Earlier this year, I was given the opportunity to buy a box of lemons and having just run out of lemon juice, I did what anybody would do, and bought a 40 pound box to make juice out of. Then, not knowing exactly how difficult it was going to be to juice 7 bazillion lemons by hand, I called up my friend Danika who just happens to own a juicer. Danika and her family had to withstand a whole two days without fresh juice so that I could make these bars (and everything else I've used lemon for this past year.) I thought about her family while I was making these.
I thought about everybody I've given these to over the years, and there are a lot of you. Thought about how much Mom liked them. It was a little amazing how one little silly cookie could have so many people wrapped up in it. OMIGOSH!! Merry Berry Cheese Bars is PEOPLE!!
I decided to update the recipe a little this year to be more in keeping with my no chemicals as much as possible policy and the result was a milder, more refined bar, which I am calling "grown up." Not in the "uses profane language way" not in the "adult channel way" not in the "there's booze in there way" but in the "I'm happy with who I am, I don't need to be so in-your-face anymore, I think I'll push my reading glasses up and snuggle down with a good book" sort of way.
"Grown Up" Merry Berry Cheese Bars
(Adapted from Eagle Brand's classic recipe)
2 C unsifted flour
1 1/2 C oatmeal
34 C + 1 Tbs firmly packed brown sugar
1 C butter, softened
1 (8oz) package cream cheese, softened (I used Sierra Nevada Organic Cream Cheese)
1 (14 oz) bottle Trader Joe's Organic Sweetened Condensed milk (Not evaporated milk)
1/4 C Lemon juice
1 recipe of Hannah's Cranberry Quince Sauce (I only had 8 oz of cranberries and it worked fine)
2 Tbs corn starch
Make the cranberry sauce up a few days ahead of time if you want, so it's ready when you want to make your bars.
To make the bars, preheat oven to 350°. With mixer, beat flour, oats, 3/4 C sugar and butter until crumbly. Set aside 1 1/2 C mixture; press remaining mixture on bottom of greased 13X9 inch baking pan. Bake 15 minutes or until lightly browned.
With mixer, beat cheese until fluffy. Gradually beat in condensed milk until smooth, stir in lemon juice. Spread over baked crust. Combine cranberry sauce, cornstarch, and remaining 1 Tbs sugar. Spoon over cheese layer. Top with reserved mixture.
Bake 45 minutes or until golden. Cool and cut into bars. Refrigerate leftovers.
This is a lovely update to an old classic. I love the extra spices in it. It's fantastic warm, btw, if you can't wait until it cools for a bite!
Cara has posted her beautiful vegan and gluten-free version of these as a crumble! Complete with sweet little ramekins! Bask in the cuteness at Fork and Beans!