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Lemon Squares

Birthday birthday birthday!
It is my coworker’s birthday today. She makes working a true joy; she always has a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, a kind word, but she also isn’t afraid to drop some hard truths. Plus, she is a very hard worker and smart to boot!
 In honor of her birthday, I had a hard choice of things to make. She loves coconut, and she loves lemon. She wears coconut perfume daily, and there is nothing I have not seen her squeeze lemon onto to improve its flavor. However, my dilemma was solved very easily. One of our clients is also her dear friend, and he makes her an incredible, over the top cake each year for her birthday. We met furtively to discuss our birthday baking plans; he decided to reprise a fabulous and beloved coconut cake he had made a few years previously, and I was to go to town on a lemon-flavored goodie. 
As children, my sister and I made two desserts religiously; chocolate chip cookies and lemon squares. We loved both of them and we often pretended to be filming a cooking show when we put them together. The lemon bars we made from a box, but the cookies were always from scratch. Over the years, I have moved away from the boxed lemon square bars, but I always think of my sister when I make them. As I consider my coworker a kind of mentor-sister, I thought this dessert would be perfect for her.
These are very easy to make, but the lemon flavor is intense and tangy playing beautifully off of the rich and buttery crust. I hope you try them out soon!

2 cups of flour
1/2 cup of powdered sugar
2 sticks of butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
zest of one lemon
 For the Filling:
 1 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk
 4 eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
 2/3 cup of fresh lemon juice
 Zest of one lemon
Pinch salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon cornstarch

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9 by 13 inch pan with aluminum foil and set aside.
Stir together the butter, powdered sugar, lemon zest and vanilla paste. Add in the flour until you get a dough. Press it into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes until lightly golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. 
In a large bowl, mix together the sweetened condensed milk, eggs, baking powder, salt and lemon zest. Mix the flour, cornstarch and lemon juice together, ensuring there are no lumps, and combine with the egg and milk mixture. 
Pour the mixture into the cooled crust and bake for 23 to 25 minutes, until the center is just set. Cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes, and then chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Remove from the pan, and slice into bars. Dust with confectioner’s sugar (and optional additional lemon zest) before serving and enjoy!


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