Cherry Cheesecake Bars
Why I Love This Recipe
I have absolutely no idea where this recipe came from. I think my mother clipped it off the back of a cream cheese package twenty-some-odd years ago, something like that. Doesn’t matter – it’s decadent. When making up cookie plates, this falls into the “over the top” category. Since many of the cookies that I make for Christmas are delicate or subtle, it’s nice to have something that’s just a giant punch of flavor.
Ingredients You'll Need
• 1 cup walnut pieces, divided – ½ cup finely chopped, ½ cup roughly chopped
• 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
• ½ cup brown sugar, packed
• ½ cup (4 oz) shortening
• ½ cup shredded coconut
• 16 oz cream cheese, softened
• ⅔ cup granulated sugar
• 2 large eggs
• 2 tsp vanilla extract
• 1 large can (20-21 oz) cherry pie filling
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 13”x9” baking dish with nonstick spray.
2. For the crust: mix the flour and the sugar to combine. Cut in the shortening until you have roughly pea-sized chunks. Add in ½ cup of the finely-chopped walnuts and all of the coconut; mix to combine. Scoop out about a half-cup of the mixture and set aside; pour the remaining crust into the prepared pan and press it down to form an even layer on the bottom, being sure to get it into the corners.
3. Bake the crust for 12-15 minutes, or until lightly golden brown.
4. For the filling: while the crust is baking, combine the cream cheese, sugar, eggs and vanilla extract in a stand mixer on medium speed until thoroughly combined. When the crust comes out of the oven, pour the cheese mixture over the crust, spreading to form an even layer. Return to the oven and bake for another 15 minutes.
5. At this point, remove the pan from the oven. Spread the cherry filling over the cheese layer, again forming an even layer. Sprinkle the reserved ½ cup of crumbs and the ½ cup of the roughly-chopped walnuts over the cherry filling. Return the pan to the oven once again and bake for an additional 15 minutes.
6. Remove the pan from the oven. Let it cool on the countertop until it’s room temperature, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled and the cheese layer is completely set. Slice and serve.
Who doesn’t love cheesecake? People who have to bake cheesecake - that's who. It’s not exactly hard, but it can be finicky, what with springform pans and water baths and preventing the dreaded ‘crack.’ This recipe basically gets around all of that. The cheesecake is just another layer in the bar cookie, and since it’s a thin layer, it’ll cook in a shorter amount of time, which means no need to take out insurance in the form of a water bath. And cracking? Doesn’t matter – you’re covering it up anyway.
A word about the cherry pie filling: Okay, look… would I prefer that you make your own fresh cherry pie filling? Absolutely. Of course. No question. But that would require you to have thought ahead. About six months ahead, back in May when the cherries season peaked, and have had so many that you canned a whole bunch. Or you need to pull some frozen cherries out of the freezer, let them thaw, then mix up the filling yourself. If you want to, more power to you. But seriously? That just makes this recipe harder, and we don’t need anything harder at Christmastime. Just buy a can of cherry pie filling. I won’t judge. It’s not like that’s the only unhealthy thing in this recipe. It’s Christmas, you can afford to indulge a bit.