Updated: Feb 13, 2021
Happy 2021! I am so very excited to start fresh into a brand new year. Last year was the longest and most stressful year of my life, like I am sure it was for so many. That says a lot for someone who went to medical school and completed a residency program as well. It felt like there were more valleys than peaks but overall I survived. 2021 is already off to a great start for me.
I have a small but mighty potted Meyer lemon tree in my backyard. I decided the best way to start this brand new year was to literally turn lemons into lemonade. Well something even better than lemonade actually, Limoncello. My tree had a bountiful season so I had plenty of lemons to pick and peel for my spirits. After making my limoncello (See recipe here), I had an abundance of lemon juice left over and I was definitely not going to let it go to waste.
Not only do I love baking but I also live for fashion! I love watching the trends and colors for the season and creating my own spin on things. This year Pantone chose this gorgeous yellow color called 'Illuminating' as the Color of the Year and I became so inspired. Not only was I ready to incorporate this positively amazing color into my wardrobe but I also was eager to incorporate it into my kitchen. I got to work and created two new Sprinkle Mixes inspired by this radiant color. I also knew exactly what to do with my left over lemon juice, make lemon bars!
These are not your average lemon bars either. These illuminating lemon bars go the next step with cream cheese to make them even creamier and add more pucker. Everyone who has tried these lemon bars so far have raved about them.
Check out the recipe and step by step video below.
Lemon Bars (adaptive from Martha Stewart's Lemon Squares recipe)
For the crust:
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks), unsalted butter, frozen. (plus more for dish)
1 ¾ cups all purpose flour
¾ cup confectioner's sugar
¾ tsp. kosher salt
For the Cheesecake filling:
8oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
For the lemon filling:
4 large eggs
1 ⅓ cups of granulated sugar
¾ cup of fresh lemon juice
3 tbsp. all purpose flour
¼ tsp. kosher salt
Confectioner's sugar, for dusting
Lemonade Sprinkle Mix for decorating, optional
Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 9 x 13" glass baking dish and line it with parchment paper. (Be sure to leave enough paper overhang for handles).
Make the crust by grating butter on a cheese grater with large holes into a medium sized bowl; set aside.
In a separate large bowl, whisk together flour, confectioners' sugar and salt. Add butter; stir with a wooden spoon or large spatula until combined and mixture looks crumbly.
Transfer mixture to prepared dish; press evenly onto bottom with your hands. Freeze crust for 15 minutes. Transfer the crust from freezer to oven and bake crust for 16-18 minutes. Bake until crust is slightly golden.
While crust is freezing and baking, make your fillings.
In a separate medium sized bowl whisk together cream cheese, granulated sugar, egg and vanilla. Whisk until filling is creamy and fully combined. Set aside.
In another medium sized bowl whisk together eggs, granulated sugar, flour and salt until smooth. Slowly pour in lemon juice while mixer is on low speed.
Smooth cream cheese mixture evenly over the hot crust. Slowly pour lemon mixture over cream cheese mixture.
Reduced oven temperature to 325F and bake bars for 25-30 minutes until the filling is set and the edges are slightly golden brown. Let bars cool slightly on a wire rack. Lift out bars from the glass dish and let them cool completely before cutting into 2 inch squares. Dust with confectioners' sugar. Cover with Lemonade Sprinkle Mix, optional.
Devour and enjoy!