Did you ever notice how some recipes claim to be the best? Actually, not just the best, but the best ever. Or maybe even the ultimate, or world’s greatest. I think it demonstrates a bit of hubris for an author to make this kind of bold assertion, wouldn’t you say? It also raises a cook or baker’s expectations mightily. I find this claim is most often made for chocolate chip cookie recipes. Or chicken soup. I guess it’s because recipes for these two are just so very ordinary that the only way you would think about using a new version and not your own tried-and-true recipe is if it were the most fantastic version of that recipe. Or perhaps the author’s recipe has been worked on so much they actually feel it is the best possible version out there. More often than not I feel I must try. I mean, if I am baking chocolate chip cookies, why wouldn’t I want to bake the best ones out there, instead of the ordinary ones I usually make? But more often than not, it is simply a title. More often than not, there is no difference in the recipe, nor the taste. More often than not, the title is so hyped up that the result is just, well, disappointing.
I have a theory as to why the recipe turns out to be a disappointment. If you are like me, you most likely learned to cook or bake at your mother’s or grandmother’s side. You watched her adjust and tweak, you watched her technique, which ingredient to add when, and how long to mix, how to tell when something is ready, by smell, by sight, by touch. Without even knowing it, you have been practicing. Yes, it takes practice to get it right. To get it perfect. Or more likely, to get it to the way you like it. When you try a recipe someone else has been tweaking and practicing, you will likely not get the same result. So, if you want the most perfect version of your recipe, keep practicing, try it again and again, adjusting and changing and taking notes. You will get it right. You will make the ultimate version of the recipe you love.
Someone recently asked me how I got the crust for a tart so perfect. I knew I could simply hand over my recipe and say, here is the recipe for the best crust ever. Instead, I thought about what I could say, and the simple response was “practice.”
So find the very best, most reliable, tried-and-true recipe. The one with the most reviews and comments, the one from the best cooks and bakers you know. Then go into the kitchen and practice until it becomes your best version of that recipe. Pretty soon people will be commenting that you make the world’s best chocolate chip cookie, even if it is the recipe from the back of the bag of chocolate chips.
But on a much more serious note, my lemon squares are the best ever, and if you want to serve your company the ultimate dessert, use this world’s greatest recipe. Enjoy!
World’s Greatest Best-Ever Ultimate Lemon Squares
a/k/a Rachel’s Lemon Squares
- 2 cups flour
- ½ cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup melted butter or margarine
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a stand mixer, combine all ingredients until a dough forms. Don’t overmix. Press into the bottom and 1 inch up the sides of a 9 x 13 pan. Bake for approximately 20 minutes, until the crust begins to turn a golden color. While it is baking, prepare the filling so it will be ready to be poured on the hot crust as it is done.
(This prevents the filling from absorbing into the crust.)
- 4 eggs, slightly beaten
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- ¼ cup flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
In a stand mixer, mix the eggs with the sugar, then add the lemon juice and zest to combine. Add the flour and baking powder and mix thoroughly, without incorporating too much air. (You don’t want it to get frothy.) The mixture will be liquidy. Pour the lemon mixture over the hot crust and return to the oven to bake for 20-30 minutes. Check on it after 10 minutes, and if the top is starting to brown excessively, cover loosely with foil. Lemon squares are done when filling is slightly jiggly when you shake the pan but not liquid. Allow to cool to room temperature and cut into even, small squares, and sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.
Store in the refrigerator. They freeze very well.
By Rachel Berger