I confess, I love everything lemon. The more lemon desserts the better. Perhaps it’s the combination of tart and sweet that appeals, or the citrusy scent that gives a zing to the senses. The bottom line is I’ve never met a lemony dessert I didn’t like. When everyone is ordering double chocolate cake I’m looking for a lemon bar, cake, tart, mousse or meringue.
This recipe comes from a fabulous blog called Pretty. Simple. Sweet. I made these cheesecake bars for a dinner party last year and there wasn’t a single crumb left. They are very rich (don’t even think about the calories) with a luscious smooth and creamy texture. I added candied lemon slices (because – more lemon!) and some strawberries for a pop of color.
These are a definite indulgence for Valentine’s Day.
LEMON WHITE CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE BARS
1 cup vanilla wafer crumbs (pulse in a food processor or blender until finely ground, then measure)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
¼ cup heavy whipping cream
16 ounces full-fat cream cheese, room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
White chocolate chips for sprinkling (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350F. Line an 8×8-inch baking pan with parchment paper, leaving enough overhang on the sides for lifting the cheesecake out after baking.
In a medium bowl, stir the crumbs and melted butter together. Put mixture in the lined pan and gently press with your fingers until crumbs form an even layer. Bake for 8 minutes. Allow to cool while you prepare the filling.
Reduce oven temperature to 300F.
In a medium heat-proof bowl, combine the white chocolate and heavy whipping cream. Melt in the microwave in 20 second-intervals, stirring between each interval, until melted. Alternatively, set the mixture over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally.
In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add sugar and beat for another 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as necessary. Add eggs, one at a time, until fully combined. Add vanilla, lemon zest and juice and beat until incorporated and smooth. Stir in the chocolate mixture and mix until combined.
Pour batter over the cooled crust and spread evenly. Sprinkle with chocolate chips if desired. Bake for about 45 minutes. The center of the cake should be slightly wobbly when it’s taken out of the oven. Allow the cake to sit at room temperature for 1 hour, then refrigerate for 4 hours (or, preferably, overnight) until completely set. Lift the cake out of the pan using the parchment paper and cut into squares.
Yields: 8×8-inch pan (16 bars)
Candied Lemon Slices
2 small lemons
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup water
Cut lemons into 1/8-inch-thick rounds; discard seeds. Stir together sugar, lemon juice, and water in a large skillet over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Add lemon slices, and simmer gently, keeping slices in a single layer and turning occasionally, 14 to 16 minutes or until slightly translucent and rinds are softened. Remove from heat. Place slices in a single layer in a wax paper-lined jelly-roll pan, using tongs. Cool completely (about 1 hour). Cover and chill 2 hours to 2 days.
Place chilled candied lemon slices on cheesecake bars. Top lemons with strawberry slices, if desired.