Martha Stewart's Creamy Lemon Squares

Sometimes, particularly with Martha Stewart, the challenge lies more in the recreating of the picture than in the making of the dish. Martha's Lemon Squares are a great example. In fact, I don't know if you could follow this recipe and not come up with something delicious, but I knew this picture would be close to impossible--her bars look oddly perfect, too square-y, too yellow. And I guess it was a self-fulfilling prophecy because, well, see for yourself:

Martha's version:

our version:
Right before we got started on this bon appétempt, a package arrived at our door from my grandma (that's her in my blogger profile pic). Every once in a while, I get a mystery package from her, and it rarely disappoints. This one arrived with, you guessed it, a series of tea towel calendars from the early 90s. The one below seemed particularly special so we put it up on our wall, caddy corner to The Vivianne and stole glances while baking for inspiration.

Now back to the task at hand. For a recipe with a stated active time of 15 minutes, I expected less gadgetry to be involved, but the crust of butter, flour and confectioner's sugar called for an electric mixer.

Gadget number two was self-imposed. After the Figgy Piggy attempt, we started questioning the integrity of our oven's heat settings, so we finally invested in an oven thermometer. Turns out our oven is off by about fifty degrees. Here, the dial is set to 400.

But gadget number three really came in handy--the filling called for the juice of three lemons but since our lemons were teeny tiny, we ended up using about five, and so were thankful for our... mini juicer!
The mini juicer was another one of those purchases I made before we began cooking. You know, something I thought we needed.

The filling was the simplest part: just sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks and lemon juice whisked together.
The end result were super tasty, creamy lemon squares. And I have to say, even though it took me much closer to 45 minutes than 15 (especially considering dish washing), this recipe's work-reward ratio is probably as good as it gets. Now, only a few questions remain:
1. What, dear food stylists, did you do to make your creamy lemon bars so rectangular and sunny?
And 2. What am I going to do with all these freaky tea towels?

RECIPE via Martha Stewart

Makes 16

1/2 cup (1 stick) 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 leveled)
4 large egg yolks
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 3 lemons)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Line bottom with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two sides; butter paper.

Make crust: Using an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar, and salt until light and fluffy. Add flour, and mix on low just until combined. Press dough into the bottom and 1/2 inch up sides of prepared pan; prick all over with a fork. Bake until lightly golden, 15 to 20 minutes.

Make filling: In a large bowl, whisk together yolks, condensed milk, and lemon juice until smooth. Pour over hot crust in pan; return to oven, and bake until filling is set, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely in pan. Refrigerate until filling is firm, about 2 hours or up to 3 days. Using paper overhang, lift cake onto a work surface; cut into 16 squares, and dust with confectioners sugar.

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Matt said...

I wish we had more of these.

Mary Anne said...

Those look so good and easy!

However, I'm sort of principally opposed to Martha Stewart. And a large part of that is because of her DISHONEST FOOD STYLING!!

I'm guessing her photo was achieved with a lot of freezing and photoshopping... what do you think?

Anonymous said...

...And yellow dye -- for sure.

Jodi said...

ooh, neal's cousin's wife was an art director for martha...you can grill her at our shower!!

Claire said...

Oh, those lemon squares are over styled :(

Anonymous said...

It looks like you used a 9x13 rectangular dish when the recipe calls for an 8-inch square ...