What is mascarpone? It’s an Italian soft cheese and the traditional cheese used for making tiramisu.
Why add mascarpone to lemon squares? It’s a substitution for cream cheese. I was watching an episode of Anna Olson’s show one day, she made lemon squares and the addition of cream cheese to the curd really aroused my interest.
When I asked my daughter, Alex, to bake lemon squares a la Anna Olson, she told me we were out of cream cheese. I suggested she use the mascarpone in the fridge instead. The substitution turned out to be a resounding success.
This is a two-layer dish. The first layer is the crust made with flour, cold butter and sugar. The cold butter is smashed into small pieces until the mixture acquires the appearance of coarse crumbs. You have to do this fast so the butter does not melt. How?
You can use your fingers, a pastry cutter or a food processor.If you use your fingers, dip them in cold water first then wipe dry. Messy, yes, and washing the butter off your fingers afterwards can be a headache. I don’t know if it’s worth soiling the food processor for such a small job so we usually use a pastry cutter at home.
The crust mixture is pressed into a pan and baked. Yes, baked without the lemon curd. You bake the crust until lightly browned. Then, you cool the crust. While it cools, you make the lemon curd.
You’ll need two bowls. One for mixing the mascarpone with sugar and another for mixing sugar with lemon zest. Then, you combine the two before the flour and baking powder are added.
Next come the eggs which need to be added one at a time and mixing after each addition.
Finally, the lemon juice is stirred in.
The lemon curd is poured over the cooled crust and the second stage of baking begins. The curd is done when the edges are lightly browned. The center of the curd, however, should jiggle a little. The curd continues to cook in the residual heat. By the time it cools, the lemon curd will be just perfect.
Full recipe below
- 9" x 9" inch pan
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup white sugar
- ½ cup cold unsalted butter - cut into small cubes
- ½ cup mascarpone - at room temperature
- 1 ½ cups white sugar - divided
- 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ cup fresh lemon juice
- 4 large eggs
- powdered sugar - for dusting (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Line the bottom and sides of a 9" x 9" pan with parchment paper.
Make the shortbread crust
- Whisk the flour and sugar in a bowl.
- Drop in the cold butter and cut in until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
- Press the mixture into the prepared pan.
- Bake at 350F for 18 to 20 minutes until lightly browned.
- Cool the crust while preparing the lemon curd.
Mix the lemon curd
- In a bowl, mix half cup of sugar with the mascarpone until smooth. Add another half cup of sugar and mix lightly.
- In another bowl, whisk the remaining half cup of sugar with the lemon zest.
- Combine the mascarpone mixture and lemon zest mixture, stirring just until smooth.
- Add the flour and baking powder and mix.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking after each addition.
- Stir in the lemon juice.
- Pour the lemon curd mixture over the cooled crust.
- Bake at 350F for 30 to 40 minutes until the top is dry, the edges are lightly browned and the center is just a little bit jiggly.
- Cool in the pan completely. Wrap the pan, chill the baked pastry in the fridge until firm, at least six hours, before cutting into squares.
- Optionally, sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.