I stumbled across this recipe by accident. I have lots of old cookbooks given to me by friends or relatives and some of them have the most amazing recipes. The name alone tells me its from many years back! However, the flavors in this recipe are perfect for an easy, quick dessert or snack, especially for people who love lemon flavor or who are in the mood for something more versatile.
These bars require no baking and can be made in advance. Since they’re ice box bars (think of the ice box as the modern-day refrigerator—only I still like paying homage to the past and calling them ice box bars) they last for several days in the refrigerator and can be sliced into whatever size squares you prefer. Use them for a quick dessert or snack–my version is lower in fat and sugars than the traditional recipe and the addition of the lemon zest makes them pop with flavor.
Lemon Ice Box Bars
Makes 14 to 16 bars
- 14 graham cracker squares or 20 individual crackers (or use 1 ½ cup mini pretzel twists)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar, packed
- Pinch of salt
- Vegetable oil spray
- 1 8-ounce package of fat free or low- fat cream cheese
- 1 14-ounce can of fat free sweetened condensed milk
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
- ½ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin
- 2 to 3 tablespoons boiling water
- Prepare the crust: In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the graham crackers until small crumbs form. Add the butter, brown sugar and salt and pulse until the crumbs look like wet sand.
- Spray an 8×8 baking dish with vegetable spray. Pour the crumb mixture into the baking dish and spread the crumbs evenly. Pack the crumbs down and into the corners firmly with the back of a measuring cup or your fingers. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Prepare the filling: In a large mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, sweetened condensed milk and beaten egg with an electric mixer on high speed (or use a stand-up mixer) until smooth and creamy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add lemon zest and lemon juice and beat until fully incorporated, about 30 to 45 seconds.
- In a small bowl, dissolve the gelatin in the boiling water and whisk until the gelatin is fully dissolved. Allow to cool for 3 to 4 minutes
- Stir the gelatin into the cream cheese mixture and stir to combine.
- Pour the filling over the prepared crust and spread evenly.
- Refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight until the filling is firm.
- Slice into or 1- or 2-inch squares. Store in airtight container in refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Featured photo by Frank Zhang