Cranberry Cheesecake Bars

Sometimes you come across a recipe and it completely changes your outlook for the week. Maybe even the year. I know we’re only a week in, but cranberry cheesecake has been the highlight of my 2012 in the kitchen. Last week there were exactly 4 quart-sized freezer bags of cranberries left in our freezer and exactly 4 months left until spring fruits begin to ripen. Then I met cranberry cheesecake. I’m in BIG trouble.

The cream cheese comes from a dairy in Iowa via Mississippi Market. The original recipe from the Taste of Home cookbook called for sweetened condensed milk–which let’s face it–is in no way local. Instead, I substituted sour cream whisked with a few tablespoons of maple syrup. Not ideal, but the baked cheesecake didn’t seem to suffer in texture or taste. The recipe also called for canned cranberry sauce and cornstarch (ick!) which I substituted for an easy cooked stove top sauce with the frozen berries.

I’m kicking myself for not taking some photos of it, but I also used this recipe for another special treat. On New Year’s Eve we decided to fon-do-it-up with some friends with a fondue party. For dessert, I cut the cooled cheesecake bars into 1″ squares and froze them individually on a baking sheet. An hour or so later, we dipped them in melted dark chocolate. Wow. On so many levels.

2011 was my year of ice cream. I’m starting to think 2012 will have a cheesecake flair…

Cranberry Cheesecake Bars 

Ingredients

For the cranberry sauce
1 C. water
1 C. sugar
2 C. frozen cranberries
For the Crust
2 C. plus 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 C. whole wheat flour
1 C. oatmeal
3/4 C. brown sugar
1/2 C. butter, melted
For the Filling
2, 8 oz. packages of cream cheese, softened
1/2 C. sour cream
2 Tbsp. maple syrup
4 egg whites
1 tsp. vanilla

Instructions
1. Make the cranberry sauce: Place the water and sugar in a small sauce pot, stir until the sugar is dissolved. Turn on heat to medium-low and bring to a boil. Add cranberries and continue to stir constantly while heating. When mixture boils, reduce heat and stir 5 minutes or until cranberries open. Be sure to stir constantly to avoid scorching. Sauce may foam-up; remove the pot from the burner for a few seconds to allow foam to settle before returning to heat. Set aside to cool.

2. Make the crust: Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Prepare a 9 X 13″ baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.  In a large mixing bowl, combine flours, oatmeal and brown sugar.  Add in butter and combine until mixture has pea-sized crumbles.  Pour 2 1/2 C. of the crumb mixture into the baking dish and pat down to form the crust.  Set the remaining crumb mixture aside for topping.  Bake the crust for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

3. While the crust is baking, place the cream cheese, sour cream and maple syrup in large mixing bowl.  Beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Add in egg whites and vanilla, continuing to beat until filling is smooth.

4. When crust is cool to the touch, pour in filling mixture and spread in an even layer with a spatula. Top with the cranberry sauce, spreading in an even layer.  Finally, sprinkle with the remaining crumb topping.  Return to oven and bake 25 to 30 minutes or until center is just set. Allow to cool on a baking dish.

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