So, I recently made my very first batch of lemon bars. I know.
I’m just one of those people who doesn’t particularly favor lemon desserts. I love adding lemon as an accent to a savory dish. Nothing beats a fresh pop of lemon juice in sauces and marinades. I also add lemon to my water and tea when I’m feeling congested. It does wonders!
I guess my main issue with lemon desserts was always that they tasted too extreme for me. I never cared for the intense taste of sour and sweet together. This combination always made me think of Sour Patch Kids or Warheads. My teeth hurt just thinking about it!
However, this past mother’s day I decided to put my differences with lemon aside for my grandma. She loves lemon desserts. One of her favorite things is lemon meringue pie, which is definitely not something I care for. I wanted to try to make her something that I could enjoy too. What a challenge!
Luckily, I found a simple and seemingly delicious recipe from the one and only Minimalist Baker blog. I use Dana’s recipes all the time if I need to make a quick batch of something for an impromptu meal (biscuits, pancakes, cupcakes, you name it). I love her recipes for their simplicity, short lists of ingredients, and quick prep times. I figured that she would have a trustworthy lemon bar recipe in her archives.
I was definitely right in choosing this one (link below). The texture of these bars is similar to cheesecake, amazingly creamy and refreshing. I used a shortbread recipe for the crust, but I followed the filling recipe as it was. The result was incredible. The lemon flavor wasn’t overpowering at all. I also love how the maple syrup provides a mellow and rich sweetness that does not shock your taste buds. Needless to say, the bars were a hit!
And now, for the twist.
When I looked in the pantry the other day, I noticed I had a box of Choice Batter muffin mix. I brought this mix home with the thought of, “Well, I’ll keep this on hand in case of emergency.” In my mind, muffin crisis is always just around the corner. You need to be prepared.
I also wanted to give Choice Batter a try since I’ve seen their products many times. Their bake mixes are allergen-free, which means gluten-free, egg-free, and dairy-free! The recipe on the box also calls for just oil and water, which keeps the muffins vegan.
Then I got to thinking, “What if these muffins had cheesecake on top of them?” Well, that was when I channeled my inner Sandra Lee and whipped up a “semi-homemade” lemon bar concoction. I changed the ratio of liquids in the boxed muffin recipe to make them more dense and I added some more lemony essence with the help of freshly squeezed and zested organic lemons.
Then, I made some of Dana’s lemon bar filling and poured it right over the muffin batter in a brownie pan. The rest is self explanatory. The finished product is a delicious square of lemon poppy seed and cheesecake goodness. The cheesecake layer is thin so it does not provide a gunky mouth feel, which cheesecake sometimes can in large amounts. The bars are satisfying, bright, slightly sweet, and creamy.
These little squares are great for baking ahead and bringing to your weekend get together or BBQ (hint hint, Memorial Day)! They are also free of many allergens (except cashews!) so they will be a safe treat for almost everyone to enjoy. Also, you technically made these at home, so you can have bragging rights. No one needs to know that Choice Batter gave you a head start. 😉 Or, maybe they do! Thank you, Choice Batter! ^_^
Have a great weekend, everyone! Enjoy the sun and the lemons!
Lemon Poppy Seed Cheesecake Bars
Free from: Gluten, Soy*
Yield: about 9 servings
Cheesecake topping recipe adapted from Minimalist Baker Lemon Bars
- 1 box Choice Batter lemon poppy seed muffin mix
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder, for color
- 6 Tb coconut oil, melted
- zest of 1 lemon, opt.
- 1/2 cup raw cashews
- 1/2 cup non-dairy milk*
- 1 tsp tapioca starch
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- zest from 1 large lemon (pref. organic)
- pinch salt
- 3/4 tsp turmeric powder, for color
- 2 Tb maple syrup (or other vegan sweetener)
* Refrain from using soy milk for soy free.
- Preheat your oven to 375 F.
- In a large mixing bowl, mix together the entire box of dry muffin mix, water, lemon zest, 1/2 tsp of turmeric, and 6 Tb of melted coconut oil until a thick and fluffy batter forms.
- Set the bowl of batter aside while you prepare your cheesecake mix.
- In a high speed blender, blend together all the ingredients for the cheesecake topping. The resulting mix will be a thickened liquid, like a cream consistency.
- Grease a 9×9 square pan and spread your lemon poppyseed batter evenly into it using a metal utensil (it makes it less sticky!).
- Pour the cheesecake mixture over the batter in the pan.
- Place your pan of lemony deliciousness into the oven for approx. 30-35 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown and the middle of the cheesecake topping is set.
- Let the cake cool at room temperature and then in the fridge before serving, approx. 1 hour.
- Slice and enjoy!