Saturday, September 11, 2010

Favourite Fruits and Rainy Labour Day Baking

Labour day is always a funny kind of day. I always wake up with a funny feeling, the feeling of something ending and something beginning, wanting to have an adventure, but knowing that obligations follow the next day. And I never ever have a good night's sleep on labour day. My most vivid memory of labour day was when I was about 11 years old, and it had turned cold all of a sudden. Instead of bounding downstairs in shorts and t-shirts, ready to tackle the weekend, I dug around until I found my flannel night gown. I spent the day curled up on the couch and going back and forth from being excited and dreading the first day of school.

This year, was not too much different. The funny feeling came over me the minute I woke up, but this year, I wanted to make it disappear, or at least fade to the back of my mind for the first couple hours of the day. The rainyness didn't help and the chill that sneaked up over the whole loft reminded my of that labour day way back when I was 11. To help ease my anxiety over summer leaving and autumn arriving, my holidays ending and work beginning, I decided to do a little bit of baking with what I have just recently discovered, is my favourite fruit.

If you had asked me even a few months ago what my favourite fruit was, I would have probably said apples. They're reliable, wholesome, very Ontario and who doesn't like apples? But, as much as I like my empires, and macintoshes, idareds, granny smiths and cortlands, I've recently discovered that there's another fruit that I pretty much add to everything: the lemon. From iced teas to curries, muffins to coleslaw and everything in between, it's the lemon that adds brightness, fruitiness, tang and that unmistakable finishing touch.

But, this labour day, I made lemon the star of the show. Don't gasp, people. Those lovely pictures of the perfectly cut, sugar dusted lemon bars above are, sadly, not mine. They were made by my best friend and closeted cooking blogger for a barbeque party this past summer. Not only do they look lovely enough to serve to royalty, but the boys at the party couldn't keep their hands off of them... and my boy even asked for the recipe. We didn't get to baking it this summer-- mostly because we were afraid that we'd be disappointed that they wouldn't turn out to be the exact luscious, lemony, tangy, crumbly, buttery goodness of the originals from the party. But I thought it would be the perfect little baking project to chase away those labour day blues. And it definitely was. The smell coming from the oven instantly brought sunshine and summer back into my mind, and kept back the back-to-school anxiety, if only for a couple of hours.

I'm going to leave you with the original recipe, but as usual, I made a few little tweeks which I mention below. Happy lemon-baking!

Coconut Lemon Squares
via "Mia the baker" adapted from Betty Crocker's Entertaining Basics

Coconut Crust

1 cup of all purpose flour
6 tablespoons of butter or margarine at room temperature
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 egg yolk
3/4 cup of unsweetened shredded coconut

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Mix everything except the coconut in the large bowl using a pastry blender, fork, or cold hands, until a soft dough forms.
3. Stir in the coconut
4. Press into an ungreased pan (Mia used an 8x8" square pan)
5. Bake for 20-25 mins until golden. While the crust is baking, prepare the lemonyness.

Lemony Filling

1 cup of granulated sugar
2 teaspoons of grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons of lemon juice (about 1 small lemon)
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt
2 eggs

1. Beat everything in a medium bowl until light and fluffy. (Mia used an electric mixer on high speed. It took about 3 minutes).
2. Pour the lemony filling over the hot crust.
3. Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until there is no indent when you lightly touch the centre.
4. Cool on a wire rack for about 1 hour.
5. Dust with icing sugar if you want to be fancy.

As usual, I made a few changes, the most drastic because it was raining outside and I didn't want to go to the store ...

1. Instead of 6 tablespoons of butter, I used 4 tablespoons of canola oil and 2 tablespoons of natural peanut butter. I didn't need a fork or pastry blender -- a spatula worked fine. The peanut + coconut combo was so good that we didn't miss the butter at all.

2. For the flour, I used 1/2 cup of whole wheat pastry flour, 1/4 cup of ground almonds and 1/4 cup of all purpose flour .. just to be interesting. :)

3. I used about 3 tablespoons of lemon juice because my lemon was large and I wanted to finish juicing it. :) My mixture never went light and fluffy .. it kinda stayed liquidy and I was worried, but all was mended under the heat of the oven -- it only took about 20 minutes for it to set.

4. Last but not least, I baked it in a 9 inch round pie-shaped dish, so I couldn't cut them out into beautiful little bars, but now that I'm thinking about it, it would make a great substitute for a birthday cake ...

Oh, I almost forgot! If you're in Toronto and you love coffee, you should totally buy an Indie Coffee Passport. $20 gets you a card where you can get a drink of up to $5 in 24 different independent coffee shops. It's a coffee adventure! We've already started ..

Green Grind: We had a cappuccino and a skim latte.
Red Rocket (Welleslely location): We had a cappuccino and a "Red Rocket" (a shot of espresso, chocolate syrup and brewed coffee).


  1. You absolutely can't go wrong with lemon anything! Chocolate can be too cloying, but lemon perks everything up.

  2. thanks lynn! yup, lemon is definitely the best. a great back-to-school treat too! ;)

  3. My mouth is watering because I can practically taste that tart, sweet wonderfulness that is lemon bars/tarts. My mother made these for us when we were kid. Thanks for the delicious reminder!

  4. Ahhhh lemon squares! I have to say that I love anything lemon. When I get back home, I'm going to try and make these. Thanks for the recipe Leslie!

  5. Monika, make them for sure. they are THAT good :)

    thanks, Jada. you should definitely try, especially if you're as big a lemon fan as me. hope you're having fun in Boston!

  6. Hi Leslie!

    This recipe looks so good! Love a good lemon square :)

    Just thought I'd let you know about a contest that Redpath Sugar is running on their Facebook site -- you can win a chance to appear on Redpath Sugar's YouTube Baking Channel with the Happy Baker, Erin Bolger.

    Just submit a recipe that uses Redpath Sugar and an unusual ingredient on our Facebook wall :)
    Here are the details!

    Thought I'd let you know!

    Happy baking :)