Cherry Lemon Squares




Pit the cherries. Put them in a saucepan with a couple spoons of sugar and cook over low heat until they've hemorrhaged a lot of their water. Drain. The liquid is not used here, but it's a tasty syrup. You could add it to sparkling water so you have something to drink while you do the rest of the work.

Grease a 13x9" pan and line it with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Whisk together the dry crust ingredients, then add the butter and vanilla. Stir until you have a bowl of beige crumbs. Scatter the crumbs evenly in your prepared pan, then press firmly. Parbake the crust until it begins to turn golden around the edges, about 20 minutes.

While the crust parbakes, prepare the curd. Whisk the sugar, flour, and zest together in a large bowl. In another bowl, beat the eggs until even, then beat in the lemon juice. Pour the wet mix into the dry and combine thoroughly.

When the parbake is done, remove the crust from the oven. Don't let it cool, scatter the cherries on top immediately. Pour in the curd. Put the dish back in the oven and bake until the curd has set, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar if desired and slice into bars with a wet knife.


Do you like strawberries more than cherries? Blueberries? Make the substitution, it works the same. Are you a purist who demands nothing stand in the way of pristine lemon flavor? Ignore the cherry/berry/whatever step. The base recipe is a standard lemon square. The lemon square was developed in the 1950s, and a fragment of midcentury idealism about what America can be is baked into every single one. Their jewel tones look appetizing even in the era's poorly-printed brand name cookbooks. Uniform pieces can be cut to whatever size you need according to the situation. Will the squares be sharing space with other desserts? Cut them single-bite. Are they the star of the show? Cut great big honkin' slabs. They transport extremely well, which is how they became a bake sale classic. And they are surpassed only by ice cream in freezability. You can cover an entire pan (disposable, unless you're rolling in borosilicate) with foil to bring to a function or wrap individual squares in foil to grab from the freezer whenever you want. Defrost before eating, or don't.

They taste like they look, which is perfect. They are sharp, sweet, rich, and radiant. If craftsmanship was a dessert, it would be a lemon square. I hope you like these ones.