Of course each of my recipes has to have a story. I don't know why--perhaps it's because there is a source of inspiration for each of them. Maybe I simply can't stop myself from being a storyteller. Whatever the case, today's post and recipe has my favorite source of inspiration: good friends. Recently we went North to Sonoma, CA to visit a dear family friend with another dear friend in tow. Our Sonoma friend had in her courtyard a few healthy yet gnarled lemon trees which were heavy with the most enormous lemons I have ever seen in my life. for context, they were considerably larger than softballs. I'll have to get her to take a picture, because I didn't think of it. I am a little embarrassed to say that I didn't think of taking one, either, despite the overabundance. It was the dear friend we had brought with us who suggested we take one and that I do something special with it. And it is a special lemon. The ones you let get heavy on the tree and which are plucked immediately are sweeter, but at the same time more redolent of citrus fragrance.
I'm finally getting around to that project, so in honor of dear friends, I present my creamy, dreamy, deliciously citrus-y and just a little bit tart lemon cheesecake bars. To enhance the lemon flavor I used lemon extract and to really compliment the sharp cheesecake filling I used some sweet and buttery vanilla wafers in the crust. The zest was put into this dessert and I used the juice to make fresh lemonade which was absolutely fabulous.
Lemon Cheesecake Bars
makes one 9" square pan
For the crust:
2 graham crackers, crushed to crumbs
12 Nilla Wafers, crushed
3 Tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
Zest of 1/4 lemon
1. Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly. Press into the bottom of pan. If you don't have a square springform pan, line the inside of your square pan with parchment paper to make the cheesecake easier to remove.
2. Cover pan and refrigerate for one hour.
3. Meanwhile, make filling (see ingredients below).
Ingredients for filling:
(2) 8 ounce packages of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup cream
2 teaspoons lemon extract
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 Tablespoon cornstarch
Zest of 1 enormous lemon or two large lemons
1. Preheat oven to 325.
2. Combine all filling ingredients, mixing thoroughly.
3. Pour over crust and bake until the cheesecake has set, 40 to 50 minutes.
4. Cut into squares and serve with an optional garnish of candied lemon peels or candied lemon slices.