Christ is Risen: The world below lies desolate Christ is Risen: The spirits of evil are fallen Christ is Risen: The angels of God are rejoicing Christ is Risen: The tombs of the dead are empty Christ is Risen indeed from the dead, the first of the sleepers, Glory and power are his forever and ever St. Hippolytus (AD 190-236)
The Great Feast of Easter is almost at hand and with it, the end of fasting and abstinence. As our joy soars in recognition of the great gift of Salvation conveyed to us by the Passion of the Lord and his triumph over death, we set the table to celebrate. But because of my family’s work schedules, we won’t be sitting down to a traditional Easter day dinner around the old, walnut table in the little blue house this year.
Instead, I’ll be paying most of my Easter visits over the Octave which seems just lovely to me – stretching out it does, the sweetness of the celebration, sprinkling memorable moments with dear ones throughout the week. Luckily enough, for Easter day, I’ve been invited to join the table of the large, warm, Irish family of my wonderful friend, Juta.
They welcomed me three years ago when our family celebrations were largely set aside during a time of grieving for our brother and uncle, Pete. I have treasured the memory of their hospitality – so redolent with savory, insightful Catholic conversation and character – ever since. And to be frank, when I mentioned to Juta that the Rogers clan wouldn’t be uniting until Easter Monday, I was hoping for an invitation back and thrilled when it came.
For a table gift, I wanted to bring something that everyone would enjoy and when Juta spontaneously shared her memories of a favorite sweet treat – lemon bars – it linked to warm memories of Easter dinners of my childhood. In our case, it was not lemon bars but lemon meringue pie – our maternal grandfather’s favorite confection – that always graced our table. He still lived in the city back then and he’d drive down from Newark with his big, blue Ford station wagon crammed with sweets in celebration of the day: chocolate Rabbits from Italian specialty stores wrapped in gold foil and nestled in paper mache keepsake containers; chocolate covered cherries (grandpa’s favorite); a variety of baked goods – always a pound cake and always, always, a lemon meringue pie.
Though so many years have passed, an encounter with a good, bakery made lemon meringue pie transports me straight back to that Easter table. One taste of the filling – at once sweet and tart – the soft meringue, drifting like a cloud above it and the slight crunch of the crust and I’m back at that table with grandpa again. I make no pretense of being a great baker.
I’ve taken to watching “Martha Bakes” with Martha Stewart regularly on the Create channel in hopes of making up for the deficiency but can’t see it happening any time soon. Yet over the past week, I’ve given it my all, wrestling with a combination of recipes in an attempt to offer something lovely and lemony for the Easter table in the passable shape of a good lemon bar. The biggest hurdle was developing a knack in spreading out the shortbread dough evenly on the pan. I learned finally to relax with the dough, handle it a bit, roll it into a ball and then take time flattening it out. As to cutting the squares, a key is letting them cool completely once they are out of the oven.
Easter Day Lemon Bars
-1 cup butter, softened
-2 cups white sugar
-2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
-2 lemons juiced
-Powdered sugar for dusting
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
For the crust: In a medium bowl, blend together softened butter, 2 cups of flour and ½ cup sugar, work it into a ball and then press it gently and evenly into the bottom of an ungreased 9/13 inch pan. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven, til just turning golden -don’t let it go brown. Lemon cream:
Meanwhile, in another bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 ½ cups of sugar and ¼ cup of flour. Whisk in the eggs and lemon juice. Pour over the baked crust. Bake for an additional 20 minutes in the oven. The bars will firm up as they cool.
If you wish to cool them in the refrigerator, do so only for two hours. I made the mistake with one batch of cooling them in the fridge overnight and had a hard time cutting them into uniform squares the next day. Also, using a hot, wet, very sharp knife helps too.
Prayer before the Easter Meal: Lord, the Resurrection of Your Son has given us new life and renewed hope. Help us to live as new people in pursuit of the Christian ideal. Grant us wisdom to know what we must do, the will to want to do it, the courage to undertake it, the perseverance to continue to do it, and the strength to complete it. source: New Saint Joseph People’s Prayer Book