Right now, New York City is the epitome of perfection. There is a slight chill to the air, but the sun still comes out and warms you briefly before darting behind a cloud for a second. While the trees are still lively and green, some leaves are beginning to turn. The nights are cold enough to spend wrapped in a blanket, socks on, hands holding a cup of hot tea.
Of course, it is also the perfect time to bake. Hence my frustration. I’m dreaming about pumpkin bread, cream scones slathered with apple butter, snickerdoodle cookies, apple crisps, decadent spice cakes topped with cream cheese frosting. Not to mention I found the most resourceful baking shop in New York City. Stacks of sprinkles, cookie cuttes, pans. You name it, they had it. I hate not having an oven. It’s killing me.
However, I’m dying to tell you about the one thing I made before I left. Picture a graham cracker cookie crust, cream cheese layer, and chocolate ganache topping. Yes folks, I made Cheesecake bars with a rich chocolate ganache topping and they were exactly what you’d expect. I don’t wanna toot my own horn but I believe that everyone uttered a slight orgasmic moan when biting in to these bars. I take that as a good sign, right?
I used my signature cheesecake recipe from Dorie Greenspan. I use this recipe so much because it has never let me down in the taste department. I need consistency when preparing dessert for a soiree. However, I think next time I’m going to branch out. I might try a Martha Stewart recipe I’ve been holding on to or use another one that seems to have the magic touch. I should experiment more but it’s nice to have a fall-back recipe.
If you have read anything on this site regarding cheesecake, you know that I’m a fickler for texture. It might must be ice cold, firm, and absolutely not soft. I can’t stand too soft cheesecake. To get these bars firmed up, I put them in the freezer overnight, wrapped tightly. Which helped them last since the weather outside was well above toasty.
To this day, most of my friends say that when I come back, I have to make this recipe again. The combination of cheesecake + chocolate ganache can only be summed in one word: heavenly. True story.
Cheesecake Bars with Chocolate Ganache
Adapted from: “Baking: From My Home to Yours” by Dorie Greenspan
Yield: 16 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: Overnight
For The Crust:
1 ¾ cups Graham Cracker Crumbs
3 tbsp. Sugar
Pinch Of Salt
½ Stick (4 Tablespoons) Unsalted Butter, melted
For The Cheesecake:
2 pounds (four 8-ounce boxes) Cream Cheese, at room temperature
1 ⅓ cups Sugar
½ tsp. Salt
2 tsp. Pure Vanilla Extract
4 large Eggs, at room temperature
1 ⅓ cups Sour Cream
To make the crust:
1. Butter a 9 by 13-inch pan; put the pan on a baking sheet.
2. Stir the crumbs, sugar and salt together in a medium bowl. Pour over the melted butter and stir until all of the dry ingredients are uniformly moist. (I do this with my fingers.) Turn the ingredients into the buttered springform pan and use your fingers to pat an even layer of crumbs along the bottom of the pan and about halfway up the sides. Don’t worry if the sides are not perfectly even or if the crumbs reach above or below the midway mark on the sides—this doesn’t have to be a precision job. Put the pan in the freezer while you preheat the oven.
3. Center a rack in the oven, preheat the oven to 350°F and place the pan on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Set the crust aside to cool on a rack while you make the cheesecake.
4. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.
To make the cheesecake:
1. Working in a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese at medium speed until it is soft and lives up to the creamy part of its name, about 4 minutes. With the mixer running, add the sugar and salt and continue to beat another 4 minutes or so, until the cream cheese is light. Beat in the vanilla. Add the eggs one by one, beating for a full minute after each addition—you want a well-aerated batter. Reduce the mixer speed to low and stir in the sour cream and/or heavy cream.
2. Give the batter a few stirs with a rubber spatula, just to make sure that nothing has been left unmixed at the bottom of the bowl, and scrape the batter into the pan. The batter will reach the sides of the pan.
3. Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 30 minutes, at which point the top will be browned (and perhaps cracked) and may have risen just a little above the rim of the pan. Turn off the oven’s heat and prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon. Allow the cheesecake to cool in the oven.
4. After 1 hour, carefully pull the setup out of the oven, remove the foil. Let the cheesecake come to room temperature on a cooling rack.
5. When the cake is cool, cover the top lightly and chill the cake for at least 4 hours, although overnight would be better. I let my cheesecake freeze overnight to harden more thoroughly.
Serving: The easiest way to cut cheesecake is to use a long, thin knife that has been run under hot water and lightly wiped. Keep warming the knife as you cut slices of the cake.
Storing: Wrapped well, the cake will keep for up to 1 week in the refrigerator or for up to 2 months in the freezer. It’s best to defrost the still-wrapped cheesecake overnight in the refrigerator.