Lemon swirl cheesecake squares

From my desk at work, I watch the light fade slowly into orange and pink pastels, then into deep dark blues, with car headlights sparkling from the freeway in the distance. A chill has set in suddenly, and it's begun to get dark by 6 p.m. It finally feels like fall, and I couldn't be more excited for the approaching holiday season. 

I'll be heading home for Thanksgiving in just under two weeks and can't wait to be back in the kitchen. These lemon cheesecake squares are always a favorite of mine. This recipe makes for a cheesecake lemony enough for those who love lemon yet not overly so for those who aren’t as big fans. The shortbread crust is one of my favorite parts because it's different from the traditional graham cracker crust yet pairs so well.  

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LEMON SWIRL CHEESECAKE BARS // makes 16 bars
from Food & Wine

Crust
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled

Filling
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 cup cold water
2 large egg yolks
1 3/4 cups sugar, divided use
1/4 cup lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1 1/4 pounds cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 325°F and position a rack in the center. Line with parchment paper and butter a 9-inch square pan. 

In the bowl of a food processor, add the flour, sugar, lemon zest, and salt, then pulse until combined. Add the butter and pulse until a soft, crumbly dough forms. Press the dough evenly into the bottom and a 1/2 inch up the sides of the pan. Bake the crust for 20 minutes, or until golden and firm.

In a small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in the water. In a medium saucepan, whisk the egg yolks with 3/4 cup of the sugar and the lemon juice. Whisk in the cornstarch mixture, then cook over medium heat, whisking until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is hot, about 4 minutes. Boil over medium-high heat for 1 minute, whisking constantly, until the mixture is thick and glossy. Strain the mixture into a heatproof bowl. Stir in the lemon zest and let cool. 

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese with the remaining 1 cup of sugar until smooth. Add the flour, and mix until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between additions. Add the sour cream and the vanilla and beat until the batter is smooth. Pour the cream cheese batter over the crust and smooth the surface with a spatula. Dollop the lemon mixture on the cheesecake batter and swirl it into the batter.

Bake the cheesecake for 40 minutes, or until golden around the edges and just set. Let cool on a wire rack for 1 hour, then refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. Cut into 16 bars and serve. 


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