Cakey Lemon Bars

This recipe showed up in my Google Reader a while back and I immediately bookmarked them. My Taste Tester and I love a good lemon dessert and we are in love with the lemon cheesecake I make each year for his birthday. I have tried other lemon bar recipes and was excited to give this recipe a whirl.

The texture of these bars is more cake like than a typical lemon bar (as the name states). I  thought I would like these more than I did. The lemon flavor was mild and pleasing but there is just something ‘missing’ with this recipe for me to make them again. Overall I liked them but they just did not ‘wow’ me. I may have had too high of expectations though. I did really enjoy the glaze and may use that on some fruit or on a white chocolate blondie to mix it up a bit. My Taste Tester thought they were “OK” as well but has not asked for them again which is usually a sign that the recipe is not a keeper for our house.

If you like lemon and are looking for a twist on a lemon bar, give these a go, the recipe is simple and easy and the bars are good for a refreshing summer treat.  I would recommend eating these cool as the flavor does get better after a day or so.

I rate these a 6

Cakey Lemon Bars
from here
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
2 large eggs
2 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon zest
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Spray an 8-by-8-inch baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
Zest and juice two small lemons; set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixture fitted with the paddle attachement, beat the flour, sugar, salt, and softened butter until combined.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, lemon zest, and lemon juice until combined. Pour into the flour mixture and beat at medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes.
Pour into baking dish and bake for 25 minutes, or until just starting to turn golden around the edges and a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before glazing.
When brownies are cooled completely, make the glaze by whisking together all three ingredients. Spread over the brownies with a rubber spatula, cut into bars, and serve!

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.

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