In this post, I’m gonna pretend that there’s no pandemic. This isn’t a pantry hack or a “what can you bake with 3 ingredients” quarantine edition. This is simply a fun, easy, summery dessert recipe. The long weekend being the official kick-off of summer inspired me to bake something bright, fresh and light.
To me, when I think of sweet summer flavours, I often think of berries, pineapple, watermelon and lemons (soft serve ice cream and funnel cake are also other triggers of summer food delights).
Growing up in a Lebanese household, we always had fresh lemons in our kitchen. We use it for so many of our dishes like tabbouleh, fatoush, hummus, baba ghanouj, warak enab, or even to just to whip up a quick salad dressing mixed with olive oil, dried herbs and fresh mint. Another bonus usage of lemons: we use the discarded lemon skins to wash pots & pans and the kitchen sink to give them this incredible shine and real lemon freshness. Try out it next time!
So when I came across this recipe for these Creamy Lemon Squares, I was excited to try it since I had the majority of the ingredients. And, well, when life gives you lemons…why not make lemon squares.
Sweetened condensed milk was the only ingredient I needed to pick up for this recipe. It’s worth getting otherwise the substitution for that would be to make your own creamy, custardy mixture which, although delicious, requires more elbow grease (and different recipe steps altogether).
Oh, and don’t you dare use bottled lemon juice. You best be using fresh lemons.
This recipe is a simple three-step process: first you bake the crust which will turn out to be a delicious butter cookie texture. Then you whip up the custardy lemon filling and bake it all together. The final step is to refrigerate overnight (preferably).
The only modification I made (and forgot to photograph) was to add lemon zest to the filling. It was not in the original recipe, but at the last minute I decided to add lemon zest to really bring out the citrus aroma in this creamy, custardy goodness.
My biggest tip: although you can have this on the same day you bake it, I would highly recommend refrigerating this overnight and having it the next day. Trust me on this. Allow the citrus flavours to really set and sink in, and you will be rewarded with a bright, tangy, lemony freshness the next day.
Another helpful tip: be sure to leave parchment paper on all four sides of your square pan. I only did it for two sides which was a silly move; it made the uncovered sides a little rougher to loosen from the pan the next day. But it’s all good, friends! I am meant to make mistakes to share the wisdom I learned on here with you!
The thing I love the most about these lemon squares is that it’s not too sweet. It has that tangy, citrusy tartness but it’s not sugary. So for those who don’t like overly sweet desserts, you will appreciate this one.
The secret to the success to these little yellow squares is that they are not made of lemon extract or that blasphemous bottled lemon juice; they are made with the juice and zest of real, fresh lemons. And personally, we shouldn’t have it any other way when it comes to refreshing summery treats.
Enjoy! 🍋 ☀️
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour, (spooned and levelled)
4 large egg yolks
1 can (300 ml) sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 3-6 lemons, depending on how big they are)
Zest of 1 lemon
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Line bottom with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on all four sides. Butter paper.
2. Make crust: in a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat butter, confectioners’ sugar and salt until light and fluffy. Add flour, and mix on low just until combined. Press dough into the bottom of your prepared pan, pressing 1/2 inch up sides of the pan. Prick all over with a fork. Bake until lightly golden, 15 to 20 minutes.
3. Make filling: in a large bowl (I used the same bowl I used for the crust – less cleanup!), whisk together yolks, condensed milk, lemon juice and lemon zest until smooth. Pour over baked hot crust in the pan and return to oven. Bake until for 25-30 minutes, or until filling is set (the filing should have a slight jiggle and small bubbles will appear). Cool completely in pan.
4. Refrigerate until filling is firm, preferably overnight (or 2 hours if you need to serve the same day). Using paper overhang, lift cake onto a work surface, cut into 16 or 24 squares (depending on how big or small you want them). Dust with confectioners sugar. Keep refrigerated for up to 3 days.