Can you feel it? The days are getting warmer and thoughts are turning to having a couple of months off for summer vacation from school, or going out to the lake for the weekend with family, or just hanging out on the patio with some good friends and good food.
As the days get warmer, I love experiencing the fresh tastes that becoming more seasonal. A friend used to give me some of her Meyer lemons from her tree every year and I would whip up some tarts or squares. Meyer lemons are a bit sweeter than the regular ones from the store. A nice subtle lemon flavour.
This week I was asked to make some goodies for a 50th wedding anniversary celebration. The request was for all things gold or yellow. I immediately thought of lemon squares and prepared those. They were a hit. I then noticed that I still had a little leftover partrigeberry jam from the time I made the partridgeberry marshmallows. I know that lemon goes well with raspberry and cranberry and partridgeberries have a similar flavour profile. So why not? The worst thing is that they will taste horrible and I’ll chuck them in the bin.
Luckily they tasted amazing. I love the sweetness of the meringue topping, the tart lemon filling, and the amazing unique flavour of partrigeberries. All piled on a crispy shortbread crust, you can’t go wrong.
Note: This recipe uses a pre-packaged lemon pie filling mix. Shocking, I know. While I will try to make things from scratch, I wanted to use this mix first because of its ease of use. And I’ve always loved the Shirriff lemon pies. I have not been compensated in any way by Shirriff or their parent company in any way. (Although, if anyone from there is reading this, I wouldn’t mind some wonderful products, if you’re inclined. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more, say no more.)
Preheat your oven to 350F and line a 9X13 pan with parchment, making sure the parchment comes up the sides. You’ll thank me later for this.
For the shortbread crust combine the flour and sugar. Cut in the cold butter with a pastry cutter until the mixture has the consistency of coarse bread crumbs. I like to first start with the pastry cutter to get all the larger pieces of butter incorporated, but finish off with my hands. (Clean, of course.) That way I can feel for any larger pieces of butter which may have escaped the cutter. Plus I can take in the lovely aroma of fresh butter mixing with the flour. I don’t know why, but it’s one of the favourite baking smells. You can use a food processor to do this, but use the pulse button until the butter is mixed in accordingly.
Now press the shortbread mixture in the bottom of the 9×13 pan until you form a nice, even layer. It’s okay if you see flecks of butter still in the crumb. Just make sure there isn’t any larger chunks. Now bake the crust for 20-25 minutes. The edges should be a little brown when you take it out. While the crust is still warm add the layer of jam. Use a spoon or an offset spatula to make sure you have an even layer of jam going all the way to the ends. The heat from the crust with help spread the jam easily. Set that aside.
Prepare the pie filling as the packaging suggests, EXCEPT reduce the warm water by one cup. This recipe uses two packages of pie filling which calls for four cups of warm water. I wanted the filling to be more firm so I reduced the water. Once the filling is set, spread it on top of the jam layer. It should be thick, and will set completely once it cools.
Now, preheat your oven to 425F. Prepare the meringue topping with the egg whites left over. (The yolks went into the lemon filling.) Whip the whites until you have a soft peak, then add the sugar while it’s still mixing. Whip until you have firm peaks. Spread on top of the lemon filling. You can make a nice design with the meringue or even pipe it with a rosette piping tip to give you the nice ridges. Bake for 5-7 minutes to give the browning on top. Keep and eye on it though. Mine was done at 4 minutes, but you should know your oven.
This dessert is best made the day of, because the meringue has a tendency to sweat if left to sit for too long. Place the pan in the fridge to cool for a couple of hours. Once cool carefully remove the bars from the pan. This is why I asked you leave some parchment over the sides. This way you can lift the whole thing out of the pan and place on a board for cutting. I cut the bars into 18 pieces but you could easily cut them smaller for bite-size morsels. Enjoy with your favourite iced tea.