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Lemon Blueberry Chess Squares

 

Lemon Blueberry Chess Squares

Chess squares are another version of chess pie, a classic dessert of the Southern US. Although I’ve lived here my whole life, I’d never actually made chess squares or even eaten them until some of the gas stations up and down Highway 65 started selling them. For a while there would always be a big stack of them at the checkout counter, the individual squares wrapped in plastic wrap. They came in dozens of flavors – since chess squares are usually based on cake mixes, the flavor variations are practically endless. This version of chess squares, however, is made completely from scratch!

Notes on Ingredients

Lemon Juice – Fresh lemon juice has the best flavor. One small lemon or half of a large lemon should be enough to provide the 2 tablespoons of juice.

Flour – Although the base layer is cake, I like for it to be a little dense. I used unbleached all-purpose flour.

Baking Soda – The baking soda will react with the lemon juice to give the cake layer a little bit of a rise, and will also create a more tender crumb.

Blueberries – I used fresh blueberries. Frozen blueberries should also work great in this recipe, but you might want to thaw them on some paper towels first.

 

Lemon Blueberry Chess Squares

 

Lemon Blueberry Chess Squares

Notes on Ingredients

  • Make sure that the butter and cream cheese are very soft and the eggs have come up to room temperature. This will ensure that there are no lumps.
  • Since the cake layer should be dense, you don’t have to bother with sifting the flour!
  • The cake batter should be very thick, but it should still be spreadable.
  • Whip the cream cheese alone before adding any other ingredients. I find that this always helps prevent lumps when baking with cream cheese. Egg and cream cheese in particular dislike being combined, so in this recipe adding the confectioner’s sugar first helps the mixture smooth out.
  • If you are using frozen blueberries, I recommend spacing them out on some paper towels and letting them thaw before using. This will help prevent any extra moisture from getting into the batter, which might increase the baking time.
  • Press the blueberries down into the cream cheese to make sure they will stay in place after baking.
  • Bake until the tops of the chess squares are lightly browned except in the very center. The cream cheese mixture will still jiggle a little, but will set as it cools.

Lemon Blueberry Chess Squares

Lemon Blueberry Chess Squares

Lemons Blueberry Chess Squares

Tiffany
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 50 mins
Total Time 1 hr 5 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine American, Southern US
Servings 16 Squares

Ingredients
  

For the Cake Layer:

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (155 g)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter (113 g) softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar (100 g)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (from 1 small or 1/2 large lemon)
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup milk (60 ml)

For the Cream Cheese Layer:

  • 8 oz cream cheese (227 g) softened
  • 2 pinches salt (about 1/16 teaspoon)
  • 2 cups confectioner's sugar (240 g)
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • zest of 1 lemon (about 1-2 teaspoons)
  • 160 g fresh blueberries (about 1 cup)

Instructions
 

Lemon Blueberry Chess Squares

  • Preheat the oven to 350° F (180° C) and line an 8x8 (20cm) pan with parchment.
  • Make the cake layer: in a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar at medium speed until fluffy. Add the vanilla, lemon juice, and egg, and mix until they are fully incorporated.
  • Add half the flour mixture and mix gently on low, then mix in all of the milk, and lastly add the second half of the flour. Mix on low until the flour is just incorporated, scraping the sides of the bowl and taking care not to overmix. Spread the batter in the bottom of the parchment-lined pan. The batter should be very thick.
  • Make the cream cheese layer: In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, whip the cream cheese on medium speed until fluffy. Add the salt and powdered sugar and continue mixing until they are fully incorporated, scraping the sides of the bowl. Finally, add the egg and the lemon zest and mix until it becomes smooth.
  • Pour the cream cheese mixture on top of the cake batter, spreading it with a spatula until it reaches the edges. Sprinkle the blueberries on top and press them lightly into the cream cheese. Transfer to the oven and bake for about 50-60 minutes, until the top is lightly browned all over.
  • Because they contain cream cheese, the chess squares will store best in the refrigerator for up to 4-5 days.
Keyword american, bars, blueberry, cream cheese, lemon, southern us, spring, summer