These cheesecake bars give you all the wonderful flavor of NY style cheesecake, but in fun little bars!
I used to live near a bakery that made THE BEST cheesecake. It was smooth, creamy, velvety, and rich. It's safe to say that I had a lot of cheesecake growing up. Maybe too much ... but we don't have all day to talk about my cheesecake obsession.
Cheesecake is such a classic dessert, and I wanted to try my hand at recreating my favorite cheesecakes. My number one was always New York style cheesecake, and what better way to enjoy it that in these adorable bars??
The small bars are easier and quicker to make than a cheesecake in a spring form pan. So if you're short on time, but have a tall order, these cheesecake bars are great!
These bars are rich and cheesy (unlike my jokes). They taste just like the ones from my favorite bakery, with the same smooth, melt in your mouth deliciousness. But they're HOMEMADE! You can top these cheesecake bars with a fruit of your choice, whipped cream, caramel sauce, fudge sauce, or anything else you like.
How to prevent cracks on cheesecake:
If you ask me, you should NOT stress over cracks on cheesecake. It still turns out delicious, and you can hide the evidence by topping the cheesecake with something like jam, frosting, caramel sauce, fudge sauce, or whipped cream. Or just eat the whole thing and try again ... that works too.
That being said, I know sometimes you'd just appreciate a smooth top to the cheesecake. For that reason, I've grouped together some of the tips and tricks I use to help get a smooth top to my cheesecakes.
Tip #1: Start with room temperature ingredients.
I'm usually the first to tell you to skip steps like softening butter or letting ingredients come to room temperature. Partially because you usually get the same final product, mostly because I always forget to take ingredients out and I'm impatient.
But when it comes to cheesecake, I do have to admit it helps. When you bake your cheesecake, ice cold ingredients will seize up from the sudden blast of heat. They'll contract and stretch suddenly, which causes cracks in the center. Room temperature ingredients give you a controlled, gradual heating.
Room temperature ingredients are also easier to incorporate when mixing (so there's no fear of over mixing). Speaking of over mixing ...
Tip #2: Don't over mix the cheesecake batter.
When you mix your cheesecake, it causes air to incorporate into the batter. Cheesecake is famous for being wonderfully dense and rich. When there's too much air, as your cheesecake bakes, it causes it to rise too much. As cheesecake cools, the density of the cheese causes it to sink slightly. If it rises too much in the oven, when it falls, it creates cracks.
Over mixing generally doesn't happen until you add your eggs. That's why this recipe calls for mixing all of the ingredients together and then adding the eggs at the very end.
Tip #3: Bake in a low temperature oven.
Baking your cheesecake at a slightly lower temperature helps slowly bring up the temperature of the ingredients. So they don't shock under the heat, and expand and contract like crazy. I find the sweet spot temperature for baking cheesecake is between 300°F and 325°F. I prefer to go with 325°F just because it's quicker.
Tip #4: Let your cheesecake cool in the oven.
Again, this step is to avoid sudden changes in temperature. Letting the cheesecake cool in the oven helps it cool down gradually. Once the cheesecake is baked, leave it in the oven for about 1 hour with the door slightly ajar to cool slightly. Cool to room temperature before refrigerating.
Tip #5: Loosen the edges of your cheesecake while it's still warm.
About 30 minutes after the cheesecake has cooled slightly, I like to run a pairing knife along the edges of my cheesecake to loosen it. While it cools, it wants to shrink and contract, which can cause cracks. By loosening the sides with a knife, it gives the cheesecake some room to breath without being stuck to the sides.
How to tell when cheesecake is done:
To test if your cheesecake is ready to come out of the oven, there's a few telltale signs. First of all, the edges of the cheesecake will have turned a very light brown, but the center will still be a pale color. The cheesecake filling will have also puffed up slightly and lost its shine. Finally, if you gently shake your pan, the center of the cheesecake should still jiggle, while the outer edges should be relatively stiff.
Cheesecake should be kept stored in the fridge until right before serving, just to help keep everything solid and easy to cut. Cheesecake will keep for up to 1 week in the fridge. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap to keep it fresh for as long as possible.
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Cheesecake Bars Recipe
For the cheesecake crust:
- 1 & ¼ cups graham cracker crumbs, (about 10 full sheet graham crackers) * see notes
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
For the cheesecake filling:
- 2 (8 ounce) bricks cream cheese (16 ounces total), at room temperature
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup plain yogurt or sour cream ** see notes
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
Lightly grease a 9x9 inch square baking dish with melted butter. Preheat your oven to 325°F.
- Make the cheesecake crust: In a medium bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs and sugar. Mix to incorporate. Add melted butter and stir until you get a wet, crumbly mixture. Pour the graham cracker mixture into your baking dish. Firmly pat down the mixture into the bottom and slightly up the sides of the baking dish (I like to use the bottom of a cup or ramekin to help). Bake the crust in a preheated 325°F oven for 10 minutes. There won't be much of a visible difference. Take your crust out of the oven to cool slightly while you make the filling.
- Make the cheesecake filling: In a large bowl, beat your cream cheese and sugar together until the sugar is dissolved. Add the sour cream or yogurt, flour, vanilla extract, and salt. Gently mix together until incorporated. Add one egg to the cheese mixture, and beat until just combined. Add your second egg and beat again to combine. Take care not to over mix!
- Pour your cheesecake filling into your slightly cooled crust. Bake in the center of your 325°F oven for about 35 to 40 minutes, or until slightly puffed and lightly browned along the sides with a matte finish on top.
- Turn the oven off and crack the door open slightly. Cool the cheesecake in the oven for about 1 hour, take the cheesecake out and cool completely to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight, to set before slicing and serving. Cut into 16 bars and serve plain or topped with fresh fruits or whipped cream.