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Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Florida Lemon Squares

These are another offering from the Maida Heatter Book of Great Cookies, so generously sent to me by Cathy, who is cooking her way through the entire book over a good few years! These are coming up for her in a a month or so, so I thought she'd enjoy seeing an advance preview.
I had excess lemons, a big bag of oats and some condensed milk, so had about half the essential ingredients for this; which I've used as another offering for my Baking-For-The-Mystery-Workplace project. These are described as "rich layered bars with a baked-in lemon filling." I'm sold! I guess it's the lemons that suggest the Florida connection, as I don't think it's a state known for its wide, brown oat crops?

This slice is easy to make, and I managed to do it all in our pantry, which has not a lot of workspace - but does house the food processor and stand mixer.
I did have some iss-yoos with the texture of the pastry mixture. Mrs Maida suggests that the mixture will be crumbly, and will not hold together. Hmmm. My mixture was very thick, buttery and pliable with no trouble forming a sticky blob. She then instructs you to sprinkle the mixture. Sprinkle? Ummm. She does mean dollop or splat instead, doesn't she? I ended up having to pull off pieces of the dough, flatten them between my palms and layer them across the top; creating an interesting brown cobblestone effect.
"Rustic daahling!" you must say as you serve these up on a silver platter...
I'd be interested to know if Cathy or anyone else has this problem. Perhaps it was partly due to my oats. There is a difference between oats and oatmeal, isn't there? I used oats, but that should've made the mixture more crumbly, not less!
This is an exceedingly sweet concotion. Very small pieces; the one in the photo above would easily make 2 portions. Best served refrigerated too, when the condensed milk topping is more solid, and the cold would work to reduce some of the intense sweetness.
Read on for the recipe:

Florida Lemon Squares
From Maida Heatter's Book of Great Cookies

1.5 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 can sweetened condensed milk
Finely grated zest 1 large lemon
1/2 cup lemon juice
5 1/3 ounces (10 2/3 tablespoons) butter
1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup old-fashioned or quick cooking (not instant) oatmeal.

1 9X13 inch pan - greased and lined with baking paper.

Preheat oven to 350F (175C), and place a rack one-third up from the bottom of the oven.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside. Pour the condensed mik in to a medium bowl. Add the lemon rind then gradually add the lemon juice, stirring with a small wire whisk to keep the mixture smooth. Set aside.
In a large bowl cream the butter. Add sugar and beat well. On low speed gradually add the dry ingredients, beating only until thorougly combined. Mix in the oatmeal. The mixture will be crumbly (apparently) and will not hold together (apparently!).
Sprinkle (??) slightly more than half of the oatmeal mixture evenly over the bottom of the pan. Pat the crumbs firmly to make a smooth, compact layer.
Pour the lemon mixture evenly over the crumb layer and spread to make a even layer. Sprinkle (dollop) the remaining crumb (dough) mixture over the lemon layer. It's ok if a bit of the lemon layer shows through in spots.
Bake for 30-35 minutes until lightly coloured.
Cool completely in pan, then refrigerate for about 1 hour or more. Lift baking paper gently to remove cake. Cut with a small, sharp knife around cake to release it. Cut into small squares and remove with a spatula.
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  • They do look quite custardy, so I can see the refrigeration would be important. I really like the look of that top crust, as well. How did the guys at the Mystery Workplace like them?

    By Blogger Nic, at 10/28/2005 12:54:00 am  

  • I'm not sure yet. I've got a great score card they made up for me from last week's cookies, though. Written comments and all! Will post that soonish.

    By Blogger Niki, at 10/28/2005 12:58:00 am  

  • Looks a bloody site better than the snot blocks that I remember from school, pal!
    'member them?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10/28/2005 03:44:00 am  

  • Those Lemon squares sound good... And I'm sure you could even "spice up the flavour" with some Watkins Lemon Extract.

    I got hooked on baking when I started selling Watkins products. I love the stuff especially the vanilla. If you want to take a look, check out www.watkinsonline.com/home and use associate id# 364407 if you want to order anything.

    Keep posting receipes! I'm definately gonna try the squares with my little modification! :D

    By Blogger Chris Lautischer, at 10/28/2005 05:57:00 am  

  • condensed milk ... that is all i see!

    i wonder if you could add other flavours to this. i keep this raspberries... hmmm

    as for the lack of crumbly texture; it could be a matter of how it was comnined. did you mix it with the butter and flour with the tips of your fingers (thats how i usually make the topping for a fruit crumble), also the butter needs to be exact and the right temp. too soft and you'd end up with goo - which isn't half bad if its butter!

    By Blogger deborah, at 10/28/2005 06:07:00 am  

  • Sticky - Those vanilla slices from the school tuckshop? With bases made from compressed cardboard and 'custard' like a yellow brick. The only thing I liked was the slab of solid white icing. Revolting things!

    Chris - I agree that a bigger lemon flavour would work really well. In fact, it might cut through some of the sweetness. I love things to taste intensely lemony, and I had thought that if there was a next time that I would add the rind. Extract would be great.
    Thanks for your online tip!I will go an have a look. :-)

    Saffron - A whole tin of condensed milk. SWEEEET! I think raspberry would be good too, esp mixed with the sourness of the lemon.
    I'm trying to remember about the butter, and yes, I think I had softened it, which might have caused the gloopiness.

    By Blogger Niki, at 10/28/2005 02:45:00 pm  

  • Hi, I would just like to say I love your site. I've just created my own & hope to take some inspiration from you (its empty so far as have not got to the posting part yet!!)

    By Blogger Ange, at 10/28/2005 03:34:00 pm  

  • Hi Niki - those look really good - not at all what I imagined when I saw the title. You often see these bright yellow squares of some sort of pudding-like lemon stuff on a shortbread (or was it graham cracker) base around these parts - not especially tempting. The cookies I made last weekend and will be posting this Monday also used sweetened condensed milk and were too sweet for my taste. Maybe the lemon in these cuts the sweetness a little? Anyway, they look great!

    By Blogger Cathy, at 10/29/2005 03:06:00 pm  

  • They look good to me!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10/31/2005 10:09:00 am  

  • I made these with your recipe and they ended up looking completely different! Mine were on the `too crumbly' side and the lemon layer was very thin in comparison to ur pic...but still tasty...I cannot resist anything lemon flavoured :) Love your blog btw...found you from The Age article and I'm hooked. Made the self frosting Donna Hay muffins last night (found the kraft peanut butter choc) and they were great...thanks for all the recipes!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/02/2005 01:18:00 pm  

  • maybe the flour has something to do with it. Im pretty sure the flour in Australia is different than American All purpose flour.

    By Blogger Randi, at 12/05/2005 06:19:00 am  

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