Friday, November 11, 2011

Caramel Cheesecake Bars

Janet here: I wanted to make these cheesecake bars the second I saw their picture in the new cookbook by Alice Medrich called Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Crunchy (Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies). And that was before I learned that the crust was made of shortbread! After that, I was a woman on a mission.

These are seriously unbelievably good. I'd write more about this but that would mean you'd be further away from eating these...and that would be a mistake. Get baking now.

Caramel Cheesecake Bars

for the shortbread crust
14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup (3.5 ounces) sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
3/8 teaspoons salt
2 cups (9 ounces) flour

for the cheesecake part
1/2 cup (6 ounces) caramel sauce, purchased (that's what I did) or homemade
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 pounds cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup (1.75 ounces) sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature


for the crust:
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Put the rack in the lower third of the oven. Line a 9X13-inch pan with foil.

In a medium bowl, mix the melted butter with the sugard, vanilla and salt. Add the flour and mix until just incorporated. Press and smooth the dough evenly over the bottom of the pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the crut is a gold brown with well-browned darker edges. Let cool before adding the rest of the recipe.

for the bars:
Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Stir the caramel sauce together with the salt and set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer until smooth, about 30 seconds. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat until just smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add one egg and beat until just incorporate. Add the second egg and mix. Stir two tablespoons of the batter into the caramel sauce.

Pour the remaining batter over the prepared crust and smooth. Spoon pools of the caramel mixture over the filing, leaving plenty of plain filling showing. Jiggle a bit to smooth things out if the caramel doesn't immediately incorporate into the cream cheese filling. Take a toothpick and swirl it around to make pretty designs and marbelize the top of the cream cheese filling.

Bake 2--25 minutes until the filling is puffed at the edges but still jiggles in the center when the pan is nudged.

Put the pan on a cooling rack. When totally cool, cover and refrigerate at last four hours but preferably overnight (yeah, that was not possible in my case and it was just fine). Cut into pieces and store in an airtight container, refrigerated, for up to 4 days — as if that's going to happen. HA!


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