Spring arrived 2 1/2 weeks ago - though you wouldn't know it in some places! Easter is only two weeks away!
You know what that means? Yup! It's time for a lemony fresh and very tasty dessert to serve your family and friends!
Last summer, I came across a recipe for Lemon Blueberry Bars on the Kraft web site. It sounded good but for some reason they used a yellow cake mix rather than a lemon cake mix as part of the base and top layer. The only lemon was zest and juice of one lemon added into the cream cheese filling. That's barely enough to taste! In reading the comments, I also noted that others felt there was too much sugar added to the cream cheese mixture. I wanted to experiment and try my own version of this recipe.
So, I used a lemon cake mix, a large heavy lemon (more zest and juice that way). The first time I made it, I used fresh blueberries which were quite nice but realistically they aren't within everyone's price budget in the off season so I've also tried using a can of blueberry pie filling in one version and a mixture of pie filling and frozen berries that I thawed first in another version. All worked quite well but I think I prefer the canned pie filling the best as it is more moist. (I've included the quantity variations for fresh and the mix of filling with frozen berries at the bottom of the recipe.) Naturally, I also added a bit of bittersweet or dark chocolate because it blends so well with the lemon and blueberries without overwhelming their flavours.
The original recipe suggested breaking small bits of dough and sprinkling on top of the berries to make the top layer. I tried that and it did work but I didn't think it looked that attractive.
Instead, I decided to trace an outline of the bottom of my baking pan onto wax paper and spread the last third of the dough out over that space. After I had assembled and layered all the other ingredients. I placed the layer that I'd made on the wax paper over the cake so that the dough was aligned with the edges and touching the top layer then gently pressed down on it so it would start to stick to that layer. I then slowly peeled off the wax paper. It is a bit more work to do it this way but the end result is much nicer - even if a few little pieces do come apart while the transfer or peeling is taking place - they can be pinched back together or laid in place.
End result is a very tasty treat for any time of year but especially for Easter, spring and summer! .
Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Bars
1/2 cup butter or block margarine
1 pkg. (2-layer size) lemon cake mix
2 large eggs, divided (at room temperature)
1 large lemon
2 pkg. (8 oz. each) light Cream Cheese, softened to room temp
1/4 cup white sugar
1 640ml/19oz can Blueberry pie filling*
2/3 cup bittersweet or dark chocolate chips
Heat oven to 350ºF.
Line 13x9-inch cake pan with parchment paper so that ends/sides extending up over edges.
Trace an outline of the bottom of the pan onto wax paper. Set aside
Place the dry cake mix, 1 egg and the melted butter/margarine in a large mixing bowl; Beat with electric mixer until well blended. (Note: the dough may seem a bit greasy but it won't taste that way when baked.) Divide the dough into three fairly even amounts (I shape it into three balls to get a better sense of if they are even - you could weigh them if you have a kitchen scale but it doesn't have to be that precise).
Press 2/3 of the dough (2 dough balls) evenly onto bottom of prepared cake pan. Set aside
With the remaining 1/3 dough (1 ball), press it within the borders of the wax paper tracing that you made. (It doesn't have to be perfect but should be to the edges of the lines and fairly even in thickness). This will be the top layer which is added just before baking. Set aside while you prepare the filling
Zest, then juice the lemon. The zester I use, gives me about 2 Tablespoons zest and I generally get about 3-4 Tablespoons of juice from a good sized lemon.
Place the softened cream cheese, the remaining egg, 1/4 cup white sugar, zest and juice of the lemon into a medium size mixing bowl. Carefully spoon out about 2-3 Tablespoons of the pie filling syrup and add into the cream cheese bowl. (try not to include any of the berries themselves - I picked any out and returned them to the rest of the pie filling) With an electric mixer, start on a low speed to combine, then increase to medium and beat until smooth. It will have a bit of a pink/lilac tinge in colour but it doesn't really show once baked)
Spread the cream cheese mixture evenly over the base layer.
Spread the blueberry pie filling over the cream cheese layer, then sprinkle on the chocolate chips.
Carefully lift the wax paper with the top layer and invert it over the top of the chocolate chip layer so that the dough is touching the chips. Adjust to align with the pan if needed. Press down gently on the wax paper so that the dough starts to stick to the other layers. Then very slowly and carefully, peel back the wax paper and remove it so that only the dough is on top. Don't worry or panic if the top layer tears a bit while doing this. It can be pinched back into place if you want. (I always have at least one little tear or a small piece that doesn't want to come off the wax paper as neatly. I just peel it off the wax paper and place it where it was supposed to go.
Bake 55 min. to 1 hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely on wire rack .This can take several hours and I prefer making it the day ahead, cooling on the rack then cover and chill in fridge overnight before attempting to remove and/or cut into bars. Trying to remove the full cake before it has fully cooled and chilled, may result in it breaking apart.
To serve: Use the edge of the parchment paper as handles to carefully lift dessert from pan before cutting into bars. I slowly lift either end then carefully slide one end of the parchment paper (and cake) onto the counter or cutting board before slicing.
Makes 15-18 yummy servings. Cover and store any leftovers in the fridge for up to a week. (Note: I haven't attempted to freeze any of this recipe so can't vouch for how well that would work)
*If you don't want to use pie filling, you can use: 2-1/2 cups fresh blueberries OR 1 1/2 cups blueberry pie filling and 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (thawed). If using the fresh berries, increase the sugar in the cream cheese mixture to 1/3 cup rather than 1/4 cup.