Lemon Squares…

From the cradle to the grave, in the South- at every occasion of any importance – you can mark this down, a dessert, or two or more will feature lemon. Lemon desserts are legendary and iconic… Lemon Meringue Pue, Lemon glazed Pound Cake, Lemon Ice Box Pie, wedding cakes filled with lemon curd…even our sweet tea is laced with lemon juice! However, these Lemon Squares make a regular appearance on tea tables, at baby showers, holiday dessert tables, bridal teas, anniversary and retirement parties and yes, grieved though we may be for the dearly departed- we tend to consume Lemon Squares in quantities to comfort ourselves. How do I know this? Almost every dark suit and black dress that’s been anywhere near the bereavement buffet bears a sprinkle of a telltale streak of powdered sugar! On one occasion I helped with –  Lemon Squares were assigned to more than one trusted baker- but all agreed that Bennie Sue’s recipe should be used for uniform quality. Okay, I made up Bennie Sue’s name to protect the innocent. You know, there’s always at least one Bennie Sue in any southern community whose recipe is considered the gold standard. Rustic and humble in looks- not Bennie Sue, for heavens sake! No, the rustic and humble Lemon Squares- tend to take on a heavenly appearance with their light cloud-like dusting of powdered  sugar. I think even the formidable  Bennie Sue would approve of this recipe for Camellia’s Lemon Squares! 

Lemon Squares...

Cut in bar cookies or tiny squares, Lemon Bars are welcome any time. A shortbread type crust topped with baked lemon  curd and dustEd with a snowy powdered sugar topping - it’s a near perfect addition on dessert tables or as a stand alone confection. 

Ingredients

  • 1/2 Cup Butter Softened
  • 1 Cup Flour Sifted
  • 1/4 Cup Sugar
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • Zest Lemon from 1 large or 2 small lemons
  • 3/4 Cup Sugar
  • 2 Tbs Flour
  • 1/4 teas Baking Powder
  • 3-4 Tbs Lemon Juice * Freshly Squeezed - use zested lemons
  • Powdered Sugar for Dusting

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine softened butter, 1 cup of flour and 1/4 cup of sugar for crust. Do not overmix. Press into an 8x8 glass baking dish for crust. Bake 12 minutes or until pale but dry. Do not overtake, crust will complete baking later. While crust is baking, make lemon filling with remainder of ingredients, except powdered sugar. Mix well. Pour mixture over partially baked crust. Complete baking at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes or until Lemon Mixture is done. ( press lightly with your finger, if no fingerprint remains, the Lemon Squares are done. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and continue to cool. Dust again with powdered sugar.
    When ready to serve, for parties, cut into small squares. As a dessert, larger squares may be preferred. * Serving suggestion: When ready to serve, top with additional lemon zest for a pretty presentation and a tart fresh taste. 

While they can be made year round, winter is a perfect time for Lemon Squares. Citrus fruit is fresh and abundant. And while we do make these lemon squares for special occasions, they’re the perfect ending for a Sunday Dinner, when they can be cut generously with no complaints!

I do recommend using three small kitchen hand tools when making lemon squares- a wooden lemon reamer – less cleanup for just one or two lemons, a small hand held specialty lemon zester for those pretty little strands and curls that add a zip of flavor, done as a flourish right before serving and- a small fine mesh strainer in stainless steel to seed and pulp the lemon juice for the filling and again for the pretty finale- the sifting flourish of powdered sugar! And we do love to add a flourish, accessorize if you will. And if there’s one thing Southern women know how to do- it’s to accessorize! Oh me, hope you’ll try them some dreary winter day soon!

Love y’all, Camellia

Health and Beauty Tips: Citrus fruits including – maybe especially lemons,  are full of antioxidants, Vitamin C and those all important B for Beauty Vitamins. Some think that lemon juice even in a spa juice does help ease symptoms of the common cold. Here’s a Spa Water I made this week, with sliced ruby red grapefruit, oranges and lemon slices. if nothing else it sure was pretty- so pretty, I was enticed to drink more water! And that has to be good for your skin and keep you healthy and hydrated!

  • * You can find the small kitchen tools, such as the citrus reamer, the specialty lemon zester and the small stainless steel/fine mesh sieves-  at fine kitchen shops, including Williams Sonoma. (This is not a sponsored post) And! that pretty green plate? It’s made by Earthborn Pottery right here in Alabama!
  • We do have some ads now, to keep the lights on… Camellia’s Cottage does not guarantee the quality of any products or services in these ads!
  • *And… I just made up Bennie Sue’s name- to protect the innocent you know…
  • *All photographs are obviously mine!

Homewreckers…

BDB6AC65-F5E4-437E-BA57-084BCB00E203An amusing dessert for Fall and even Halloween sounded fun, maybe something chocolate would be a good idea- I had seen a lot of wonderful and photogenic desserts, so mine had to be different. I thought of a confection I had made for a Holiday Bake Sale I hosted several years ago. Okay. Here’s the problem- I couldn’t find the recipe! I turned this house upside down looking for it! Homewrecking, if you will. When I made the first version of my confection, I’d decided to make an extreme version of Blondies. I planned to called them Blonde Bombshells- reminiscent of the beautiful blondes of the silver screen.

  • Jane Mansfield, Marilyn Monroe, Ingrid Bergman,
  • the Gabor Sisters, Jean Harlowe, Grace Kelly even Brigette Bardot-

Rich, talented, beautiful – a feast for the eyes… but wait a minute! Why not celebrate Brunettes! There was-

  • Ava Gardner, Natalie Wood,
  • Vivien Leigh, Elizabeth Taylor and more…

Why, they too were rich, beautiful, talented even warm and spicy. So, I made something like a Brownie but added warm spices like black pepper, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon. Let me tell you- they were so decadent- a one inch square was… well, all anyone needed!  Still. I couldn’t find the recipe. All I knew, from the scribbled notes- there was a notation- ‘Base is like Katherine Hepburn’s Brownies’… the lost recipe for the brownie had a notation in one of my grandmother’s cookbooks or scraps of newspaper clipped recipes- I believed it was in a cookbook compiled by her double first cousins. No luck- but I did find a recipe purported to be similar to Katherine Hepburn’s Brownies in one of my community cookbooks by a lady named Maybelle, whom shall remain anonymous. 8E79A7D4-52D3-4930-B50F-1C12803E5F31

Could I just take a minute and say- There were certain things we were taught not to talk about di-rectly. Or in mixed company- even in polite society. Things like mental lapses were spoken of as being eccentric or colorful – Money- the haves and the have nots- whether you had money or you didn’t – had absolutely nothing to do with whether you acted right, had social graces and good manners – You could be poor as Job’s turkey and still be genteel. Marital problems? Ladies might read about it in True Confessions or a tabloid at the Beauty Parlor whispering among themselves in hushed tones then nervous giggling ensued. A ‘Homewrecker’ was rarely spoken of – those with refined sensibilities just didn’t talk about these unpleasant things.

The first time I ever actually recall hearing the word ‘Homewrecker‘ – my grandmother practically hissed the word- in her own home, mind you! To be honest, until I was out on my own I had the feeling that a homewrecker was someone who owned a small time wrecking company and ran one of those wrecking ball machines in dubious neighborhoods- someone who tore down houses…perhaps under the cover of darkness. Though, I vaguely recall believing homewreckers mostly lived out in Hollywood- since my dreamy eyed mother mentioned admiring Katherine Hepburn… my grandmother quickly followed that by hissing…‘Homewrecker’. It sounded unusual and perfectly scandalous.

I know now that Miss Hepburn apparently had a long running love affair with a married man named Spencer Tracy. Neither movie star looked like the type to run heavy equipment on a regular basis. Though Mr. Tracy was described as ‘powerful’ and ‘dynamite’– he was never…nevah! described as a homewrecker– and apparently he never … shh- D-I-V-O-R-C-E-D .  Thank you very much, Tammy Wynette.  Still. Miss Hepburn must have made some wonderful brownies; maybe Spencer Tracy was partial to chocolate. And y’all, for the record?

I long for that vintage civilized conversation– in polite company. Too much information and vulgar language in society has become one of my pet peeves; genteel, polite, kind and respectful conversation would be like a breath of fresh clean air. Don’t you think?   At any rate- down through time the recipe for Katherine Hepburn’s Brownies was touted as a dense rich chocolate confection filled with walnuts or pecans and for sure those brownies were socially acceptable. Just for fun- I adapted Maybelle’s recipe a bit, I added strong coffee, doubled the recipe and used Baking Chocolate instead of Cocoa, Butter instead of Oleo and of course no walnuts- I used Southern Pecans. So, stay tuned- you’ll see why I dubbed my new brownies- Homewreckers, just for fun and pure devilment!

4488E530-663B-4FAD-961F-81D1B72F97D5Camellia’s Homewreckers

  • You will need 4 oz. of Baking Chocolate – broken into squares
  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter (plus enough to butter the baking sheet)
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  •  1/2 cup of sifted all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon of strong brewed coffee or 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 2 cups of pecans toasted with a pinch of salt and then rough chopped.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. On another baking pan- spread 2 cups of pecans and a pinch of salt. Toast pecans in the oven while it is preheating, they will be perfectly roasted, remove and chop coarsely. Set aside. Prepare a 10×15 baking sheet linws with parchment paper which has been buttered well. Set aside.

EB4EAB18-B784-4924-B892-D416393096A3*This is a one pot recipe! In a large saucepan, melt 4 oz. of Baking Chocolate (use the best you can find) with the 2 sticks of butter on medium low heat until just melted (be careful and do not scorch or you’ll have to throw the whole thing out and start over!). Remove from heat, then add 2 cups of sugar- stir until sugar is completely absorbed. Add 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract  and 1 Tbs. of cool and strong coffee.

Break eggs into a measuring cup and stir until combined. Combine well with chocolate mixture. Then quickly stir in 1/2 cup of sifted all purpose flour until just combined. (Can you believe it? just one half cup flour in the whole thing!) Add in coarsely chopped pecans. Pour mixture evenly onto baking sheet.

8d48cfa5-4857-469d-96cb-1bdde2870e1e.jpegBake for 25 minutes or maybe less at 350 degrees. Test with a toothpick, if it comes out clean- they are done and no one will be mad if they are slightly underdone! These Homewreckers are soft fudgy Brownie Bars, if they are hard and dry? Again I say, throw them out and start all over! *note: These brownie bars will cut best if they are chilled in the pan- uncut. To be honest, I love to cut brownies in small pieces, dip the fudgy bottom in granulated sugar for an effect similar to the Electric Maid Bakery or several other fine baking establishments in the Birmingham area which have long shuttered their doors- they made a habit of offering their brownies dipped in white sugar and… I suspect to keep them from sticking together and making a mess.

Here’s the two secrets for very good brownies which are rarely shared- the perfect brownies or brownie bars have very little flour and are best undercooked! Please note again: Camellia’s  Homewreckers have just one half cup of flour in this whole pan! (you can make thicker brownies by baking in a 9×13 pan and increase the baking time just slightly)

Now, in an effort to make an amusing Halloween treat- I cut the chilled Homewreckers into 3×3 inch squares, using two of them, I filled the center with vanilla ice cream and topped it with hot fudge sauce- and a spritz of whipped cream on top- the ‘eyes’ aren’t the confectioner’s type but could be! *I double checked Katherine Hepburn’s Brownies – they don’t contain the strong coffee or espresso powder- her recipe calls for an 8×8 inch pan- mine for an 10×15 inch baking pan, they are surely thinner but do make sure not to overcook.  Imagine my surprise when I found an NPR segment citing a New York Times article with the recipe for Miss Hepburn’s Brownies- and the subtitle of the NPR segment was ‘A Recipe for Homewrecking?’(link to NYT article, posted on NPR is a segment called the Salt- an article written by Maquita Peters at www.npr.org)

Cooking and baking should be fun- and when you make your own rendition of any recipe- half the fun is naming the recipe! Be sure to share your rendition! By the way, if I ever do round up that recipe for Brunettes? You’ll be the first to know! As for this recipe? The only homewrecking these confections will create is maybe some scuffling over the last bite! Have fun making a batch of Homewreckers of your own- or Ghostbusters, whatever you call them- they’re good!  if you want to try your hand at coming up with a recipe for some Platinum Blondies or even some Fiery Redheads – I don’t know, maybe rich red velvet cookie bars vamped up with nuts and warm spices, just be sure to share the recipes!

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine. I must say- Katherine Hepburn was one of my all time favorite actresses! And she was neither a blonde or a brunette but a beautiful redhead!

*I believe True Confessions was a magazine but maybe it was a tabloid- please forgive my lapse. I haven’t seen a copy in years