Lemon Pecan Bars

You know how I love all things citrus, but have we discussed my deep an abiding love for lemon bars? Oh, we have? Well, then add this to the pool of knowledge about my dessert preferences: when I was a teenager, any time I needed a boost or deserved a special treat for acing a test, getting into college, or just making it through a week of Stats class, my mom would buy me a lemon square from my favourite bakery (ok, ok, it was a Fresh Market. The choices were limited). To this day, there's not a lot of desserts that take me back to middle school and high school the way that lemon squares take me back, other than my mom's Pound Cake, which we've also discussed.

Anyway, as with key lime pie or pretty much any other citrus-based dessert you can think of, my passion for lemon bars runs deep. Shortcrust base, thick sour-sweet layer of fresh lemon curd infused with lemon peel for just a hint of bitterness, all dusted in powdered sugar sure to leave your hands a mess but perfectly offsetting the robust layer of flavour-packed curd... yeah, there's not a lot I like better.

So I was automatically wary of the cream cheese and oatmeal base of these lemon bars. I mean, you can't just cut a lemon dessert into squares and call it lemon bars. Our standards over here at The Recipe Box Project are higher than that. Plus, after the Cheesecake Saga, I'm pretty meh on all things cheesecake-like or cheesecake-related. But I do love an oatmeal crust, so I powered through and made this traybake with high hopes, and it didn't disappoint.

Curd-based bars these are not, but the lemon flavour works really well with the cream cheese filling, and the oat base and crumbly topping make the whole thing seem just a trifle less decadent than their counterparts I love so much without being any less delicious. Plus, the finished product is thin and crispy, perfect for the start of summer when a heavy dessert is probably not what you want to take to cookouts or picnics... although the friends we shared these with loved them so much we all ended up eating more than one. They're just too tasty to pass up!

Make these for your next event where you don't know the host's tastes and need something easy to serve, easy to eat, and that will appeal to all palates. Part cheesecake, part lemon bar, part fruit crumble, these have something in them that everyone will love, and they're easy as pie to boot!

The verdict:

4 spoons out of five. Delicious, versatile, and easy, these are perfect for springtime outdoor parties, picnics, or poolside snacking!

one year ago: Magic Bars

The recipe:

Lemon Pecan Bars

the directions:

Preheat oven to 175C/350F and grease a 13x9 inch pan.
Combine flour, brown sugar, and sugar.
Cut in butter until mixture is coarse crumbs.
Stir in oats and nuts, then set aside 1 cup of mixture.
Press remaining mixture into prepared pan, then bake 12 minutes or until golden brown.
While crust is cooking, mix cream cheese and egg until well-blended.
Add juice and zest, stirring until combined.
Leaving the oven on, pour cream cheese mixture over par-baked crust, then sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture.
Bake again at 175C/350F for 20 minutes or until golden and toasty.
Allow to cool completely, then cut into bars and enjoy!

the ingredients:

1 1/3 c flour
½ c brown sugar, packed
¼ c sugar
¾ c butter
1 c oats, uncooked
½ c pecans or almonds, chopped
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 egg
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest, finely chopped