Lemon takes centre stage in these delicious cakes

Mixture of zest and juice showcases real depth of flavour possible with versatile fruit

These lemon squares will disappear the moment you turn your back

These lemon squares will disappear the moment you turn your back

 

Lemons must be one of the most versatile fruits in the world. They sit happily alongside sweet or savoury dishes, their zesty punch enhancing everything from roasted vegetables to creamy desserts.

Often, lemon is a background flavour, a dash of acidity to cut through a rich or salty dish. There are few better ways of balancing the sweetness of a cake or biscuit than with citrus fruits. Think of a lemon icing lightening a sticky ginger cake or the sharpness of lemon juice balancing the sweetness of a lemon drizzle cake.

Sometimes, though, citrus wants to be the star of the show. In these lemon squares, the fruit definitely takes centre stage.They have a rich, crumbly shortbread base, adding crunch to a wonderfully zingy lemon topping. The base couldn’t be simpler, especially if you whizz everything together in a food processor. Even rubbing the ingredients in by hand only takes minutes, and the base can be baking while you get on with making the delicious topping.

The top layer uses both lemon juice and lemon zest for a wonderful burst of flavour. The acidity of the lemon juice cuts through the sweetness like a knife, while the fragrant oils in the zest add a real depth of flavour.

There is something homely and unassuming about a traybake. Don’t be fooled though, these luscious lemon treats are definitely not dowdy. They will disappear the moment you turn your back, and you’ll have your friends and family begging for more.

LUSCIOUS LEMON SQUARES

Ingredients

Makes nine

Shortbread base:
225g plain flour
175g butter, chilled, cubed
50g icing sugar (or caster sugar)

Lemon filling:
4 medium eggs, room temperature
225g caster sugar
100ml lemon juice (approx 2½ lemons)
lemon zest from 2-3 lemons
40g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder

Method

1. Preheat a fan-assisted oven to 180 degrees Celsius, or equivalent. Lightly grease a 20cm x 20cm deep-sided square (or rectangular) baking tin and line with parchment paper ensuring the paper comes up slightly higher than the rim of the tin (to avoid leakage as the filling is added).

2. For the shortbread base: In a large wide mixing bowl rub the shortbread ingredients (plain flour, butter and icing sugar) together using your fingertips until they resemble breadcrumbs , alternatively, blitz the ingredients in a food processor.

3. Press the shortbread mixture into the lined tin using your fingertips, then smooth and level the surface using the back of a spoon. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes or until the shortbread is pale golden in colour. Remove from the oven and set aside in the tin.

4. For the lemon filling: Using an electric whisk, beat together the eggs and caster sugar until the mixture is light and airy.

5. Stir in the lemon juice and lemon zest.

6. In a separate bowl, sieve together the flour and baking powder, then whisk or fold them into the egg mixture.

7. Pour the lemon filling over the baked shortbread.

8. Bake in the preheated oven for 17-20 minutes. Remove from the oven once the top has turned golden and the filling still has a slight wobble in the very centre (it will continue to set as it cools). Leave to cool fully in the tin. Store it, wrapped air tight, in the refrigerator.

9. When ready to serve cut into squares and serve dusted with a little extra icing sugar.

Variation: For a hint of orange flavour, substitute half orange juice for lemon juice. Alternatively add some orange zest to the shortbread.

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