Lemon Squares - Take One

by Stacey Jaros


As you may know one of my favorite things is going on JoCo Cruise Crazy. I've been very fortunate to enjoy all four so far. While the cruises and entertainment are beyond fun, most of my joy comes from interacting with my co-attendees. We call ourselves Sea Monkeys and some of the best times of my life have been spent among these amazing people.

Some local Sea Monkeys hosted a gathering for Bay Area JoCo cruisers Saturday. It wasn't exactly a pot luck situation but bringing a sweet snack to share seemed like a good idea. There are quite a few dessert options I still haven't tackled in The Red Box but since it's just the beginning of Spring I decided on Lemon Squares.

I prepped all my ingredients and tools on Saturday morning in plenty of time for the squares to cool for transport.

My first step was to prepare my cookie sheet. My cookie sheets are hand-me-downs that I never use bare. I always use my cookie sheets with parchment paper so I'm really not concerned with the condition of the pans. For this dish I covered the sheet with foil and then parchment. I didn't want to have any trouble getting the squares out of the pan so this seemed like my best bet.

 My prepped pan is visible in the back of this photo of the ingredients.

My prepped pan is visible in the back of this photo of the ingredients.

I confess I was confused about using a cookie sheet. I thought an 11x13 pan would be a typical pan used for "squares." But since the recipe specifically says "cookie sheet" that's what I did.

The first thing I did was juice the lemons. I did this first for two reasons: (1) I wanted to be sure I had enough lemon juice, and (2) since the recipe says to add the batter to the crust while the crust is warm so I wanted to have the juice ready when the crust came out of oven.

 The lemons were small but I thought three might be enough for six tablespoons.

The lemons were small but I thought three might be enough for six tablespoons.

 Yup. That'll do.

Yup. That'll do.

I set the oven to preheat then began assemble the crust. The butter had been sitting out for a bit since I began gathering my ingredients. The recipe didn't specify softened butter but I thought it would work out better that way. The recipe didn't specifically suggest to use a pastry cutter but it seemed appropriate. I think it worked well.

 Aw, look. I already made a bit of a mess. Typical.

Aw, look. I already made a bit of a mess. Typical.

 I can't tell if the crust or the parchment is thinner. That should've been a clue I was in trouble. When I think of lemon squares, or remember Noni's, the crust is thicker than what I have here.

I can't tell if the crust or the parchment is thinner. That should've been a clue I was in trouble. When I think of lemon squares, or remember Noni's, the crust is thicker than what I have here.

It was really easy to press the crust into the cookie sheet but it was pretty thin.

While the crust was in the oven I mixed the filing.

 Eggs.

Eggs.

 Beaten.

Beaten.

AAAaaaaannnnd then I had to start over because I added two cups of FLOUR instead of sugar. Thankfully I had plenty of eggs for that mistake.

 I didn't even want to take the time to wash the bowl to start over. So I pulled out another bowl.

I didn't even want to take the time to wash the bowl to start over. So I pulled out another bowl.

 Eggs, beaten until frothy, are beautiful.

Eggs, beaten until frothy, are beautiful.

 This time I added sugar. Like I was supposed to.

This time I added sugar. Like I was supposed to.

It was time to pull the crust out of the oven.

 Hmm. That crust is pretty thin. Also, look at all those cracks. There's not a lot of integrity to that crust.

Hmm. That crust is pretty thin. Also, look at all those cracks. There's not a lot of integrity to that crust.

The filing seemed pretty boring until I added the lemon juice.

 As soon as I added the lemon juice the batter smelled so good.

As soon as I added the lemon juice the batter smelled so good.

 The batter poured over the crust. Should I have been concerned how shallow the filling was?

The batter poured over the crust. Should I have been concerned how shallow the filling was?

The batter may have smelled good once I added the lemon juice but when I started to smell the cooking pan it didn't smell so good. There was a weird raw flour smell.

 Here's the completely baked product.

Here's the completely baked product.

 There is nothing about this pan that looked like "lemon bars."

There is nothing about this pan that looked like "lemon bars."

 I went ahead and covered it in powdered sugar as instructed.

I went ahead and covered it in powdered sugar as instructed.

When I peeled the paper away from the lemon it didn't look very bar-like. I initially thought that even though it didn't look very good I could spoon the non-squares into a bowl and add whipped cream. Worse, it didn't smell very good.

 I cut off a few squares to try. Uh oh. I could see, as I feared, the lemon filling seeped through the crust.

I cut off a few squares to try. Uh oh. I could see, as I feared, the lemon filling seeped through the crust.

Bless Jeff. He and I both tasted it. It was very unpleasant.

 That's no bar. Unfortunately it tasted far worse than it looked.

That's no bar. Unfortunately it tasted far worse than it looked.

My first thought was to brush my teeth to get the taste out of my mouth. It was that bad.

On the one hand I think if I make it in an 11x13 dish the crust will have a little more integrity. On the other hand, I can't understand how 4 Tablespoons of flour would result in an un-cooked flavor and aroma.

I briefly looked at other lemon squares recipes online and The Red Box version is very similar to those. I don't know how different I can expect the filling to behave in a different pan.

 Since this experiment was so unsuccessful I'm going to leave off the recipe. I'll include it when I figure out what I did wrong. For now I'll simply share my replica of Noni's card. I love her writing and notes (1 cube of butter, or margarine, is 1/2 cup) and the stains from use. I wonder if she just knew not to use a cookie sheet.

Since this experiment was so unsuccessful I'm going to leave off the recipe. I'll include it when I figure out what I did wrong. For now I'll simply share my replica of Noni's card. I love her writing and notes (1 cube of butter, or margarine, is 1/2 cup) and the stains from use. I wonder if she just knew not to use a cookie sheet.

This Red Box experiment was a fail. Since I didn't have anything homemade I swung by a local wine store for some interesting beverages. It turned out there were plenty of sweets at the party. I was kind of bummed I didn't have lemon squares but I'll try it again another time.