Lemon bars were another favorite treat in my childhood and beyond. I adored the buttery crust next to the sweet, tart lemony filling balanced by the layer of powdered sugar on top. Mmmmm, my salivary glands are starting to work just thinking about it! Let me be honest, lemon bars are tricky. They are a tough re-make in the plant-based world, but not impossible. I’m still working on a true lemon bar so stay tuned…BUT, in the meantime, I have this lovely lemon cheesecake bar to share with you! I adapted this Cranberry Cheesecake recipe I shared with you last fall to make this delicious little bar. I think you are going to like this refreshing dessert! Heaven knows I kept “taste-testing” these until the pan was almost gone! I love the use of millet in the filling, which adds in nutrients without fat and it lends to the creamy texture. The lemon flavor isn’t overpowering in these bars, but just the right amount of ‘zing’ you would expect in a lemon dessert. These bars are simple, light, and delicious! If you want to add in a swirl of blueberry or raspberry compote to these bars, I think it would be lovely…I think I’ll do that the next time I make these. Enjoy!
Lemon Cheesecake Filling
1/2 cup millet
1 cup vanilla coconut milk
1 can full-fat coconut milk
2 Tbsp arrowroot or cornstarch
Pinch sea salt
1/2 cup lemon juice (about 2 large lemons)
1 heaping Tbsp lemon zest (I used the zest from 2 large lemons)
1/8 teaspoon doTerra lemon oil (or 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract)
1/4 cup maple syrup
organic powdered sugar, for topping
1 cup gluten-free flour
1 cup hazelnut meal or almond meal
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 Tbsp coconut sugar
1 Tbsp maple syrup
4-5 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
1/4 teaspoon doTerra lemon oil (or 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line an 9×9 inch baking dish with parchment paper. To make Crust, add gluten-free flour, hazelnut meal, sea salt, and coconut sugar to a medium bowl and sift together. Add maple syrup, melted coconut oil, and lemon oil. Start with 4 tablespoons coconut oil and add more if it’s too dry. Stir with a spoon until a loose dough is formed. You should be able to squeeze the mixture between two fingers and form a dough instead of it crumbling. Transfer mixture to parchment-lined baking sheet and spread evenly. Then place parchment paper on top and use a flat-bottomed object, such as a drinking glass, to press down firmly until it’s evenly distributed and well packed. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven to cool slightly.
To make Cheesecake Filling, place millet and vanilla coconut milk in a medium pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir and then lower heat to simmer. Cover and cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until most of the milk is absorbed. Add coconut milk and salt. Return to boil. Then lower heat again and continue to simmer uncovered, stirring frequently, until millet is extremely soft, the grains have begun to fall apart and mixture is very thick. (Stir often to avoid scorching.) Continue to cook until mixture is reduced to 2 1/2 cups. Turn off heat and stir in lemon juice, lemon zest, lemon oil, and maple syrup. Transfer mixture to a high-powered blender and blend, scraping down the sides as necessary, until perfectly smooth and silky with no trace of grittiness from the millet. This could take a few minutes. (If your blender isn’t high-powered, blend mixture in small batches of 1/2 cup; transfer to a bowl after each batch.) Pour filling over the pre-baked crust and spread into an even layer. Tap on counter to remove any air bubbles. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the edges look slightly set and the center giggles. Let rest for 10 minutes, then transfer to the refrigerator and let cool completely (uncovered) for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight. To serve, slice and sift with powdered sugar. Store leftovers in the refrigerator, covered, for a few days. I wrapped mine up and put them in the freezer for longer storage.
(Adapted slightly from Recipe Source: Cranberry Cheesecake)