strawberry-chamomile cheesecake bars
So, I’m pretty particular about my cheesecake. I’m not even a huge cheesecake fan, but if I do elect to eat some, I’ve got pretty high standards. It’s a texture thing. The trick to really great cheesecake is to not fucking over-bake it. The second you do, you go from a silky filling to a grainy crumbly one and that shit is not okay. Ever wondered why the top of your cheesecake cracks? That sucker is over-baked. The only way to be 100 percent sure that your cheesecake is baked to perfection is to use a probe thermometer and temp that bad boy to 145 degrees F. This ensures a cheesecake that is cooked all the way through, without being overcooked. Anyway, cheesecake rant over. So, let’s talk about these beauties.
In my opinion, for a dessert to be referred to as a “bar”, especially in the case of cheesecake, you can’t just bake a normal cheesecake in a different pan and have the same graham cracker crust. You just CAN’T. For texture’s sake. I want creamy and chewy and maybe even a little crunchy on the bottom. But to go through like 9 years of creamy only to get a thin little crunchy graham cracker crust at the bottom just is not going to do it for me. Sorry, guys. Enter: browned butter blondie for a crust. Not only will the crust be stable so you can eat these bars as they were intended (they’re FINGER food, guys) but the crust is like biting into a chewy/crunchy cookie and provides an excellent contrast to the creamy cheesecake. Not trying to toot my own horn here folks, but toot toot. I guarantee if you bring these to your next gathering, they’ll be gone before you know it. And if strawberry isn’t your jam (heh, see what I did there), that’s a-ok. You can completely omit the jam or just choose a different flavor or a different fruit. Or make like a pumpkin swirl. It’s fall after all. Go freakin’ wild. But whatever you do, make sure you set a few aside for yourself before you let anyone else know they exist. TRUST ME.
strawberry-chamomile cheesecake bars
- 170g (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 113g (1 stick) browned butter, cooled slightly (process explained below)
- 150g brown sugar
- 250g granulated sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 550g (about 3 cups) flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 5 8oz packages cream cheese, at room temperature
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 7 eggs
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- pinch of salt
- 1 cup good strawberry jam (not jelly, and not smuckers ffs—bonne maman is a great option or make your own!)
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon ground dried chamomile flowers
- *I ground the flowers myself in a mortar and pestle, a spice grinder would work well also!
**If you are cutting the recipe in half, adjust the baking time—it will likely only take about an hour to an hour and a half to bake, rather than the 2.5 hours. Same goes for the crust! Set a timer for 15 minutes, and check every 5 minutes after. You’re only looking for the crust to be mostly cooked as it will continue to bake.
- To make the crust: Preheat an oven to 375 degrees F. First, start by making browned butter. Melt 113g (1 stick) unsalted butter in a small pan. Cook over medium heat until the butter foams a bit and eventually turns golden brown. STOP AT GOLDEN—it goes from deliciously nutty to acrid and burned really quickly. As soon as the butter turns golden brown, remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter with browned butter until fluffy. Add both sugars and beat for 5 minutes. Add egg and vanilla and beat well until evenly combined (you may need to scrape down the bowl to get everything incorporated). In a separate bowl, mix together flour, salt and baking powder. Add dry ingredients to wet and mix until evenly combined. The mixture will be a bit crumbly. Grease your baking pan (9x13) and press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan until about 1/2 inch thick. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. Allow to cool completely. Reduce oven temperature to 275 degrees F.
- To make strawberry swirl: In a small saucepan, melt jam with water and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and add ground chamomile. Let cool completely before using.
- To make cheesecake filling: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese until very smooth (seriously, NO LUMPS!). Add sugar, and mix until well combined. Add eggs, vanilla and a pinch of salt, beating well between each egg addition. In a small saucepan, warm up the cream until it’s barely simmering. With the mixer running, gently pour the warm cream in—this helps get the batter very smooth and helps speed along baking. Pour cheesecake filling over cooled bar base and jiggle slightly to get the top smooth. Dot the top with dollops of strawberry-chamomile jam and swirl using a knife or toothpick. Bake cheesecake at 275 degrees F for 2-2.5 hours, until cheesecake only jiggles slightly. Turn off the oven and allow the cheesecake to cool in the oven for 1 hour. Refrigerate overnight and slice. Serve with sliced strawberries and a dusting of powdered sugar!