Throughout her childhood summers, Amelia Shannon-Reasoner remembers her grandmother serving chilled strawberry squares for dessert at family gatherings.
"These squares made their appearance when the whole family was coming over to eat," Shannon-Reasoner told me. "They were for serving a crowd."
But after her grandmother's passing, Shannon-Reasoner realized lots of her most beloved recipes hadn't been shared before her death.
"Over the past couple of years, I've been trying to recreate some of her recipes or at least get close to them," said the Georgia mom. "I have been buying some cookbooks from the '50s and '60s just to see if I recognized any of the family recipes in them. I'd forgotten about these strawberry squares until I was going through an old 'Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book,' and there it was."
The strawberry squares, which have a brown sugar and walnut crust and a filling made of berries, sugar and heavy cream, were exactly what Shannon-Reasoner had been looking for. She promptly shared a photo of her creation along with the recipe on the Old_Recipes subreddit, a place where she'd also gone to look for recipes that reminded her of her grandmother's cooking.
"After I made the strawberry squares, my husband liked it so much, I was sure I'd be making it again a few more times before the end of the summer," she said. "It was so simple and good, I decided to snap a picture and share the recipe. Fair is fair — it was my turn to contribute."
I tried making the strawberry squares in my own kitchen and found it to be an easy and satisfying summer treat. After lining a 13-by-9-inch pan with a crumble of flour, brown sugar, walnuts and butter, it was time to mix up my strawberry filling.
The filling, a combo of egg whites, sliced strawberries, white sugar, lemon juice and whipping cream gets beat on high speed for ten minutes, until the fruit is almost completely pureed.
After the pink mixture is dumped on top of the crust, some remaining crust crumbs gets added to the top and the whole thing goes in the freezer for at least six hours.
I was delighted when I pulled it out of the freezer to taste it: The dessert tastes just like freshly made strawberry ice cream, only it's served cut into squares instead of scooped into a cone.
Shannon-Reasoner says there are a few tweaks she made this time and a few she'd try when she attempts the recipe again.
"Maybe next time I will do two heaping cups of strawberries for a little more berry flavor and color," she said. "I did substitute the whipping cream for Cool Whip and the walnuts for pecans. I also saw a version online that included almond extract in the filling and using sliced almonds for the crust."
"I'm most excited to see what changes other people make to fit it to their tastes or maybe while trying to remember the changes their grandmas and mothers made," she added. "My grandma did that a lot: Some of her recipes she had written down, she never made them that way exactly. She made little changes from the written recipes as she cooked to make them her own. I think a lot of us do the same thing while we are cooking."
You can find the recipe here.