Friday, December 24, 2010

Hits and Misses

As a reluctant baker, the holiday season is tough on me. This year D. and I are spending our first ever holiday season together as the two of us, so there's no pressure produce perfect festive cookies, gingerbread men, shortbread...whatever. And a good thing too, as my efforts this week have delivered mixed results at best.

pecan chew

First off: Bourbon Pecan Chews. I love pecan pie, like, a lot, and these cookie-like creations were billed as a pretty reasonable facsimile of pecan pie innards. Pecans and bourbon, together? What's not to like? The issue here was in the execution. Well, the first issue for me was the lack of bourbon, so I subbed in Canadian rye whisky. No big deal, I'm sure. Second, I was a bit short on pecans, but probably not enough to affect the end result. No, what tripped me up was the fact that I didn't realize there was a significant difference in types of molasses and ended up using 1/2 cup of potent tar-like blackstrap. As a result, that's pretty much all you taste. My only, defense is that most recipes I've seen involving molasses actually tell you what type of the stuff not to use, but I realize that's pretty feeble. Sure, the cookies (chews, whatever) are edible enough, but enjoyable only if you happen to enjoy the overwhelming pungency of molasses. So maybe not an out and out failure, but another one for the let down files. If anyone decides to do these using the original recipe, do let me know how they turn out, would you?
Next up: Lemon Squares. These very nearly ended up being another let down, as I slightly overbaked the whole works. As a result, the base is more chewy than crumbly, giving what should be a light dessert a slight heaviness. Heavy or not, they still taste good enough to eat in twos and threes.

Lemon Squares (from the New Canadian Basics Cookbook)

½ Cup butter, softened
¼ Cup granulated sugar
1 Cup all-purpose flour

2 eggs
1 Cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
zest of one lemon
3 tablespoons lemon juice

Make base. Cream butter and sugar, then blend in flour until crumbly. Press mixture into the bottom of a prepared 8-inch baking pan and bake in a 350F oven for 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

Make topping. In a large bowl, beat eggs and sugar together. Stir in remaining ingredients.

Assemble. Pour mixture over base and bake for 25 minutes or until topping is set. Let cool on a rack, dust with confectioner’s sugar and cut into squares

P.S. If you're out there, dear readers, I hope you and yours have a happy and delicious Christmas.


  1. hey jer,
    so i really want to make these lemon squares but i have a few (rudimentary) questions, which are:

    1) when you say a "prepared" baking pan, do you mean greased?
    2) should this be a square 8" by 8" pan? if i only have a lasagna sized pan (which is true), should i do 1 & 1/2 times the recipe?
    3) at what temperature should i bake the assembled squares? also at 350?

    thanks! i'm excited to finally give these a go, as they are my favorite dessert...

  2. 1) Prepared means greased or, and this is what I'd suggest, lined with parchment paper.

    2) It depends on the lasagna pan, but this recipe is for a 9x9 pan, ergo the recipe would need to be increased proportionately depending on the size of your pan, but if it's only a bit bigger, I wouldn't worry.

    3) yup, one temp for the works.

    Let me know how they turn out.