Source: Vera Dawson here
Altered from an 8 by 8 to a 9 by 9 pan as that is what I have
· 1.5 cups finely ground graham crackers
· 3 ¾ to 4 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
· 16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
· 1/2 cup granulated sugar, preferably superfine
· 1 teaspoon lemon zest or 1/4 teaspoon lemon oil
· 2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
· 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
· 2 large eggs, room temperature
Preheat the oven to 350°f with a rack in the center position. Line your pan with nonstick aluminum foil or regular foil, extending it several inches on two opposite sides to use as handles when removing the baked bars. Grease the regular foil and any exposed parts of the pan with a baking spray that contains flour, and set the pan aside.
Make the crust: Combine the ground crackers and 3 tablespoons of melted butter in a bowl and stir/toss until well combined. Squeeze some between your fingers: It should just hold together. If it doesn’t, add the additional half tablespoon of melted butter, a little at a time, until it does. Too much butter will make the crust hard to cut, so add only enough for the cracker crumbs to hold together. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, smooth and level it, and bake until the crust is set, about 8-10 minutes. Remove and cool on a rack.
Make the filling: Cut the cream cheese into 16 pieces and place them in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the sugar, zest/oil, lemon juice and vanilla extract. Pulse until the mixture is completely smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, pulsing after each addition, stopping as soon as it’s blended. If you over-process the filling, it can become thin and runny. This step can also be done with an electric mixer at medium speed.
Scrape the filling over the crust and level it. Bake until the filling is almost set but still quivers in the center when you jiggle the pan. About 30 min at 350° f. Remove the pan to a rack and cool completely. Then, lightly cover the pan and refrigerate for at least four hours.
Take the chilled dessert out of the fridge and use the foil handles to remove the baked slab. With a thin-bladed, sharp knife, slice it into bars, cleaning the knife after each cut. Cut 3-inch squares if serving for dessert or 1-inch squares if serving as a cookie. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to three days.