It was Mark’s birthday on the 5th and, for the first time since we’ve been together, I actually made him a cheesecake for his birthday. Well, it was the first time I ever made him any kind of cake or dessert for his birthday. Why? There’s really no answer. One year I even made our friend a chocolate Bailey’s cheesecake for her birthday which was the same day as Mark’s but didn’t do one for him. I would say that it probably makes me pretty terrible but since he gets cakes and cookies practically every day anyways, I’d still say he’s got it pretty good. All though if you ask him, he’ll say that a birthday cake is very different from a regular day cake.
So I made cheesecake bars.
The recipe developed in the same way quite a lot of my recipes develop: I start grabbing ingredients, I see random things in the pantry that I hadn’t thought of, I hope combining different flavors will actually taste good, and I fudge my way through it. Often this way of developing a recipe works, sometimes it’s atrocious. It’s the reason I call myself the pretend baker- I don’t actually know if what I’m doing most of the time will work and I figure it all out as I go. I pretend like I know exactly what I’m doing when, in the privacy of my own mind, I’m praying it actually WILL turn out and I won’t just look like a big fat fraud.
It’s one of the many reasons I stress to no end if I’m cooking for someone other than my family.
I mean I suppose I’ve picked up a decent amount of knowledge and skills over the years after failing a million times and figuring out what didn’t work, but I’m still no culinary wonder and I’m fairly certain if I ever actually went to culinary school, I would have my ass handed to me.
So, in the privacy of my kitchen I stay, holding my breath and obsessively staring through the oven door as cheesecakes and muffins bake, hoping they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing and that they’ll taste the way I think they will.
When Mark tried these bars, he dubbed them the best cheesecake he’s ever eaten. Does he have to say that? Yeah, he does. But I confirmed it by not being able to stop eating it, myself and then the rest of the family all agreed. These bars were not safe in my fridge and when we decided it was definitely a recipe to share with you beautiful people, I knew I needed to snap some quick pictures of what little we had left. Making another tray just isn’t an option until we have them again at Christmas. I just can’t have these amazing cranberry almond cheesecake bars in my fridge again before then. I can’t.
I highly suggest making these when you know you have a handful of people to share it with otherwise you’ll end up eating the entire tray yourself. I can pretty much guarantee you.
- 1 C fresh cranberries
- 6 TBSP dark brown sugar
- ⅛ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ cup water
- 1 C all purpose flour
- ½ C melted butter
- ¼ cup dark brown sugar
- ¼ tsp salt
- 16oz brick style cream cheese, room temperature
- ¾ C cane sugar
- 2 large eggs
- ¼ C full fat sour cream
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ¾ tsp pure almond extract
- Make the cranberry sauce:
- In a small saucepan, heat cranberries, sugar and water over high heat. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium and continue to cook, uncovered, stirring often, until the berries have burst and the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool down.
- Make the crust:
- Preheat oven to 375F
- In a medium sized bowl, combine flour, sugar and salt. Add melted butter and stir until completely incorporated.
- Grease and line an 8x8 in baking pan with parchment paper and lightly press the lour mixture in to the pan, making sure it is all evenly distributed.
- Bake for 10 minutes then reduce the heat to 325F
- Meanwhile, in the bowl of your stand mixer, cream together the cream cheese and sugar then scrape the bowl down.
- Add eggs, almond extract and vanilla and beat until light and creamy.
- Add sour cream and beat until well combined, scraping the bowl as necessary.
- When crust is done, pour cheesecake filling in to the pan.
- Dot cranberry sauce all over the top then gently swirl around with a knife.
- Bake cheesecake for 40-50 minutes, or until the edges are set and the middle is only slightly jiggly.
- Allow to cool completely in the pan.
- Wrap the cheesecake (in the pan) in plastic wrap and place in the fridge to completely set for a minimum of 3 hours, preferably overnight.
- Serve cold.
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