Lemon Cheesecake Bars. Omit this one ingredient for Vanilla Cheesecake Bars. Totally Delicious and Versatile!

Lemon Cheesecake Bars. Omit this one ingredient for Vanilla Cheesecake Bars. Totally Delicious and Versatile!

Classic New York Style Cheesecake is my absolute favourite dessert. But it’s not always practical. It takes more effort, more time, more precision. It’s harder to bring places, harder to transport… And to enjoy it – you will need a plate and a fork. So it doesn’t always work if you want to bring it to a party or a potluck. Lemon cheesecake bars, on the other hand, are perfect for that purpose!

They take less time to make, they are so easy to transport and bring anywhere you go and don’t require a plate and a fork – simply grab a bar and enjoy!

Furthermore, they are so versatile! Omit lemon zest and you have classic vanilla cheesecake bars (refer to the recipe for the exact instructions.) Top them with cherry pie filling (I generally refrain from all things canned… but cherry pie filling is my one weakness!!!,) homemade lemon curd, fresh fruit, lemon zest… or simply nothing! One perfect cheesecake bar – endless possibilities!

You are definitely getting invited back to the party if you bring these bars!

The recipe is adapted from Kingarthurflour.com.

To make this a Vanilla Cheesecake, increase vanilla from 2 to 3 teaspoons and omit the lemon peel.

Yields16 Servings

For the Crust:
 1 ¼ cups graham cracker crumbs (1 sleeve or 5 oz)
 5 tbsp butter, melted
 ¼ cup powdered sugar
  tsp salt
For the Cheesecake:
 2 packages of cream cheese (16 oz total,) at room temp
 4 tsp OPTIONAL flour (PLEASE see note)
 ½ tsp zest of 1 lemon
 2 tbsp lemon juice
 pinch of salt
 2 tsp vanilla
 ¾ cup plus 1 TBSP sugar
 3 eggs, cold from the fridge
 ¼ cup sour cream or heavy cream, at room temp
 Optional garnishes of choice: Feel free to top with lemon peel for garnish, whipped cream, cherry pie filling, fresh fruit or lemon curd

1

Preheat the oven to 375°.

Line 8x8" baking dish with aluminum foil. Ensure the sides of the foil overhang so that the cheesecake could be lifted out of the pan with ease later. Grease lightly.

2

For the crust:

Crush your Graham Crackers. You can do that in a food processor, blender or simply put in Ziplock bag and smash with a rolling pin. Stir in sugar and salt and mix to combine. Pour melted butter over the mixture. Press into the bottom of an 8x8" square baking dish.

Bake the crust for 8-10 minutes until set. Don't expect the colour to change much. Set aside to cool.

In the meantime reduce the oven to 325°.

3

In the bowl of your stand mixer beat cream cheese and flour (if using, please see note) until smooth for about 3 minutes. Stop and scrape the sides and at that point add vanilla, lemon juice, salt, lemon peel. Beat for another 3 minutes or so.

4

Add the sugar all at once and beat for about 2 minutes until combined.

5

This next step could be optional but it's used by pastry chefs to achieve the flawless texture of the cheesecake. Place a fine-mesh sieve over your cheesecake bowl and place your eggs in it. With the rubber spatula, press and whisk the eggs until they pass through the sieve; discard clot-like bits that remain. It may seem impossible at first and that the eggs will never pass through, but trust the process with a bit of patience, and they will!

Then gently mix the eggs in on low. It's important to mix the batter on low for a minute or two, as mixing it on higher speed would aerate the batter too much, and these air bubbles may contribute to cracks.

I've attached a picture of what's left behind in a fine-mesh sieve. Doesn't look appetizing, does it? This step ensures all of those "clots" with the unpleasant textures, don't make it into your cheesecake.

6

Again, stop and scrape down the sides of your bowl with a rubber spatula. Add sour cream (or heavy cream) and mix on low for just another minute until combined. Pour the batter into prepared cooled crust.

7

Bake the bars for around 40-45 minutes, until the filling is set but still jiggly and soft in the centre. Remember, your cheesecake will set as it cools.

If you measure with an instant-read thermometer 1" from the edge - the temperature should be about 180°.

8

When baked, turn the oven off, leave the door of the oven wide open, pull out the racks gently so the cheesecake is almost on the outside of the oven. This will facilitate the cooling process while the residual heat from the oven will make the process more gradual, which will prevent cracks. Do this for about 20 minutes at which point finish cooling at room temperature.

After an hour at room temperature, cover your cooled cheesecake with the plastic wrap (ensure no trace of warmth remains) and place into the fridge to chill.

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours for the cheesecake to set. But if you have an opportunity, allow your bars to refrigerate overnight - this will result in cleanest most precise cuts.

9

Slice cheesecake into bars. Run a sharp knife under hot water and wipe dry with a paper towel between slices.

Feel free to top with lemon peel for garnish, whipped cream, cherry pie filling, fresh fruit or lemon curd right before serving.

Note:
10

I don't typically add flour to cheesecakes. But for these cheesecake bars that are quite tall and very creamy, flour provides a bit more sturdiness and assurance that this bar sometimes needs. This especially applies if you don't use the thermometer to check the internal temperature. I tested this recipe and baked it to less than recommended 180° internal temperature (1" from the edge,) and although they were delicious, they too delicate and creamy to be considered a bar.

Personally, I will continue omitting flour when baking these as long as I measure the temperature as in the directions.

Ingredients

For the Crust:
 1 ¼ cups graham cracker crumbs (1 sleeve or 5 oz)
 5 tbsp butter, melted
 ¼ cup powdered sugar
  tsp salt
For the Cheesecake:
 2 packages of cream cheese (16 oz total,) at room temp
 4 tsp OPTIONAL flour (PLEASE see note)
 ½ tsp zest of 1 lemon
 2 tbsp lemon juice
 pinch of salt
 2 tsp vanilla
 ¾ cup plus 1 TBSP sugar
 3 eggs, cold from the fridge
 ¼ cup sour cream or heavy cream, at room temp
 Optional garnishes of choice: Feel free to top with lemon peel for garnish, whipped cream, cherry pie filling, fresh fruit or lemon curd

Directions

1

Preheat the oven to 375°.

Line 8x8" baking dish with aluminum foil. Ensure the sides of the foil overhang so that the cheesecake could be lifted out of the pan with ease later. Grease lightly.

2

For the crust:

Crush your Graham Crackers. You can do that in a food processor, blender or simply put in Ziplock bag and smash with a rolling pin. Stir in sugar and salt and mix to combine. Pour melted butter over the mixture. Press into the bottom of an 8x8" square baking dish.

Bake the crust for 8-10 minutes until set. Don't expect the colour to change much. Set aside to cool.

In the meantime reduce the oven to 325°.

3

In the bowl of your stand mixer beat cream cheese and flour (if using, please see note) until smooth for about 3 minutes. Stop and scrape the sides and at that point add vanilla, lemon juice, salt, lemon peel. Beat for another 3 minutes or so.

4

Add the sugar all at once and beat for about 2 minutes until combined.

5

This next step could be optional but it's used by pastry chefs to achieve the flawless texture of the cheesecake. Place a fine-mesh sieve over your cheesecake bowl and place your eggs in it. With the rubber spatula, press and whisk the eggs until they pass through the sieve; discard clot-like bits that remain. It may seem impossible at first and that the eggs will never pass through, but trust the process with a bit of patience, and they will!

Then gently mix the eggs in on low. It's important to mix the batter on low for a minute or two, as mixing it on higher speed would aerate the batter too much, and these air bubbles may contribute to cracks.

I've attached a picture of what's left behind in a fine-mesh sieve. Doesn't look appetizing, does it? This step ensures all of those "clots" with the unpleasant textures, don't make it into your cheesecake.

6

Again, stop and scrape down the sides of your bowl with a rubber spatula. Add sour cream (or heavy cream) and mix on low for just another minute until combined. Pour the batter into prepared cooled crust.

7

Bake the bars for around 40-45 minutes, until the filling is set but still jiggly and soft in the centre. Remember, your cheesecake will set as it cools.

If you measure with an instant-read thermometer 1" from the edge - the temperature should be about 180°.

8

When baked, turn the oven off, leave the door of the oven wide open, pull out the racks gently so the cheesecake is almost on the outside of the oven. This will facilitate the cooling process while the residual heat from the oven will make the process more gradual, which will prevent cracks. Do this for about 20 minutes at which point finish cooling at room temperature.

After an hour at room temperature, cover your cooled cheesecake with the plastic wrap (ensure no trace of warmth remains) and place into the fridge to chill.

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours for the cheesecake to set. But if you have an opportunity, allow your bars to refrigerate overnight - this will result in cleanest most precise cuts.

9

Slice cheesecake into bars. Run a sharp knife under hot water and wipe dry with a paper towel between slices.

Feel free to top with lemon peel for garnish, whipped cream, cherry pie filling, fresh fruit or lemon curd right before serving.

Note:
10

I don't typically add flour to cheesecakes. But for these cheesecake bars that are quite tall and very creamy, flour provides a bit more sturdiness and assurance that this bar sometimes needs. This especially applies if you don't use the thermometer to check the internal temperature. I tested this recipe and baked it to less than recommended 180° internal temperature (1" from the edge,) and although they were delicious, they too delicate and creamy to be considered a bar.

Personally, I will continue omitting flour when baking these as long as I measure the temperature as in the directions.

Lemon Cheesecake Squares

Make it Gluten-Free: Replace Graham Crackers with Gluten-Free wafers or Graham Crackers. Do not add optional flour to the cheesecake batter. As with all gluten-free recipes, ensure all your ingredients are gluten free and not cross-contaminated.

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