Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas Citrus Squares

Each year, in prepartion for my dessert party I spend a ridiculous amount of time combing through cookbooks, baking blogs and food websites inspecting new dessert recipes. I generally get extremely ambitious and add five or six new recipes to my list in addition to the five to ten "classics" I know I can make well. This year, I found a new recipe I highly recommend on the food network website for Christmas Citrus Squares. {{If you take a look at the original recipe, please don't compare the final product because mine just don't look quite as good. But I will vouch that they tasted delicious!}}

If you would like a fresh citrus twist to add to your holiday spread but want something a bit different from the standard lemon bars, check out this recipe. It is a bit involved but if you are only making one dessert at a time and you learn from my mistakes (I'll give you some warning), yours will likely turn out perfect!

The Crust

Before diving into the crust, line a 9x12.5" baking pan with tin foil. The recipe instructs you to butter the pan before installing the tin foil lining. I believe I just gave the pan a nice coating of Pam and did the same thing to the tin foil once it was in.

In a medium size mixing bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 3 tablespoons cornstarch and 1/4 teaspoon of fine salt

Whisk ingredients together

In a mixer (I use my Cuisinart food processor), combine 1/3 cup sugarwith 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) softened unsalted buttercream together until light and fluffythen slowly add the dry ingredients (on a low speed with a mixer or pulse with a food processor) and mix until just combined. Do not overwork the dough, mix until just combined.Dump the crust into the foil lined pan and spread it out evenly across the pan
Press the dough with your hands or a spatula (hands are easier) to get it to spread evenly across the pan
To achieve an ultra smooth crust, cover with plastic wrap and press and flatten with your hands. Then refrigerate for an hour.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and remove the plastic from the top of the dough and prick the dough with a fork.
I get pretty enthusiastic about this step.
Because I have them, I decided to use my pie weights as well and placed a layer of wax paper over the dough before filling the pan with the pie weights. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden.
A word to the wise though, I recommend spraying the wax paper with pam before pressing it onto the dough with the pie weights, otherwise you will end up with the dough stuck to the paper . . .which results in an oddly textured crust.

Jelly Layer
While the crust is baking, prepare the jelly filling. 
The recipe calls for red currant jelly but all I could find was black currant jam.
I am sure the jam was chunkier than the recipe intended, but I made it work
The recipe calls for 6 tablespoons, but I just guesstimated and ended up using about half the jar - place it in a small bowl
then melt it in the microwave until soft enough to spread - I did it in 30 second increments.
Using a pastry brush (I love the silicone kind as they don't get all funky after washing),
spread the jam over the crust.
Once you have covered your not as oddly textured crust, return the crust to the oven and cook another 10 minutes.

Citrus Filling

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together 2 eggs with 2 egg yolks.

To separate the eggs, I used to use the egg shell method, you know tossing the yolk back and forth between the shells. But now I just drop the egg into my hand and let the egg white dribble through my fingers into a bowl.
Then drop the yolk in with the whole eggs . . . just don't forget to wash your hands!
Add 1/2 cup sugar to the eggs
And 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk

toss in 1/3 cup flour and a pinch of fine salt

Whisk together until thick and slightly pale
mine got a little bubbly

Next up, the recipe calls for "about 6 clementines" to get 1 cup of clementine juice. 
I don't know what kind of uber-juicy clementines these people had but I had to squeeze 12-13 clementines to get a cup of juice!
I'm glad I decided to buy a whole case of clementines.
I read somewhere once that if you roll the lemon/lime/orange first, it is easier to juice. Or something. So I tried it on the first one or two . . . not sure if it made any difference.
Slice each clementine in half
And squeeze!
But I should warn you about the hazards of squeezing clementines. 
 Their skin is so thin that when squeezed, the top will often split open and more often than not juice the squeezer in the eye. 
Or at least that is how it went for me.
Add the juice to the buttery egg mix.
I strained the juice as I poured it into the filling to avoid adding unwanted pith.
The reason I strained the juice . . .
Next up, you need 1 lemon
Zest the lemon directly into the filling.
But try and avoid dropping your make-do cheese grater/zester into the filling.
It makes things a bit messier. . . 
Then squeeze the now zested - err de-zested? - lemon into the filling
the recipe wants about 4-5 tablespoons of lemon juice but after juicing the clementines I didn't have any desire to measure, but I think I got every drop of juice out of that lemon
also, don't forget to juice the lemon using the strainer to prevent all the gunk from dripping in (I remembered this step after I fished out a seed)
last up, zest two clementines, a step that is far easier said than done. 
Again, the thin skin combined with my large cheese grater, made this step far messier than it needed to be.
But look at the beautiful result!
After the crust has cooled - remember it should be fully baked with the jelly topping chilling in the fridge - pour the filling onto the cooled crust and bake at 325 degrees until the filling is firm but still loose and wobbly in the center - about 25-30 minutes.
After removing from the oven, cool to room temperature - about 30 minutes - and then chill in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight before cutting.
While waiting for it to cool, take a closer look at the deliciousness. . .
After chilling, pull the pan out of the fridge and remove the bars from the dish. I simply lifted it up by the tinfoil ~carefully~ then, cut them into squares, put them in cupcake papers and topped them off with a clementine wedge. The recipe calls for a thinly sliced triangular wedge of blood orange but I, unfortunately, couldn't find any. If you can find the blood oranges, I highly recommend them for the beautiful color contrast . . . and the taste.
Christmas Citrus Squares
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 3/4 cup softened unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons red currant jelly - or black currant jam
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • pinch fine salt
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed clementine juice - about 12-13 clementines
  • 1 lemon juiced (4-5 tablespoons)
  • 2 clementines zest finely grated
  • 1 lemon zest finely grated
  • 2 clementines or 2 blood oranges, sliced and cut into small triangular pieces for serving

1 comment:

Tiffany said...

Thank you for posting this! These were my favorite.

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