One of my favorite items at the bakery are lemon squares. These little guys are quite deceiving because when people taste lemon, they think it's something light and not overly sweet. But we do use a fair amount of sugar to balance out that lemon-y goodness. And of course, there's the butter for that amazing shortbread crust. I usually find that some places make their lemon squares far too egg-y, not to say some people don't enjoy that, but the recipe I have here is just right. And the twist I put on it changes up the flavor just a bit, turning an old classic into something fresh again.
Kumquats. They are those small, cherry tomato-sized, baby oranges you see at the store. I venture that most people haven't tried them before, but they are a Chinese favorite (mainly because it's name is a homophone for luck...though it also has amazing flavor). It grows on small trees, which can be really great indoor plants that bear fruit throughout the year. Anyways, I added them in both fresh and candied form. I find the tang in them a lot more orange and clementine-like, and it really adds that extra dimension to the otherwise plain lemon flavor. The chunks from the candied kumquat add texture to the smooth custardy filling.
Just some tips for this recipe - make sure you don't incorporate too much air into the kumquat filling because this makes the filling bubble up when it bakes. When checking for doneness, it's the same as with cheesecake - a slight wobble in the middle is good because the squares should set in the refrigerator before serving.
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Then sift together the flour and powdered sugar for the crust. Add in cold pieces of butter.
3. Sprinkle mixture onto pan evenly. Using your hands or a rolling pin and parchment, press the mixture tightly into pan.
6. While crust is baking, zest the lemons and chop up the dried kumquats. Then juice the kumquats and lemons.
8. Bake squares for about 20 minutes. The center should still be slightly jiggly. Refrigerate for at least four hours. Cut squares into desired size and dust with powdered sugar before serving.
(Makes 14 pieces)
For shortbread crust:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 cup butter, cut into cold cubes
For kumquat filling:
- 2 lemons, zested and juiced
- 6-10 fresh kumquats, juiced (optional)
- 5-6 kumquats, candied
- 4 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups white sugar
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour