The inspiration for these lemon bars came from a recipe for “Amazing Lemon Cheesecake Bars” on the back of the Krusteaz lemon bars mix. The box said, “The cream cheese layer starts out in the middle but rises to the top as it bakes, creating beautifully layered lemon cheesecake bars.” I loved the idea of separate layers of cheesecake and lemon filling instead of just lemon-flavored cheesecake, but I wanted to make it from scratch because the mix was way too sweet.
Everybody has different opinions on lemon bars – some like them super sweet, some like them sour, and others insist on a bar bursting with lemon flavor. All I know is that I like a higher crust-to-filling ratio, and anything not cloying. These bars definitely came out more cheesecake-y than lemon-y, which I didn’t mind, but I’m not completely sold on the crust. It wasn’t bad, just wasn’t spectacular. I’ll try out a few different shortbread crusts and update later if I find one that’s mindblowing-ly better 🙂
As you can see, the layers didn’t separate as beautifully as I would’ve liked. I think what happened was half of the cream cheese layer didn’t make it to the top, so the lemon filling was sandwiched in between. I think the tartness of the lemon would’ve come through more if the layers hadn’t split. For my first time completely creating my own version of something store-bought though, I was pretty satisfied. Usually I get nervous making tweaks to recipes and here I am making up my own…
Recipe: Lemon Cheesecake Bars
For the crust:
- 1/2 C butter, cut into small pieces
- 1/4 C sugar
- 1 C flour
For the cream cheese layer:
- 8 oz cream cheese
- 1/2 C sugar
- 1 egg
- 1/2 t vanilla
For the lemon filling:
- 3 TB flour
- 3/4 C sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 C lemon juice
- 2 tsp lemon zest
- Preheat the oven to 350 F and line a 8×8 baking dish with foil with some hanging over the edge for easy removal. Butter or spray the foil with cooking spray.
- Make the crust – cut the butter into the flour and sugar with a pastry blender or food processor, until crumbly. Press it into the bottom of the prepared pan, and bake for 18-20 minutes. It should be pale, but not wet-looking.
- Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar with a mixer until smooth. Add the egg and vanilla, and continue to mix on low speed until smooth.
- For the lemon filling – in another bowl, rub the lemon zest and sugar together with your fingers until fragrant, then whisk in the 3 TB flour. Add the eggs and lemon juice and blend until fully incorporated.
- First pour the cream cheese mixture over the hot crust, and smooth it out. Then layer the lemon filling mixture on top, and put it back in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the center doesn’t jiggle when shaken. Cool completely, and for best results, refrigerate before serving for a clean cut.
Number of servings (yield): 16 bars