Butter set over steady heat separates; left to sizzle, the milk solids toast in the milk fat, turning sweet, creamy butter into rich, nutty brown butter.
If brown butter is better than butter, imagine how good a baked good is when baked with better butter. Really, really good.
BROWN-BUTTER LEMON SQUARES
Prep: 75 minutes plus overnight chill
Bake: 10 minutes
Makes: 24 squares
Butter for pan
3 cups sugar
Finely grated zest of 4 lemons
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, in chunks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt plus a pinch
1 cup plus 7 tablespoons plus 2 tablespoons flour
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 6 big or 12 small lemons)
1. Prep: Lightly butter a 13-by-9-inch glass baking pan. Line with parchment paper, leaving some overhang. Set rack in lower third of oven.
2. Buzz: Measure sugar into the food processor. Scatter in zest. Buzz, 30 seconds. Scoop out 1/3 cup scented sugar; cover tightly and set aside (for gilding top). Measure 6 tablespoons scented sugar into a large mixing bowl (for brown-butter pastry). Dump remaining scented sugar into a large saucepan (for lemon curd).
3. Brown: To make pastry, drop butter into a medium saucepan. Set over medium heat. Butter will melt, foam and begin to bubble. Let bubble, scraping bottom of pan with a soft spatula, until butter is dotted with brown specks, about 8 minutes. Scrape butter and specks over the 6 tablespoons sugar in the mixing bowl. Stir in vanilla, baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir in 1 cup flour. Knead in 7 tablespoons flour; pastry will be stiff. Pat into prepared pan (bottom only, not sides).
4. Brown: Bake at 325 degrees until pastry browns, 28-30 minutes. Cool on a rack at least 15 minutes.
5. Whisk: Meanwhile, make the curd. Whisk remaining 2 tablespoons flour and the pinch of salt into the sugar in the large saucepan. Whisk in juice and eggs. Set over medium heat and whisk thick, 6-8 minutes. Press through a fine-mesh strainer.
6. Bake: Smooth lemon curd over cooled pastry. Bake at 300 degrees until set, 10-12 minutes. Cool completely. Press plastic wrap against lemon surface. Cover pan. Chill overnight.
7. Serve: Uncover. Grasp parchment overhang and lift lemon block out of pan. Sprinkle surface with reserved scented sugar and spread with an offset spatula. Use a long heavy knife to trim edges. Cut into 24 squares.
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