Serendipity Deluxe Bars

Do you ever see a recipe and just know that you need to make it ASAP? That is what happened when I saw these over at A Southern Grace. My oh my. These bars are great!

They came together in no time and though there are a few components to the recipe (a pattern with recipes I have been making lately) overall they are a cinch to make.

You start with a shortbread type crust that is then topped by what I can only describe as a fudgey-gooey chocolate layer and lastly topped off with an oatmeal/brown sugar/nut mixture that turns into a caramel like top layer after baking. Each layer of these bars tastes great but together they create a dessert that you will find yourself craving until the pan is gone (which around here was about 2 days).

My Taste Tester loved these bars and could not get enough. He enjoyed them warm, room temperature, with ice cream, plan, with hot fudge, I can’t even name how many times I came into the room to see him eating another bar. That is when you know they are good. 

Next time I may add some walnuts as well, as I actually prefer those to pecans.

Take some time this weekend and make these to enjoy with friends and family. They will thank you.

I rate this recipe a 9

Serendipity Deluxe Bars
as seen here
Crust:
1 cup butter, cold and diced
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Truffle Filling:
1 cup corn syrup
1 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Caramel:
1/4 cup corn syrup
3/4 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
1 cup oats
1/2 cup pecans, coarsely ground
3/4 cup (6 oz) butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 13×9-inch pan.
To prepare the crust, combine all four ingredients in a food processor and pulse until coarse crumbs are created. Press into the prepared pan and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the edges are slightly browned.
Meanwhile, prepare the filling by microwaving together the corn syrup and chocolate chips, stopping to stir occasionally until the chips have melted. Let cool, then add the remaining filling ingredients and beat to combine. Pour over the hot crust and bake for 27 minutes, or until the outer edges are firm and the center is only slightly jiggly.
While the filling bakes, prepare the caramel layer by stirring together all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. When the pan is deemed ready to remove from the oven, let it sit for 10 minutes before dolloping on the caramel layer and spreading it evenly over the chocolate layer. Then return the pan to the oven for another 25-35 minutes, or until the bars are just set. Let cool completely before cutting. 

Taste Tested Lemon Bars

As you know, my Taste Tester loves a good lemon dessert. Instead of whipping up my tried and true cheesecake, I decided to use another blogger’s detailed taste-tested research and recipe reviews to whip up a great pan of lemon bars.

As Bridget suggested I used the crust recipe from Tartine and the filling recipe from Cooks Illustrated. The end results were great.

We do prefer the lemon cheesecake over these bars, but they were great none-the-less. The crust was slightly sweet, a bit crumbly and a tad buttery (just the way I like it). The filling was tart with a lovely lemon flavor. It was a bit overpowering with tartness at first but with a bit of powdered sugar sprinkled on top the flavor mellowed out a bit. Overall these are a great desert to take to a summer picnic or potluck. They were easy to make and scream ‘summer’.

I would recommend keeping them chilled and would advise not layering them as they will stick together and the crust will become a bit soft. They will still be good but just not ‘as good’ ya know?

I rate these an 8

Taste Tested Lemon Bars
as seen here

Crust (from Tartine)
½ cup (2 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
1½ cups (7.5 ounces) all-purpose flour
12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup (2 ounces) pine nuts (optional) (I USED ALMONDS)

Lemon filling (from Cooks Illustrated)
4 large eggs, beaten lightly
1⅓ cups (9.33 ounces) granulated sugar
3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest from 2 large lemons
⅔ cup lemon juice from 3 to 4 large lemons, strained
⅓ cup whole milk
⅛ teaspoon table salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.

To make the crust: Sift the confectioners’ sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Stir in the flour. Add the butter and pine nuts (if using) and beat on low speed just until a smooth dough forms.

Press the dough evenly into the pan and allow it to come up about a ½ inch up the sides of the pan. Line the crust with parchment paper and fill with pie weights. (I chilled mine in the freezer for 10 minutes) Bake the crust until it is a deep golden brown, about 25-35 minutes. (I baked mine for about 20 minutes or until lightly browned)

For the filling: Meanwhile, whisk the eggs, sugar, and flour in a medium bowl, then stir in the lemon zest, juice, milk, and salt to blend well.

To finish the bars: Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees. Stir the filling mixture to reblend; pour into the warm crust. Bake until the filling feels firm when touched lightly, about 20 minutes.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack; cool to near room temperature, at least 30 minutes.

Transfer to a cutting board, fold the paper down, and cut into serving-size bars, wiping knife or pizza cutter clean between cuts, as necessary.

Sieve confectioners’ sugar over bars, if desired.

Peanut Butter Torte

Once again, I turned to Dorie’s book for a no-bake sweet to satisfy my summer dessert cravings. I just hate using the oven and heating up the house when it is over 90 degrees outside! After paging through, I knew I had found gold when I read the words “Peanut Butter’. Yes please!

If you love peanut butter and want a rich, creamy dessert but either don’t want to bake a cheesecake or are scared to try. You must make this recipe!

Don’t be scared by the (once again) LONG recipe. This dessert has a few steps but none are difficult at all! I will warn you though, the torte is best after chilling for a few hours so plan ahead.

I adapted the recipe slightly as typed below to suit our personal tastes. Instead of an Oreo crust I used Nutter Butters (as you know my Taste Tester does NOT like Oreos). I also omitted the peanuts in the filling as I don’t like chunks in what I feel should be smooth and creamy desserts. Since I am not a fan of cinnamon with peanut butter, I left that out as well. For the topping I tossed some peanuts in melted butter and then in brown sugar. I baked unitl they were golden and allowed them to cool before garnishing the top with the ganache and nuts.

With my modifications I must say that this was a hit! It was perfectly smooth and creamy, much like a cheesecake but a bit lighter and not so dense. The crust paired perfectly with the filling and the candied nuts really rounded out this recipe.

I love taking a great recipe and with a few tweaks making it suit our preferences. Feel free to play around with the recipe and make it your own. I bet Reese’s Peanut Butter cups chopped up would be perfect on top of this great treat!

I rate this recipe a 9

Peanut Butter Torte
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan

1-1/4 c finely chopped salted peanuts (for the filling, crunch and topping)
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp instant espresso powder (or finely ground instant coffee)
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon (I DID NOT USE)
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (I DID NOT USE
1/2 cups mini chocolate chips (or finely chopped semisweet chocolate)
24 Oreo cookies, finely crumbed or ground in a food processor or blender (I USED NUTTER BUTTERS)
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Small pinch of salt
2-1/2 cups heavy cream
1-1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
12 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature (I USED 1/3 LESS FAT)
1-1/2 cup salted peanut butter – crunchy or smooth (not natural)
2 tbsp whole milk
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I USED SEMI-SWEET)

Getting ready:
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9″ Springform pan and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.

Toss 1/2 cup of the chopped peanuts, the sugar, espresso powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and chocolate chops together in a small bowl. Set aside. (I USED SOME CANDIED PEANUTS I MADE AS MENTIONED ABOVE)

Put the Oreo crumbs, melted butter and salt in another small bowl and stir with a fork just until crumbs are moistened. Press the crumbs evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the Springform pan (they should go up about 2″ on the sides). Freeze the crust for 10 minutes.
Bake the crust for 10 minutes, then transfer it to a rack and let it cool completely before filling.

Working with a stand mixer (fitted with the whisk attachment) or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, whip 2 cups of the cream until it holds medium peaks. Beat in 1/4 cup of the confectioners’ sugar and whip until the cream holds medium-firm peaks. Scrape the cream into a bowl and refrigerate until needed.
Wipe out (do not wash) the bowl, fit the stand mixer with the paddle attachment (if you have one), or continue with the hand mixer, and beat the cream cheese with the remaining 1 cup confectioners’ sugar on medium speed until the cream cheese is satiny smooth. Beat in the peanut butter, 1/4 cup of the chopped peanuts and the milk.
Using a large rubber spatula, gently stir in about one quarter of the whipped cream, just to lighten the mousse. Still working with the spatula, stir in the crunchy peanut mixture, then gingerly fold in the remaining whipped cream.
Scrape the mousse into the crust, mounding and smoothing the top.

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight; cover with plastic wrap as soon as the mousse firms

To Finish The Torte:
Put the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Leave the bowl over the water just until the chocolate softens and starts to melt, about 3 minutes; remove the bowl from the saucepan (I heated my chocolate in the microwave in 30 sec. intervals).

Bring the remaining 1/2 cup of cream to a full boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate and, working with a a rubber spatula, very gently stir together until the ganache is completely blended and glossy.

Pour the ganache over the torte, smoothing it with a metal icing spatula. Scatter the remaining 1/2 cup of peanuts over the top and chill to set the topping, about 20 minutes.

When the ganache is firm, remove the sides of the Springform pan. It’s easiest to warm the pan with a hairdryer, and then remove the sides, but you can also wrap a kitchen towel dampened with hot water around the pan and leave it there for 10 seconds.

Refrigerate until ready to serve

Quick Berry Tart

A quick post today as we are going to enjoy the warm, rain-free day!

This recipe has been featured on many many blogs and is originally from Dorie Greenspan. Please do not see the LONG recipe below and be scared. This is one easy dessert to make with very common ingredients you probably already have. This is not actually that ‘quick’ of a recipe unless you have the components ready to assemble so plan ahead by a day if you want to serve this. This dessert has been our ‘go to’ dessert for entertaining this summer. We can’t get enough.

The great thing about this recipe is that there only 3 components: the tart shell, the pastry cream and the berries. You can easily make the first two components a day or so in advance and then assemble when you are ready to serve. Like I said, that is where the “quick” comes in. Assemble and serve!

The Taste Tester is in love with this recipe. Quite literally, he has begged and pleaded for me to make this again, even though we just had this last week. He at the entire tart (well, all except for 1 piece  that I ate) in one day. I prefer if it is assembled about 3-5 hours before serving as the pastry cream softens the crust ever so much and makes it easier to eat with a fork.

I would not change a thing about this tart, it is easy to make, easy to assemble and such a great way to highlight fresh berries. Each component really does compliment the others and comes together to make this amazing dessert that is sure to impress your family and friends. The crust is light in texture with a slightly sweet flavor. The cream is rich and smooth with a slight vanilla flavor. The berries hold their own and make you thankful for summer.

I rate this recipe a 10

Summer Berry Tart
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan 

About 1 1/2 cups Pastry Cream, cooled or chilled (Recipe Below) (I used the entire recipe of pastry cream)
1 9″ tart shell made with Sweet Tart Dough or Sweet Tart Dough with Nuts (Recipes Below)
2 pints fresh berries (for example: raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, or strawberries)
1/3 cup red currant jelly mixed with 1 tsp of water, for glazing (I did NOT use)

Smooth the pastry cream by giving it a couple of strong turns with a whisk. Spoon enough pastry cream into the tart crust to come almost to the rim, then even the surfact with a rubber spatula. Carefully lay the berries on the cream, arranging them in any pattern that pleases you. If you are using strawberries, either halve them from top to bottom or slice them, depending on the size of the berries and your whim.

*I did NOT do the step below
Bring the jelly and the water to a boil in a microwave oven or on the stovetop. Working with a pastry brush or a pastry feather, dab each berry with a spot of jelly. Or, if you like, you can glaze the entire surface of the tart, including the bit of pastry cream that peeks through the berries.

Pastry Cream
Makes about 2 cups
Storing: The pastry cream can be kept tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

2 cups whole milk
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 TBSP unsalted butter, cut into bits at room temperature

Bring the milk to a boil in a small saucepan.

Meanwhile, in a medium heavy bottomed saucepan, whisk the yolks together with the sugar and cornstarch until thick and well blended. Still whisking, drizzle in about 1/4 cup of the hot milk- this will temper, or warm, the yolks so they won’t curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remainder of the milk. Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking vigorously, constantly and thoroughly (making sure to get into the edges of the pot), bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a boil, still whisking, for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.

Whisk in the vanilla extract. Let sit for 5 minutes, then whisk in the bits of butter, stirring until they are fully incorporated and the pastry cream is smooth and silky. Scrape the cream into a bowl. You can press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the cream to create an airtight seal and refrigerate the pastry cream until cold, or, if you want to cool it quickly – as I always do- put the bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water, and stir the pastry cream occasionally until it is thoroughly chilled, about 20 minutes.

Sweet Tart Dough
Makes 1 9″ Crust

Storing: Well wrapped, the dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 2 months. While the fully baked crust can be packed airtight and frozen for up to 2 months, I prefer to freeze the unbaked crust in the pan and bake it directly from the freezer – it has a fresher flavor. Just add about 5 minutes to the baking time.

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick plus 1 TBSP (9 TBSP) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

Put the flour, confectioners sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in – you should have some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas. Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses – about 10 seconds each- until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change- heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.

Butter a 9″ fluted tart pan with a removeable bottom. Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan, using all but one little piece of dough, which you should save in the refrigerator to patch any cracks after the crust is baked. Don’t be too heavy-handed – press the crust in so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.

Preheat the oven to 375. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. (Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights.) Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon.

Bake for another 8 minutes or so, or until it is firm and golden brown. (I dislike lightly baked crusts, so I often keep the crust in the oven just a little longer. If you do that, just make sure to keep a close eye on the crust’s progress- it can go from golden to way too dark in a flash.) Transfer the tart pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature before filling.

Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

My dad visited us a week ago and while he is not a huge sweet lover he does have a special place in his heart for chewy chocolate chip cookies. Not the cakey type, but just a nice soft cookie that you can sink your teeth into and that will hold up well after a quick dunk in some cold milk. Determined to please my father’s craving, I whipped a batch of cookies that I knew would fit the ‘soft and chewy’ bill.

I have had this recipe for what seems like a decade. I rarely make these, not because they are not good, but because I never seem to have their ‘special’ ingredient in my pantry. These cookies use vanilla pudding mix as their secret weapon  that allows them to remain soft and chewy long after cooling. It is the cornstarch in the pudding (or so I hear) that holds the magical power. You can use other flavors, I like butterscotch and vanilla the best. 

Just as I knew these would, they baked up gorgeous (slightly lighter in color that other cookies) and had the perfect texture my dad was looking for. How was the flavor? Well, for a non-sweet  eater, the proof in the taste was that he ate 6 of them right after he finished off steak and potatoes for dinner.

Like I said, these are not cakey but do bake up a bit fuller than other cookies. They remail soft and chewy after cooling and have great taste. If you have the ingredients, take some time and whip these up!

I am unsure where I received this recipe or where it originated from since it is on a random piece of paper in my cookbook but will give credit to the blog that most recently made these in my google.reader account.

I rate these cookies an 8.5
My dad rates these a 9.5

Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
as seen here

2 1/4 cup AP flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup  brown sugar
1/4 cup  granulated sugar
1 small (3.4oz) pkg vanilla instant pudding mix (or other flavor)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups chocolate chips (i used milk chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate)

Preheat your oven to 350. Line yourbaking sheet with parchment.
In a bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt.

In a large mixing  bowl, beat together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes.
Add the pudding mix and mix until combined. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping the bowl after each addition eggs. Add vanilla.
Slowly add the flour mixture to the batter and mix just to combine.
Fold in the chocolate chips.

Drop rounded spoonfulls of cookie dough onto prepared pan.
Bake cookies 10-12 minutes, until slightly golden and set.
Let  cool on sheet for 3 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool fully.


Double Fudge Pie


If you are a reader of my blog you know that I am not a ‘pie’ person, you can tell this by the lack of pie recipes on this blog. The only pie I have ever really enjoyed is pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, not sure if it is the holiday spirit or the high from overeating turkey, stuffing and taters, but that pie just hits the spot!

I decided I wanted to give pie a chance and thought the best bet at finding a recipe I would like is if it involved peanut butter and/or chocolate. I have had this recipes forever, I really have no idea where it comes from so email me if it is yours and want credit. This recipe has been on a piece of scratch paper taped in my recipe binder just begging to get made, in fact, it has so many stains on it it looks like a casualty of war.  Poor thing, I felt sorry for neglecting it and whipped it up.

Boy am I glad I did. It was so super simple to make and I had it whipped up and in the oven in 15 minutes! A quick 25 minutes later and this baby was ready. I used a pre-made pie crust this time for a couple reasons. 1. I was lazy. 2. I had one to use up. 3. I don’t like pie crust so don’t feel passionately about slaving over making one from scratch. I am bad, I know. Now you know my dirty little little shame. I hate pie crust. But, i couldn’t wait to dig into this fudgey  little temptation. I allowed it to cool slightly before slicing up a piece.

The flavor is rich and fudgy (but not too gooey) thanks to the cocoa powder and brown sugar.  It tastes like a fudgey brownie baked in a pie shell (which is basically what it is). I must admit, however, that I may bake this without the pie shell next time (will it still be a pie then? if I use a pie plate?) I am just not a lover of pie crust and while I really liked this pie, I just felt the crust did not add anything. Maybe if I used a crushed Oreo crust I would feel differently. I loved the chocolate chips and walnuts throughout the pie, they provided a nice flavor boost as well. I must say that the best way to enjoy this is warm with a scoop of vanilla icecream and some hot fudge.

If you like pie crust and brownies than this pie is for you. If you don’t like pie crusts than give this filling a try on its own or with a different crust like I might. Either way, this was a great pie for me to wet my feet with. It is my goal to try more pies this summer……we will see.

I rate this recipe a 7 (but has potential)

Double Fudge Pie
6 TBS butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
3 large eggs
2 TBS cocoa powder
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
1 cup chopped toasted walnuts (optional)

1 pie shell, unbaked

Preheat oven to 375
Melt butter, brown sugar, sugar and chocolate chips in double boiler over hot water. Stirring until smooth.
Cool and add the eggs.
Mix the flour, cocoa powder, chocolate chips and walnuts in a bowl. Add tot he chocolate mixture and stir until blended. Add vanilla and stir to combine.

Pour into pie crust and bake for 25 minutes. Cool and serve.

* I par-baked my crust for 10 minutes so it would not get too soggy in baking.

Lemon Cheesecake with Lemon Curd topping

Wow.
That is the only description you need for this cheesecake. I originally saw this recipe on this blog and put off making it for months since I don’t like lemon. I know, why save a recipe for a flavor you don’t like? It just called my name, that is all I can say. I finally answered (my loving husband had suggested I bake something with lemon for him) and baked this up a few months back and was BLOWN away! It really is one of the best cheesecakes I have ever made or eaten.  Let me rephrase, I do not like lemon but I LOVED this cheesecake. I have made it 3 times in the past few months and this was the birthday ‘cake’ of choice my sweet husband chose for me to make for him on his special day  last month. He just can’t get enough of it.

Don’t be intimidated by the recipe. There are 3 components to this recipe but each is very simple: the crust, the filling and the lemon curd topping. All three come together nicely to create a little slice of heaven.The filling of this cheesecake did require just a bit more prep than my usual cheesecake since I had to zest a few lemons but the extra 5 minutes I put in was well rewarded in the end. Like usual this cheesecake is whipped up in a flash (about 10 minutes if everything is room temp) and in the oven in no time.

The only down side to baking cheesecakes is that while they are a cinch to whip up and bake; you have to wait at least 10 hours (I prefer 24 hours at least) to eat a slice as it must be chilled after it comes to room temperature. Since I was in the kitchen already and making dishes for the husband to wash, i chose to make the lemon curd while the cheesecake baked and then stored it and the cooled cheesecake in the fridge for 24 hours before topping it with the lemon curd and serving.

You could wait and make it the day you want to serve it if you don’t have time to whip it up the same day you bake the cheesecake. I almost didn’t want to cover the top of the cheesecake since after was baked and cooled there were NO cracks at all, just a perfectly smooth top. But, how could I say ‘no’ to that bright and sunny lemon curd? After topping the cooled cheesecake I then chilled it for a few more hours before we cut into this beauty.  I find this cheesecake to taste its best 2-3 days after baking it. Something magical happens to cheesecake as it chills in the fridge. The texture of this cheesecake itself is creamy but not too light and not too dense, rich with subtle hints of lemon shining through. The real lemon star is the lemon curd. It is slightly sweet, slightly tangy and just pairs so well with the coolness and creaminess of the cheesecake. These two were made for each other!

I chose to use a graham cracker crust because that is all we had and I wouldn’t change a thing.   If you are scared of cheesecakes, don’t be. If you don’t like lemon, try this you may surprise yourself. If you need no reason to make this recipe, find one. AFterall Spring is just around the corner and what better way to celebrate than with this!

A tip: be sure to use a NON reactive pan for the lemon curd. If you do not it may have a ‘metallic’ taste. I have had luck using a glass bowl setting snugly over simmering water (similar to a double boiler, or how some people melt chocolate)

I rate this recipe a 9.5
Lemon Cheesecake with Lemon Curd
The New Best Recipe

CRUST
5 ounces Nabisco’s Barnum’s Animal Crackers (I used graham cracker crumbs)
3 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and kept warm

FILLING
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon grated zest
1/4 cup juice from 1-2 lemons
24 oz cream cheese, cut into 1 inch chunks, at room temperature
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
(I used 1/4 tsp lemon extract)
LEMON CURD
1/3 cup juice (from about 2 lemons) (I used a bit more)
2 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 tablespoon heavy cream (I used 2 tablespoons)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt

FOR THE CRUST
Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and preheat the oven to 325F. In a food processor, process the animal crackers until you have fine crumbs. You should have about 1 cup. Add in the sugar and pulse. In a steady stream, add the butter while pulsing, about 10 1-second pulses. Transfer the crumb mixture to a 9-inch springform pan and press evenly into the bottom. Bake until fragrant and golden brown. The instructions say 15 to 18 minutes, but mine was done at about 12 minutes, so keep an eye on it. Cool on a wire rack to room temperature. When cool, wrap the pan with 2 18-inch square pieces of foil. Set the pan in a roasting pan.

FOR THE FILLING
Process 1/4 cup of the sugar and the lemon zest in a food processor until the zest is broken down and the sugar turns yellow. Transfer to a small bowl and mix in the rest of the sugar.
In a bow of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese to break it up and soften it slightly, about 5 seconds. With the machine is running, add the sugar mixture in a slow stream; increase the speed to medium and beat until combined, creamy and smooth – about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Reduce the speed to medium low and add the eggs, 2 at a time. Beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Scrape the bowl before each addition. Add the lemon juice, vanilla and salt and mix to combine. Add the cream and mix until incorporated, about another 5 seconds. Give the bowl a final scrape and pour the mixture into the prepared springform pan. Fill the roasting pan with enough water to make it about halfway up the sides of the pan. Bake until the center jiggles slightly, the sides start to puff, and the surface is no longer shiny, about 55 to 60 minutes. The center should read about 150 degrees F. Turn off the oven and prop the door of the oven open with a potholder or wooden spoon. Allow the cake to cool in the water bath in the oven for about an hour. Transfer the springform pan to a wire rack and run a small paring knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the cake. Let it sit to room temperature for 2 hours.

FOR THE CURD
While the cheesecake is baking, heat the lemon juice in a small non-reactive pan on medium heat until hot, but not boiling. Whisk the eggs in a small bowl, then gradually whisk in the sugar. Whisking constantly, slowly pour the hot lemon juice into the egg/sugar mixture, then return the mixture to the saucepan and continue to heat over medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture reaches 170 F and is thick enough to cling to the spoon, about 3 minutes. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and add in the cold butter and mix until incorporated. Stir in the cream, vanilla and salt, then pour through a strainer into a small nonreactive bowl. Cover the surface of the curd directly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.

TO ASSEMBLE
When the cheesecake is cook, top it with the lemon curd while still in the springform pan. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 5 hours, but 24 hours is better. To serve, remove the sides of the springform pan and cut into wedges