Almond Cream Cheese Shortbread Bars
I love almond extract more than almonds themselves. I could bathe in it.
And I can eat frosting that’s made with almond extract by the spoonful.
Although it doesn’t take almond extract for me to eat frosting by the spoonful, it’s the literal icing on the cake for these easy, no-mixer, one-bowl layered bars.
There’s a buttery shortbread crust that’s topped with a cream cheese and almond extract-based filling before frosting the bars and adding slivered almonds. They add great texture and boost the overall almond flavor.
The filling is slightly tangy from the cream cheese and offsets the sweetness of the frosting.
Halve the frosting portion of the recipe if you’re not a huge frosting fan because it’s pretty sweet. However, halving the frosting isn’t something I personally ever do. I usually want to double it.
The same goes for the almond extract. I love it and I used 2 teaspoons in the filling and the frosting and the bars are packed with powerful almond flavor.
If you prefer almond-scented rather than almond-front-and-center, halve the amount of extract in both the filling and frosting.
What I really like about the bars is that they look and taste fancy-schmancy, but are easy and straightforward to make. The best kind of recipe.
Aside from the one bar I sampled, I donated the pan to a fundraiser bake sale. I got an email from the woman who was running it asking me if I had the recipe because she was being asked for it. Loved that.
Almond Cream Cheese Shortbread Bars
Although it doesn’t take almond extract for me to enjoy frosting by the spoonful, it’s the literal icing on the cake for these easy, no-mixer, one-bowl layered bars. There’s a buttery shortbread crust that’s topped with a cream cheese and almond extract-based filling before frosting the bars and adding slivered almonds. The filling is slightly tangy from the cream cheese and offsets the sweetness of the frosting. Halve the frosting portion of the recipe if you’re not a huge frosting fan because it’s pretty sweet. I love almond extract and I used 2 teaspoons in the filling and the frosting and the bars are packed with a powerful almond flavor, but if you less intensity, halve the amount of extract in both the filling and frosting.
1/2 cup unsalted butter, very soft (1 stick)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt, optional or to taste
4 ounces brick-style cream cheese, softened (lite is okay)
1 large egg
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 to 2 teaspoons almond extract (I used 2)
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened (half of 1 stick)
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 to 2 teaspoons almond extract
about 2 tablespoons cream or milk
about 1/4 cup slivered almonds (mine were untoasted)
- Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, spray with cooking spray; set aside.
- Crust – In a large bowl, combine all crust ingredients and using two forks or your hands, cut butter into dry ingredients until evenly distributed and pea-sized lumps and sandy bits form. The softer the butter is, the quicker and easier it is.
- Turn mixture out into prepared pan and hard-pack it with a spatula or hands to create an even, uniform, flat crust layer. Bake crust for about 15 minutes, or just until barely set (pan is going back in oven so don’t overbake or crust will be crumbly). While crusts bakes, prepare the filling.
- Filling – In a large bowl (same one is fine, just wipe out with a paper towel), add all filling ingredients, and whisk by hand or beat with an electric mixer until smooth and combined; it’s okay filling is on the thin side. I prefer a stronger almond flavor and use 2 teaspoons extract, if you don’t, scale the amount back.
- After crust has baked for about 15 minutes, remove pan from the oven, and evenly pour filling mixture over the crust. Filling will likely slide into place, but lightly spread it into corners using a spatula if necessary.
- Return pan to oven and bake for about 16 to 19 minutes, or until filling is no longer jiggly in the center and edges have begun to set up; filling will set up more as it cools.
- Remove pan from oven, and place on a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
- Frosting – In a large bowl (same one is fine, just wipe out with a paper towel), add the butter, confectioners’ sugar, almond extract, and slowly drizzle in the cream while whisking by hand or beating with an electric mixer. As necessary, add additional cream (or sugar) to reach desired glaze consistency.
- Evenly frost the bars, smoothing frosting lightly with a spatula as necessary.
- Evenly sprinkle with slivered almonds.
- Allow bars to cool in pan uncovered for at least 1 hour (or overnight and cover with a sheet of foil) before slicing and serving so frosting can set up. Bars will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 5 days. I’m comfortable storing frosted items at room temp; store in the fridge if you’re not, noting bars could become overly dry in the fridge, or store in the freezer for up to 6 months.
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