The weather in the Pacific Northwest has been unusual, to say the least. Sunny and in the 70s and 80s off and on for the past two weeks–this is not April weather people! Where’s my rain? And my cloudy, 60 degree weather? I am feeling a bit gypped by Mother Nature. It’s like winter jumped right into summer. Okay, I am beginning to sound like a whiny toddler, and I already have one of those, so two isn’t needed.
My husband and children love lemon, and, well, since it’s summer here I thought I’d make a lemon dessert. What I love about this recipe is the raspberry jam sandwiched between the crust and the lemon cream cheese layer. It adds a nice contrast. These bars are rich, so a little goes a long way. If you don’t like jam, or the thought of it sounds weird next to lemon, you can omit it, but I’m telling you, the jam makes the bars. Enjoy! xoxo
Creamy Lemon Bars
20 Nilla wafers, finely crushed
½ c + 2 T flour, divided
¼ c packed brown sugar
¼ c (½ stick) cold unsalted butter
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1 c sugar
3 T lemon zest
¼ c fresh lemon juice, from about 4 lemons
¼ t baking powder
¾ c – 1 c raspberry jam (optional)
Powdered sugar, for dusting
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8-inch square pan with aluminum foil, so the foil hangs over the edge. Crimp it around the edge of the pan; set aside.
To make the crust, in a large mixing bowl gently mix the crushed wafers, ½ c flour, and brown sugar. Using a sharp knife, cut the butter into small pieces and add to the mixture. With your hands, or a pastry blender, mix the butter in until the mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Press into the bottom of the pan and bake for 10 minutes. Let cool slightly.
While the crust bakes, in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and sugar until well blended, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs and remaining flour; mix well. Gently add the lemon zest, lemon juice, and baking powder.
When the crust has cooled about 5 minutes, spread the raspberry jam over the warm crust, making sure to go all the way to the edges. Add the cream cheese mixture.
Return to the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the edges are slightly golden brown and the middle has set. (You can gently shake the pan and if the middle jiggles slightly, it’s done.)
Place on a cooling rack until completely cool, then put in the fridge for 2 hours or overnight. Use the foil to bring the dessert out of the pan and dust with powdered sugar before cutting into bars.
NOTE: If you can’t find Nilla wafers, any small, crispy shortbread cookie will do.