Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Baking Frenzy: Cinnamon Pecan Cheesecake Bars

While shopping in the Strip District of Pittsburgh, Karl and I stopped in Penzey's Spices to ogle (and smell!) the myriad spice offerings. While there, Karl bought me a jar of their Sweet Curry Powder (thank you!), and I picked up a copy of their free catalog, which contained a few recipes. One of the recipes in the circular was for Cinnamon Pecan Cheesecake Bars. I had some leftover pecans from making Banana Nut Bread a couple of weeks ago, so I decided to give it a try. Besides, how can you go wrong with a cheesecake bar with a shortbread base?

YUM! That's all I have to say, really. I may eventually adapt this for a full cheesecake recipe. It literally tastes like a cinnamon roll cheesecake. Added bonus: you can use Neufschatel instead of cream cheese to at least pretend its not that bad for you!

Cinnamon Pecan Cheesecake Bars

Crumble Topping:
1/3 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 TBSP butter
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup pecans, chopped

Shortbread Base:
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/4 cup flour
1/8 tsp salt

2 8-oz. blocks Neufschatel (light cream cheese), softened to room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350˚ F.

To make the crumble topping, mix the flour, sugar and cinnamon. Using your hands, cut the flour mixture into the butter until crumbly. Mix in the vanilla extract and the pecans. Set aside.

Next, make the bar base. Beat the sugar and butter together with an electric hand mixer until fluffy. Beat in the egg. Gently mix in the flour and the salt. Grease a 9x13 inch glass baking pan, and press the shortbread mixture into the bottom. Bake in the 350˚F oven for about 15 minutes. While it's baking, make the filling.

Beat the Neufschatel with sugar until creamy. Then beat in the eggs until smooth. Pour over the baked bar base. Sprinkle the crumble topping over the filling, then put in the oven for another 25 minutes. Turn off the oven, and leave the oven door open with the bars inside for about 15 minutes, then remove, cover, and chill in the refrigerator for at least two hours before serving.

Use a sharp knife to cut into squares (or just eat it voraciously out of the pan with a spoon!).

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