Sunday, December 6, 2015

Holiday Cheesecake Swirl Bars

I was watching Food Network the other day, where cooks compete for a grand prize. One of the judges advised a contestant that while her food was tasty, they were really looking for something more creative and a stand out. I guess if you stay with the tried and true, you are playing it too safe. I have always believed that it is the risk takers that are usually the most successful. If in the end you lose, would you rather have taken the risk or played it safe?

This particular recipe can be classified as a successful risk. It is very different from the image and flavors we think of when the subject of a cheesecake dessert comes up. I think of the NY slice with strawberries on it or the caramel turtle cheesecake. This recipe is definitely not those.

Firstly, it is a bar recipe instead of the round cheesecake made in a springform pan. The are several other factors which deem this recipe unique. The bottom is actually a blend vanilla wafers (sometimes called "Nilla" as stated on the package) and pecans. As you taste the creamy layer, there is that unmistakable tang of cream cheese. Then you experience some seasonal flavors such as eggnog and rum. Lastly is the top layer, of sweet swirled white and dark chocolate, which pulls it all together.

I am sure you agree that the title of this recipe does not reveal all the great flavors in these bars. Now let's get to baking...

Holiday Cheesecake Swirl Bars
adapted from My Recipes

1/4 cup of eggnog
6 tbs melted butter
1 1/2 tsp of rum extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
crushed vanilla wafer cookies (about 55)
1/2 finely chopped toasted pecans
16 oz softened cream cheese
1/2 cup or 4 oz white chocolate
1/2 cup or 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate

Grease the interior of an 8 or 9 inch square pan.  Line the bottom and up 2 sides of of the pan, leaving some overhang. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

To make the crust, mix together the pecans and cookie crumbs in a small bowl. Pour in the butter and stir, making sure everything is dampened. All of it should be able to clump together. Empty mixture into the prepared pan and press evenly into the bottom of the pan. Place pan in oven and bake for about 8 minutes. Remove and set aside on rack to cool.

Fill another bowl with the cream cheese, rum extract and sugar and combine, using a mixer. Beat batter for about 1 minute. The resulting batter will be thick and smooth. Add one egg and mix just until blended. Repeat the process with the second egg.

Separate out 1 1/2 cups of batter. Pour it on top of the prepared crust in the pan. For the remaining batter, mix in the eggnog. After blending, measure batter and divide in half.  Set each bowl of batter aside.

Set up a double boiler and once the bottom pot of water starts to simmer, fill the top pot with the white chocolate. Let the chocolate melt, stirring a few times. After it is completely melted, empty chocolate into one bowl with the eggnog batter and stir. Drop by spoonfuls on top of the cream cheese layer in the pan, leaving space between each.

Repeat the above process with the semi-sweet chocolate and spoon into the spaces left between the white chocolate blend. Marble the two together using a knife or skewer to make swirls.

Place pan in the oven and bake for about 30-35 minutes.When done, the surface will no longer be shiny. After baking, place pan on cooling rack. Once completely cool, cover and chill for a minimum of 1 hour. Using the parchment overhang, lift dessert out of pan and cut into bars and serve.
                                 **LAST YEAR: Pineapple Upside Down Gingerbread*