Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Cheesecake Bars

Seriously, who doesn't love a good, creamy, rich cheesecake?  I, for one, loooooove cheesecake!  Plain, vanilla, with a hint of fresh lemon, is my absolute favorite variety.  It is definitely a luxurious indulgence, but I rarely feel guilty for eating it.  Ok, maybe I feel slightly guilty.... but that is usually for not being generous in wanting to share!!  These bars make a wonderful substitute for the real deal....only uses half the amount of cream cheese and makes a smaller dessert, so you won't feel guilty over having to responsibly deal with an entire leftover cheesecake!  You're welcome!  :)

Cheesecake Bars
Source:  The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

7 whole graham crackers, broken into 1-inch pieces
6 tbl. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 tbl. light brown sugar
2 tbl. flour
1/8 tsp. salt

2 (8-oz.) pkgs. cream cheese (I usually use 1/3 Less Fat or Neufatchel), softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees.  Line an 8-inch square baking dish with a foil sling and lightly spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray.

For the crust--process the graham cracker pieces in a food processor to fine, even crumbs (or use a rolling pin over a sealed bag).  Sprinkle the butter, brown sugar, flour, and salt over the crumbs and pulse to incorporate.  Sprinkle the mixture into the prepared pan and press into an even layer with the bottom of a measuring cup.  Bake the crust until fragrant and beginning to brown, 12 to 15 minutes.

For the filling--beat the cream cheese until smooth in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed, 1 to 3 minutes.  Scrape down the bowl and beaters regularly to make sure the filling achieves a smooth silky texture.  Gradually beat the sugar until incorporated, about 1 minute, scraping down as necessary.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until combined, about 30 seconds.  Beat in the sour cream, lemon juice, and vanilla until incorporated, about 30 seconds.  Scrape down sides of bowl and beaters and beat for another 30 seconds.

Pour the filling over the crust.  Bake the bars until the edges are set but the center still jiggles slightly, 35-40 minutes.  Rotate the pan halfway through baking.

Let the bars cool completely in the set, set on a wire rack, about 2 hours, then cover with foil and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 5 hours, but preferrably 24 hours.  Remove the bars from the pan using the foil sling; cut into squares and serve.  Garnish with a sliced strawberry or your preference of fresh fruit.

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