Saturday, May 18, 2013

book it and cook it; cynthia's lemon squares

On Wednesday evening, [Father Tim] took a shower and dressed, and prepared to visit his new neighbor in her tiny house next door.  Cynthia Coppersmith had done as promised and invited him to dinner.  And the invitation, it seemed to him, was perfectly timed.  

The last of his Rector's Meatloaf was gone, and good riddance.  To his chagrin, he'd used more oatmeal than before, which resulted in the most unsavory concotion he'd tasted in years.  But he had soldiered on and eaten the entire loaf over a period of several days.  He was so ashamed of it, he had hidden it at the back of the refrigerator, where he hoped Puny wouldn't find it.

Every light in the small house glowed warmly through the heavy mist that lay upon the village. "Pleasant!" he said, aloud.  "A small house for a small person."  He lifted the old brass knocker and rapped three times.
(excerpt from At Home in Mitford)

By this point, Father Tim has thoroughly enjoyed the company of his new beast-of-a-dog and scripture-loving Barnabas, but he still longs for companionship of another.  A wife.  One to sit in his study and listen to his readings of Wordsworth and share in the comforts of a good slice of pie.  Hmm... I can't help but wonder if Ms. Coppersmith might be that one.  A petite and creative sort, she just might fit the bill.  

I was an instant fan of her lemon bars, although a bit nervous as they baked the first time I tried them.  The "curd" was so runny for so long - well into the time I set for it to bake - I thought for sure I had messed up the recipe.  But as I frantically searched other recipes to see if something was missing, noting that many other lemon bars call for flour in the curd where as this one doesn't, I took one more hopeful peek in the oven only to find the top layer had suddenly set beautifully.  All that worry for nothing.

To me, lemon bars on a red and white transfer-ware plate are the epitome of Southern and could find their place on a number of table spreads belonging to our well-loved Mitford characters.  With a light dusting of powdered sugar right before serving, you and your guests are sure to love these.  A perfect Spring treat!

Cynthia's Lemon Squares - makes one 9x13 dish
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup plus 2-4 tbsp. confectioners sugar
  • 1 cup plus 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. plus 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tbsp. grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
~ Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
~ Coat a 9x13-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray.
~ Place the flour, 1/2 cup of the confectioners' sugar, 1 cup of the butter, the vanilla and 1/4
    tsp. salt in the bowl of an electric mixer and mix on medium speed until combined.
~ Pat the batter into the pan and bake for 18 minutes, or until a light gold color.
~ Melt the remaining 2 tbsp. butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Set aside to cool
~ Meanwhile, in a bowl of an electric mixer, combine the granulated sugar and cornstarch.  
~ Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
~ Add the lemon zest, juice, 1/8 tsp. salt, and the melted butter and beat well.
~ Pour the lemon mixture over the crust and bake for another 20-25 minutes, or until set.
~ Let cool completely, chill, and cut into squares. 
~ Sift 2-4 tbsp. of confectioners' sugar over the lemon squares.

Recipe from The Mitford Cookbook and Kitchen Reader