Tangelo Squares

I love my lemon square recipe. Seriously love it. Easy and supremely lemony. I got the original recipe from my college room mate, who’d gotten it from her mother, who’d gotten it from the local Avon lady. That should tell you about how long ago that was. I tried a few other lemon-square recipes around that time, but soon realized I was already in possession of the goods. Really, who makes a lemon square using 2 tablespoons lemon juice. A half cup is more like it!

Then, a few years ago, I started to play with all the different citrus varieties available at my local farmers’ market. Could I do a simple swap in my favorite recipe and have a rainbow of colors and flavors to enjoy through the winter?

Not quite. Some, like Meyer lemon, were an easy switch (see my book for tweaks). But others were a big disappointment. Blood orange squares came out a most unpleasant muddy color, due to the flour thickener and the unpredictability of the color of the fruit’s flesh. Oranges and tangerines also posed a problem. Have you ever noticed that while a glass of O.J. packs plenty of acid punch, the orange-ness in desserts is so delicate it almost disappears?

Then I tried tangelos. Whoa! How a late-season cross between a grapefruit and tangerine results in intensely sweet-tart red-orange pulp and peel is a mystery to me, but it sure makes a nice “square.” Still, by the time you add eggs, sugar, and flour, the juice could use a little…juice.

It was the citrus farmer’s helper who solved the problem: add a dose of Meyer lemon. The subtler notes of this lemon-orange cross heightened the tangelo flavors without overtaking them the way the more acidic Eureka lemon would have. Microplaned tangelo zest finished the job; the peel’s essential oils and color added the final boost to make these sing. Here’s a picture of early-season tangelos from the KCRW Good Food Blog. As the season progresses, the fruit gets more deeply colored.

Tangelos KCRW

Tangelo Squares

For the crust:

1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1/2 pound) cold unsalted butter, cut into half-inch pieces

For the filling:

4 eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
zest of 2 tangelos
1/2 cup tangelo juice
1/4 cup Meyer lemon juice
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
4 tablespoons flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, stir together the powdered sugar, 2 cups flour and salt. Add the butter and cut in with a pastry cutter or your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Pat the mixture into the bottom and up sides of a 9 x 13 pan. Bake in center of oven until just lightly golden, 20-25 minutes.

Meanwhile whisk together the eggs, granulated sugar, zest, tangelo and Meyer lemon juices, Grand Marnier and 4 tablespoons flour until very well blended, about one minute. Pour the filling over the crust and return the pan to the oven until the filling is set, 15-20 minutes. Cool completely before cutting. Makes 24 2-inch by 2 and one half-inch squares.

© 2006, Amelia Saltsman.