Saturday, June 4, 2011

Strawberry-Almond Cheesecake Bars

I'm not a big fan of cheesecake.

I know, I know.  There's clearly something wrong with my taste buds.  But that's not the only thing wrong with me, so let's just move on, shall we?

My dad, on the other hand, is nearly famous for his love of cheesecake.  So when I saw this recipe for cheesecake bars in an old issue of Cook's Country Magazine (July 2007), I thought I'd give it a try.

And guess what?

I liked them.  A lot.

The original recipe called for raspberry preserves, but I had strawberry on hand and used that instead.  They came out delicious, although I think I'd increase the amount of preserves to 1 cup next time I make it.  The almond extract did wonderful things with the cheesecake's flavor and I'm looking forward to many more almond-based recipes now that I have a bottle of extract on hand.

If you're planning to make these, be sure to allow enough time for baking, cooling to room temperature (about an hour out of the oven), and then chilling in the fridge for 4 hours before it's time to serve them.  It's well worth the wait, though, and they'll keep beautifully in the fridge for several days.

Still not convinced you should try these?  Maybe another picture will help.


Strawberry-Almond Cheesecake Bars

Crust Ingredients:
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces

Filling Ingredients:
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup strawberry preserves [I'll be increasing this to 1 cup next time]

Directions:
  1. For the crust:  Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare 9 x 13 inch baking pan (see note below).  Combine flour, sugars, almonds, and salt in food processor.  Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Press mixture firmly into prepared pan.  Bake until light golden brown, about 15 minutes.  Cool completely.
  2. For the filling:  With electric mixer on medium speed, beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl until smooth, about 2 minutes.  Beat in egg and extracts until incorporated, about 1 minute.
  3. Spread preserves over cooled crust, leaving 1/2-inch border around edge.  Dollop tablespoonfuls of cream cheese mixture over preserves and spread into even layer.
  4. Bake until slightly puffed, 30 to 35 minutes.  Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours.  Remove from pan (see note below) and cut into squares.

Note:  To prepare pan, spray it with cooking spray and then line with aluminum foil, allowing excess to overhang pan edges.  Spray foil with cooking spray.  Once bars have been baked and cooled, use foil overhang to lift bars from pan.

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