It rained a bit here recently, reminding me of home. I love the way light streams across the dark pavement and the droplets of rain that appear on the window, each a magnified globe of the outside. A bit of nostalgia for now—
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.
LEMON SWIRL CHEESECAKE BARS // makes 16 bars
from Food & Wine
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
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.
It’s strange—the parallels between moving out now and the feelings while moving in nearly six years ago. I remember the moment of settling into this room—empty but so full of opportunity. So much has changed—I’ve graduated from high school and am entering a new chapter of my life in a new city—but so much has stayed the same as well. This home has been my constant through those years.
We moved around over the years, but this home has felt like the place where I grew up. It’s where so many of my favorite memories were made—starting a vegetable garden with my family, numerous barbecues despite the city’s moody weather, and going on spontaneous photowalks in the park.
It’s hard to leave behind a place that holds so many memories—Thanksgiving dinners for as long as I can remember and the glittering Christmas lights, but in these last days, I’ve come to appreciate the details: the way evening light streams through the kitchen window, the familiar path home past the green of the park, and the colorful rows of houses all around.
I’ll certainly remember the camellias. They always bloomed in the spring.
It's hard to believe it's already October and already fall! I'm officially writing from LA, but for now, I'm sharing a few snapshots from the end of summer.