Chess bars are a Southern treat typically made with a cake base topped with a rich cream cheese filling that’s very, very sweet. Here, I heavily reduce the sugar and replace the flour-based cake bottom with an oat dough cut with fragrant hazelnut and almond flours. You can also think of these as a more relaxed version of Linzer cookies: no having to cut out shapes and centers and tediously fill each with jam. They make the perfect cookie for a holiday party or even Christmas dessert.
Make the jam first: In a small saucepan, combine the raspberries, sugar and salt. Using a microplane set over a bowl, remove the zest from the lime; cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside. Cut the lime in half and juice it over the fruit. Stir to combine, using your spoon to lightly mash the berries.
Bring the fruit and sugar to a boil over medium-high heat. Once bubbles are covering the surface, set a timer and cook, stirring often, until the jam is thickened and glossy and no longer watery, about 6 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the reserved lime zest. Scrape the jam into a bowl and let cool to room temperature while you make the dough.
Grease a 9-by-13-inch metal baking pan with butter, then line the bottom and long sides with a strip of parchment paper, letting the excess hang over the sides. In a large bowl, whisk together the oats, hazelnut and almond flours, cornstarch, salt and baking powder.
In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl and using a hand mixer, combine the butter and sugar and beat on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add 1 egg and beat until smooth. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients and mix until well-combined.
Scoop the dough into the prepared pan and press it evenly over the bottom. Lightly wet your fingers with cold water as needed to keep them from sticking to the dough.
Place the pan in the refrigerator while you make the cream cheese layer.
In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula until it is smooth. Add the remaining 2 eggs, one a time, and beat until smooth again before adding the next; beat in the vanilla. Scrape the mixture into the lightly chilled dough base and use an offset spatula or table knife to spread it evenly over the bottom of the dough. Place the pan of dough in the freezer for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the pan from the freezer and scrape the cooled jam over the top. Spread it evenly over the cream cheese layer, making sure to cover it completely to the edges. Bake until the filling is set in the center and a toothpick inserted into the filling comes out with only a little jam attached, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely in the pan, then refrigerate the cookie slab until chilled, at least 2 hours.
Using the overhanging parchment, slide the cookie slab out of the pan and onto a cutting board; discard the parchment paper. Cut the base lengthwise into 4 bars, then crosswise into 12 bars to make 48 thin rectangles. Serve chilled. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
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