I know Martha Stewart can be divisive. There are those who aspire to be the new Martha of say, healthy eating or hip interior decorating. And then there are those who loathe her and can see only a demon behind the outwardly placid and angelic face. Among food bloggers, as far as I can tell, the real divide is based not on her personality so much as on how her recipes turn out. On several of the blogs I read regularly, I have seen multiple posts lamenting that yet another Martha Stewart recipe has turned out just plain bad, that the proportions of ingredients are off or the finished product tasted terrible. I can’t claim to care enough to weigh in on Martha’s moral virtue, but I can speak in defense of her baked goods, at least those that I’ve found in The Best of Martha Stewart Living: Desserts (which can apparently be currently procured for as little as $0.24 on Amazon!).
Should you be willing to dole out $0.24, you will find yourself smitten by pictures of glorious cakes, like this one and this one, both of which I made in quick succession and with great success last spring. More recently, I tore myself away from the cake section to try the recipe for cranberry lemon squares and met with similarly good results. Whatever problems others have had with Martha’s recipes, I’ve got no beef with her. This variation on the classic lemon square was sweet and puckery, mixing the tangy tastes of lemon and cranberry. Although there are three separate components to prepare (crust, cranberry layer, and lemon layer), they came together simply and without much ado. I was a little skeptical about their appearance when I pulled them out of the oven and the deep red of the cranberry peeked through the lemon layer in parts, but a quick sprinkling of powdered sugar and the problem was solved. So forget your feelings about Martha; if you love a lemon bar and are looking for a new variation, this one is worth a try.
Cranberry lemon squares (makes 16)
6 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces plus more for pan
1 1/ cups dried cranberries (about 7 oz)
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar, plus more for dusting
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
1. Heat oven to 325. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan and set aside.
2. In a medium saucepan, combine cranberries and 2 cups water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until water has been absorbed, about 25 minutes.
3. Transfer cranberry mixture to bowl of a food processor; chop coarsely. Set aside.
4. In a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine confectioners’ sugar and 3/4 cup flour. Add the butter, beating on low speed until mixture forms pea-sized pieces. Press batter into baking pan.
5. Bake until golden, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
6. Beat eggs and granulated sugar until smooth. Add lemon juice; beat to combine. Add remaining 1/4 cup flour and beat to combine. Set lemon mixture aside.
7. Reduce oven temperature to 300. Spread cranberry mixture over cooked crust. Pour lemon mixture over the cranberry mixture. Bake until set, about 40 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool, 40 minutes. Chill 4 hours. To serve, cut into squares and dust with confectioners’ sugar.