senses. "Worth it" doesn't even begin to cover how good these are. Eat them straight out of the fridge or at room temperature and good luck with moderation–they're dangerously irresistible.
P.S. If you don't have a scale, I recommend making purchasing one step number one! They're an inexpensive kitchen tool that will greatly improve your cooking, particularly when flour is involved.
Click here for a PDF version of this recipe.
Lemon Squares with a Shortbread Cookie Crust
230 grams (~1¾ cups) AP flour
84 grams (~¾ cups) powdered sugar, plus more for dusting
198 grams (14 tablespoons) unsalted butter
170 grams (~10) egg yolks
350 grams (~1¾ cups) sugar
Zest of 5 Lemons
226 grams (~1 cup) lemon juice
2 ounces (~¼ cup) heavy cream
Preheat your oven to 350F.
Remove the butter from your refirgerator to temper.
Line a 9x13 baking dish with parchment paper and spray with nonstick pan spray.
In a medium mixing bowl, mix together the flour, 84 grams (¾ cups) of the powdered sugar and 5 grams (~3/4 teaspoon) kosher salt.
Chop 8 tablespoons of the butter into small cubes.
Using your fingers and thumbs, work the butter into the dough until it is crumbly but holds together when squeezed.
Transfer to the prepared baking dish and press into an even, flat layer.
Bake until the edges are golden brown and the center has set, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, to make the filling, zest 5 of the lemons, then juice until you have 226 grams (1 cup) of juice.
In a medium saucepan, add the sugar and lemon zest. Work it with your fingers to release some of the lemon flavor from the zest.
Add the eggs, yolks, and a pinch of kosher salt and mix to combine.
Add in the lemon juice and stir until combined.
Chop the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter into cubes and add it into the mixture.
Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula. Make sure you scrape down the sides.
Cook until the mixture thickens to a curd consistency. Never allow the mixture to come to a boil or it may ruin the texture and cause scorching.
Whisk in the heavy cream, then strain to remove the lemon zest and any eggy bits.
Transfer the mixture to the warm shortbread crust and bake until the edges have set and there is just the slightest jiggle in the center, about 10 minutes.
Set in your refrigerator to chill overnight.
The next day, chop into bars and top with powdered sugar. Enjoy!