You will forever bless the day you came across the recipe for these White Chocolate Lemon Cheesecake Bars.
I am totally not kidding: long before you even get a chance to grab a bite from one of these babies, they will already have your brains doing backflips and drooling all over your self-control.
Indeed, the intoxicating smell that emanates from the oven as they bake is so heavenly, you’ll think you’ve suddenly found yourself catapulted to a beautiful place somewhere above the clouds and that you are sitting on one of those light balls of cotton, surrounded by a choir of angels singing in perfect unison.
And then, at one point, the smell will be so exhilarating, you won’t be able to take it anymore; you’ll probably find yourself wanting to breakdance across the kitchen floor!
That’s how good they smell… Now can you imagine how great they taste?
Let me try and give you an idea: these bars, they’re so crazy tasty and amazingly delicious, you’ll want to pretend that they’re a bar of soap so that you can rub them all over your skin and cover your entire body in their tangy, lemony sweetness.
Everything about these bars is flawlessly perfect: I can’t even begin to describe how impeccably the tanginess of the lemon gets tamed by the delicate sweetness of the white chocolate, and how well the creaminess of the cheese filling contrasts with the slight crunchiness of the graham cracker crust and soft chewiness of the top cookie layer. The addition of melted white chocolate to that cheese batter really makes it ultra rich and creamy, too!
Then of course, you get a little bit of sweet and salty action going on… like just the perfect amount. Oh, I wish I could find the words to tell you just how utterly PERFECT these are. They are without a doubt one of the best things that I’ve eaten in my entire life, and I really do mean that! They simply taste like paradise.
Do yourself a favor, make a batch right this minute. And don’t you dare cutting it in half; you would sorely regret it… Besides, these bars freeze perfectly well, should you feel the need to save some for later.
Honestly, though? I doubt that will happen!
Step-by-step instructions with pictures immediately follow recipe…
- 2½ cups (315g | 11oz) graham cracker crumbs
- 1/2 cup (100g | 3.5oz) granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup (120g | 4oz) butter, melted
- 2- (227g | 8oz) packages full fat cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 cup (100g | 3.5oz) granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tbsp pure lemon extract
- the zest of 1 lemon
- the seeds of 1 vanilla bean
- 1 cup (175g | 6.25oz) white chocolate, melted
- 3/4 cup (180g | 6oz) butter, softened
- 1 1/2 cup (300g | 10.5oz) granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp pure lemon extract
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract, (store-bought or homemade)
- the zest of 1 lemon
- 2 cups (240g | 8.5oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1½ tp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt (I use Himalayan)
- 1½ cup (270g | 9.5oz) white chocolate chips
- Preheat the oven to 350°F
- Grease and line a 9" x 13" baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a bit of an overhang on either side for easy removal of the bars.
- Combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter in a large mixing bowl. Mix until well combined and press this mixture firmly into the bottom of the prepared baking pan. Set aside.
- Beat the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla seeds with an electric mixer until well combined and smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, lemon extract and lemon zest and resume beating until light and airy, about 2 minutes.
- Finally, add the melted white chocolate and quickly beat it in until well incorporated, then pour this filling over the reserved crust and spread all the way to the edge. Set aside.
- Beat the butter and sugar on medium speed for 2 minutes, then add the eggs, vanilla and lemon extracts and lemon zest and resume beating until combined.
- Mix flour, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl and add to the butter mixture, then beat on low speed until the mixture is well combined but resembles very coarse sand or gravel. Delicately fold in the white chocolate chips. Drop the dough by large spoonfuls onto the top of the cheesecake layer and then spread gently with your fingertips until completely covered.
- Bake for about 30 minutes, or until lightly browned, then allow to cool completely in the pan. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or better yet overnight, then remove from the pan, slice and serve cold or at room temperature.
Recipe adapted from Shugary Sweets' Lemon Cheesecake Bars
Step-by-step instructions and pictures
Preheat the oven to 350°F
Alright now, let’s make the crust
Combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter in a large mixing bowl.
Mix until well combined and transfer to the prepared baking dish.
Press the graham cracker crust firmly into the bottom of the pan. I like using a glass to do that, but your hands would work just as well. Just make sure that you press that crust firmly and evenly across the entire surface of the pan.
Set aside, while we work on…
THE CHEESECAKE FILLING
Beat the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla seeds with an electric mixer until well combined and smooth, about 2 minutes.
If you didn’t have any fresh vanilla beans, you could always use good vanilla extract instead, but you would be missing out on the elegant and distinctive little black specks that the vanilla seeds contribute to this wonderful cheese filling, a sure sign of quality! Plus, the flavor of fresh is simply unparalleled. I strongly recommend you go for it, if you can!
Time to add the eggs, lemon extract and lemon zest to that filling…
and then resume beating until the mixture becomes light and airy, about 2 minutes.
Finally, add the melted white chocolate…
…and quickly beat it in until well incorporated.
Don’t be too long before you start beating the white chocolate in, otherwise you run the risk that your chocolate will start to set and make little lumps in the filling. Not that it matters all THAT much, it would only add a little bit of texture, but still…
It’s preferable that you act fairly quickly here. So don’t go answering the phone or the door while that pool of white chocolate is sitting there.
Now pour this beautiful, light and airy lemony cheese filling over the reserved crust…
…and delicately spread it all the way to the edge with a rubber or offset spatula.
As you can see, there’s no need to make the top super nice and smooth here; I’d even say that a little unevenness is not a bad thing at all…
Alright, now you can lick your bowl and spatula clean and then put everything aside. It’s time to work on the final layer:
THE COOKIE LAYER
Beat the butter and sugar on medium speed for about 2 minutes, then add the eggs, vanilla and lemon extracts and lemon zest.
Resume beating until combined, about 1 minute.
Don’t expect this mixture to become smooth and fluffy because it won’t. In fact, you will find that it remains sort of grainy and thick, with a slight tendency to separate. That’s perfectly okay.
In another large bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt together and then add them to this butter mixture.
Beat on low speed until all the ingredients are well combined but resemble very coarse sand or gravel.
Delicately fold in the white chocolate chips…
And then drop the dough by large spoonfuls right on top of the cheesecake layer.
Spread gently with your fingertips until the entire surface is covered.
Bake the bars for about 30 minutes, or until lightly browned, then allow to cool completely in the pan.
Yes, I’m serious. I know that by this point, the house is smelling insanely delicious and you’re probably losing your mind. All you want to do is have one of those heavenly smelling things that just came out of your oven. Or maybe, you’re even thinking that you could sit yourself down with the entire pan and eat it with a spoon, while no one’s looking.
But trust me, you don’t want to be doing this. First off, these babies will slice MUCH better when they’re cold (in fact, they won’t slice well at all while they’re still warm, so you shouldn’t even attempt it, unless you are wanting to eat white chocolate and lemon cheesecake crumble), and segundo, their flavor is like a million times greater when they are chilled. For realz!
So be good and, after they’ve had a chance to cool down some, send your bars to the fridge and leave them in there for AT LEAST 4 hours or better yet overnight. I know, I know: these babies smell so good, they will probably be calling your name in your sleep, but I’m sure you can do it. Worse comes to worst, if their voice gets too loud, you can always sleep with ear plugs…
When the bars are fully chilled (can you says FINALLY?) remove them from the pan, slice into 18 to 24 squares and… (I was gonna say serve, but there’s just one more thing I need to say before I can do that…Almost done, promise!)
About that slicing, I find that a long serrated knife works best for this job. Rather than pushing on the knife, hold it horizontally against the bars and gently saw your way through the layers, while supporting the bars with your other hand. Cut one entire row of at a time and then cut each row separately into individual cookie bars.
AND NOW FINALLY!!!!
You can sit yourself down and enjoy a moment of pure bliss, thinking that you have about 17 to 23 more to come!
Unless you decide to share those bars, that is. Which you totally should (although maybe you should consider charging for them… I say $10 a bar is a pretty good price!)
I’m just kidding, of course. Go make those bars, and make some friends!