Blood Orange Squares
Originally posted on February 15, 2013
I happen to love homey, old-fashioned desserts. And in the winter I often bake a batch or two of Lemon Squares. A few days ago I found a huge display of blood oranges at my market and decided I’d try substituting their juice and zest for the lemons. I’ve always loved drinking blood orange juice with breakfast, a habit we got into when living in Italy. At the time, our two sons were very young, and during the winter in Naples we had a contest each morning to see which of us had the glass with the reddest orange juice. We’d each select uncut oranges from the bowl and either my wife or I would be the designated squeezer.
The suspense was always exciting. At the last moment, when it seemed one of us was the clear winner, the last orange would be so red a surprise winner won the day. And the prize? Getting first pick of the oranges for the next day’s contest.
Blood oranges are tangier than regular oranges and make an excellent substitute for lemon juice. For this recipe, I decided to concentrate the juice’s tartness by boiling it down by half. That did the trick.
One thing I like to do when baking these bars is lining the pan with aluminum foil to make it easy to remove them from the pan. I turn the pan upside down and shape a square of foil on the outside of the pan by folding down the sides.
Then I remove the foil liner, turn the pan right side up, and carefully nudge the liner into the baking pan. Be careful doing this because long fingernails can tear the foil. And the thickness of the pan means that the liner will be just a tad too large to simply slip into place. Once the pan is lined, just spray it lightly with foil and you’re good to go.
When making the crust, after you’ve added the flour, mix briefly on low speed just until the pastry forms large clumps in the bowl.
Then press firmly onto the bottom of the pan and bake for 20 minutes. Pour on the filling and bake until set. When completely cool, lift out of the pan and peel away the sides of the foil.
Dust the top with confectioners’ sugar and cut into squares.
Blood Orange Squares I used 6 medium-size blood oranges. Grate the zest from the oranges first. A microplane works the best. You’ll need 2 tablespoons of zest. Then squeeze the juice. Boil 1 cup of blood orange juice until it has reduced to ½ cup. Let it cool before using in the recipe.
8 tablespoons (1 stick, 4 ounces) unsalted butter, slightly softened
¼ cup confectioners’ sugar (1 ounce)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon grated blood orange zest
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (5 ounces)
3 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon grated blood orange zest
½ cup reduced blood orange juice
1/3 cup (1 2/3 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
Confectioners’ sugar to decorate the squares
1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower third position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with foil and coat lightly with cooking spray.
3. For the crust, beat the butter, confectioners’ sugar, salt, and orange zest until smooth. I use a stand mixer with the flat beater. Add the flour and mix on low speed until the dough gathers together into several large clumps. Scrape the dough into the baking pan and press firmly onto the bottom of the pan to make an even layer. If the dough feels sticky, dust your fingertips periodically with flour. Bake 20 minutes until golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven but leave the oven on.
4. For the filling, Whisk together the eggs, sugar, and orange zest in a medium bowl. Add the reduced juice and flour and whisk briefly just until smooth. Pour over the baked crust, which may be hot or warm, and return the pan to the oven. Bake about 30 minutes, until the filling is set.
5. Cool completely on a wire rack. Remove the sweet from the pan by grasping the edges of the foil and lifting it out of the pan. Peel back the sides of the foil and dust the top of the sweet with confectioners’ sugar. Cut into 16 squares with a large knife. Store airtight. The bars stay fresh for several days at room temperature. Or refrigerate them and serve them cold.
Makes 16 blood orange squares.