Instead of perusing the internet for fun new recipes, I actually ventured outside and purchased the Canadian Living Special Cookbook Edition – Holiday Favourites at the grocery checkout to find a second new recipe to try. I love Canadian Living and I’d say 80 per cent of the recipes in my most prized possession, my mom’s scrapbook of recipes cut out from newspapers and magazines, are from Canadian Living. I chose the lemon cheesecake bars, because I love lemon bars – but have never made lemon bars before – and the cheesecake layer seemed like it would be an interesting addition.
The original recipe calls for 30 lemon social tea cookies, but all I could find at my pathetically understocked, low-variety grocery store were no- sugar-added Peek Freans lemon “Lifestyle” cookies. Healthy ones. I wasn’t confident they would be lemony enough for the purpose, so I added two heaping spoonfuls of lemon curd to the butter and whisked them together after melting. I used almost the entire package of cookies and fed the leftover five or six to Matt. I also ground up enough to make a little more than the required two cups of crumbs to compensate for the extra liquid from the lemon curd.
Sometimes I get overzealous while baking, so here’s where I screwed up:
I didn’t follow the order when making the cheesecake layer, instead of beating the cheese and sugar first, then adding the egg, I just beat it all together. This is probably why when I bake cookies they melt into a giant cookie puddle in the oven. I didn’t trust the texture after I realized my mistake, so I let the cheesecake layer sit in the fridge for a few hours to firm up before pouring over the lemon layer.
Onto the lemons: it took me approximately three regular-sized lemons to come up with the lemon zest I needed, and two and a half of those lemons for the juice required for the recipe. And with the shhht shhht shhht of the microplane, our puppy Bodie came running into the kitchen. I’ve been known to spoil him with some asiago microplaned over his kibbles so the sound of the microplane in use is akin to a can opener to a cat, but not today. Sorry, Bodie.
The lemon squares turned out very well, and extremely rich. The cheesecake layer was not overpowering in its cheesecakey-flavour. The crust tastes like any good, buttery shortbread crust with a hint of lemon. I would recommend parking them in the fridge for a while after they cool to make cutting them easier, as they are quite delicate. I cut them into very tiny, one-bite pieces. The recipe says it makes 60 bars, and I got 60 very tiny, 1 1/2-inch pieces.
Lemon Cheesecake Bars
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 Tbsp finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 tsp baking powder
Icing sugar for topping
1 package cream cheese (one brick, 8 oz)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
30 lemon social tea cookies
1/2 cup butter, melted
In a food processor, crush cookies to make 2 cups crumbs, pulse in butter until moistened. Press into 9×13-inch parchment-paper lined or greased cake pan. Bake at 325 until firm, about 12 minutes. Cool on rack.
Cheesecake layer: In bowl, beat cream cheese with sugar until smooth; beat in egg. Spread over base, set aside.
And the rest:
In a bowl, beat eggs with sugar until thickened. Beat in lemon zest juice, flour and baking powder until smooth, pour over cheesecake later.
Bake at 325 for about 35 minutes or until edges are brown, the top is slightly golden and lemon layer is set. Cool on rack, cut into bars, dust with icing sugar.
Makes 60 bars (apparently).
Click HERE for a printable version of this recipe.
Contributor Heather Rose is a freelance writer living in Toronto with her puppy, Bodie and boyfriend, Matt, one of whom enjoys her culinary experiments more than the other. She applies her life-long philosophy – “I did my best” – to all her recipes and cooking experiences. Check out her website at www.heatherrosewriting.com.