Best thing to do when its cold and dreary outside? Bake something bright and cheerful! I’m lucky I escaped chilly Islamabad for warmer Dubai, but the abundance of winter produce is all around me and I cant help but bake with them! There is something about berries that makes me weak in the knees. So here I present you with Strawberry Swirl Cheesecake Bars. Aren’t those swirls just adorable?!
So, about the cheesecake bars: They’re super soft and moist just the way cheesecake is meant to be. They’re almost custard like in their texture! They’re that moist! Dare i say, similar if not better in texture and taste to the famed Baked New York Cheesecake. I baked them up into bars to make them quick and easy without worrying about having a cheesecake with a cracked center! The strawberry swirl not only looks great, but really adds to the flavor of these creamy bars. Just promise me you will use the best ingredients to make these bars? Especially vanilla extract! Also, DONT skimp on the cream cheese! I am guilty of doing that in the past.. and this time around i could definitely taste the difference. So follow along because good ingredients is the difference between a good cheesecake bar from a GREAT cheesecake bar.
Now about the crust. The crust is made from graham crackers and a touch of melted butter. There is no way around a killer graham cracker crust. After i prepared the crust and pressed it well into the pan, I froze the pan for about 20 minutes. This helps the crust set well and will present it from being flaky or breaking around. Added bonus, the graham crackers and the butter get to just chill and bond for a while, enhancing the flavors even more!
There is just one important step to the baking of these bars that really adds to it’s creamy texture. Once the cheesecake is ready to go into the oven, they need to be placed in a bain marie. Now, hold up, don’t be alarmed. Its not an additional piece of equipment you need or a mastered skill of a pastry chef (because I most definitely am NOT! Ha!). Bain marie is just a fancy term for a hot water bath. Basically you just set the cake pan inside a large, shallow roasting pan and transfer to the oven. Once in the oven, carefully ladle boiling water into roasting pan to reach halfway up sides of cake pan. That’s it! You just let it do its own thing in the oven and you can step away and have a cuppa and revel in what’s to come! Just be careful when taking it out of the oven!
Incase there are no fresh strawberries where you are, all is not lost! Try to get your hands on some frozen strawberries or some good quality strawberry jam. If using frozen strawberries, allow to defrost slightly before blitzing them in the food processor. If using strawberry jam, you’ll need about 1/4 cup of jam in total. Keep the jam at room temperature and whisk slightly before using. Then just dollop on the cheesecake mixture and swirl. You could totally sub strawberry jam for any other jam that you like, raspberry and cherry are my favorite but orange marmalade would be great too! Go wild!
See, I know you’re going to be making these bars and serving them to your family and friends and receiving a lot of praise. So go ahead gloat a little! I get it, I do it. Like ALL the time (:))! It’s a great feeling to have nailed a dessert, and this is why I’ve made this one as fool-proof as possible, so there is little room for error. You’re welcome!!!
Strawberry Swirl Cheesecake Bars
- 1½ cups graham cracker crumbs
- 4T butter
- 16 ounces cream cheese- room temperature
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 eggs- room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 oz. of fresh strawberries (about ½ cup)*
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on all sides. Crimp overhang under rim of pan. Set aside.
- In a food processor, blend graham crackers until finely ground; add butter and pulse until moistened. This could be done by hand too.
- Transfer crumb mixture to prepared pan, and pat in gently. Freeze the crust for 15-20 minutes until set. Bake until beginning to brown, 10 to 12 minutes.
- While crust is baking, make filling.
For the filling
- Beat together the white sugar, and cream cheese until smooth.
- Add the egg one at a time and beat until smooth and creamy. Lastly, mix in the vanilla. Spread filling mixture over baked crust (the crust till be hot at this time).
- In a food processor or blender, purée the strawberries along with the sugar until smooth.
- Dot the strawberry mixture over the filling and use a toothpick or skewer to swirl together.
- Return the pan to the oven. This time place the pan in a bain marie: set the cake pan inside a large, shallow roasting pan and transfer to the oven. Once in the oven, carefully ladle boiling water into roasting pan to reach halfway up sides of cake pan. The cheesecake is ready once it has set. The filling should jiggle only slightly when pan is gently shaken), about 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack and then chill until cold before slicing and serving.
*If using frozen strawberries, let thaw slightly before blending. Alternatively, use a good quality strawberry jam. Other jams can also be substituted.
Recipe very loosely adapted from Martha Stewart