All this started with ordinary lemon bars, I was eager to create my own recipe. Here in my casa we love them and after trying a lot of recipes and thinking: good… but… too sweet, too tart, too thin. And don’t even make me start with the crust! Just not the real deal. So I started to tweak every time a little bit here and there. I took the crust from one recipe and mixed it with another and this went on and on since many months. At the end I have to admit, I never created the “perfect” lemon bars and any way isn’t perfect very boring?
Once I used a little bit orange juice because I was running out of lemons, I think this was the beginning, there I added ingredients which don’t really belong in there. More orange juice and some flour which I didn’t had in the beginning. The last addition in my long-term experiment was cream cheese, I started with too much. The cream cheese was not invited to this party to take over and it shouldn’t come out like a cheese cake with citrus flavor.
So here we go nearly perfect but not boring at all and not lemon bars anymore. Although the main citrus fruit season is during the colder month, this bars are definitely great for the outdoors like garden parties and picnics. They bring a little sunshine to your plate, you got the hint?
Some notes: Make sure the cream cheese is very soft or you end up with a flaky batter, a few seconds in the microwave oven will help. A mixer produces air bubbles, which rise to the surface and makes it uneven and wavy, that’s why I use a wire whisk. I save dirty dishes and use the same bowl for the crust and the topping, just a whip with a paper towel. I use Valencia oranges (also called summer navels) sweet, very juicy and in season right now. And as always if you use the peel of a citrus fruit, try to buy organic.
for the crust
110 g / 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
65 g / 1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
150 g / 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
Preheat your oven to 180 C / 355 F and line a 18 x 28 cm / 11 x 7 inch baking pan with parchment paper.
In a large bowl stir melted butter, sugar and salt with a (wooden) spoon. Add flour and continue stirring until everything comes together. With your fingers press the batter into the baking pan and bake for 20 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 160 C / 320 F.
Meanwhile make the topping
3 large eggs
265 g / 1 1/3 cups sugar
50 ml / 3 Tbsp + 1 tsp lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
100 ml / 1/3 cup + 1.5 Tbsp orange juice (from 1 1/2 orange)
1 1/2 tsp grated orange peel (only the orange part of the skin)
110 g / 4 oz. softened cream cheese (half package)
5 Tbsp all purpose flour
In a large mixing bowl mix eggs and sugar with a wire whisk, add the remaining ingredients and continue whisking. You get a very runny mixture, don’t worry. Pour over the baked crust and bake for 25 to 30 minutes (160 C / 320 F). The center might be a little soft but not liquid anymore. Let cool on a oven rack before removing from the pan, cut into bars and sprinkle with powder sugar if you like.