Thursday, May 5, 2011

Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bars

Happy Cinco de Mayo!  This is one of those holidays that I have no cultural tie to, but celebrate anyway because I like the food and drinks.  You know, kind of like St. Patrick's Day.  One of my favorite Mexican ingredients is dulce de leche.  If you've never had it before, it's an amazingly rich, creamy caramel.  It makes a great filling for sandwich cookies (try it between chocolate wafer cookies), pancake or waffle topping, or stirred into hot coffee.

These cheesecake bars are one of my favorite recipes using dulce de leche.  Unlike regular cheesecake, no waterbath is required, and they transport easily for parties, an important factor for Cinco de Mayo.  The sweetness of the dulce de leche balances perfectly with the tanginess of the cream cheese.

Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bars
Adapted from Bon Appetit

What's in them:
    Butter or canola oil for greasing pan 
    1 1/2 cups (scant) finely ground graham crackers (from about 10 whole graham crackers)
    1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
    1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
    2 8-ounce packages Philadelphia-brand cream cheese, room temperature
    2/3 cup sugar
    2 large eggs
    1/3 cup purchased dulce de leche*
    1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    1/2 cup purchased dulce de leche
    2 tablespoons (or more) heavy whipping cream, half & half, or milk

* If you can't find dulce de leche, you can make your own using sweetened condensed milk.  The easiest (and safest) way to do this is to use your slow cooker.

How to make them:

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Coat 11x8x2-inch baking pan or glass dish with butter or oil.  Mix graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and cinnamon in medium bowl.  Add melted butter; stir until coated. Transfer crumb mixture to pan. Press evenly onto bottom of pan. Bake until crust is light golden, about 10 minutes. Cool completely on rack.


Blend cream cheese and sugar in processor until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl.  Add eggs 1 at a time, processing 3 to 5 seconds to blend between additions.  Add dulce de leche and vanilla; process until blended, about 10 seconds.  Spread batter evenly over cooled crust.  Bake until just set in center and edges are puffed and slightly cracked, about 30-35 minutes.  Transfer to rack; cool completely.


Heat dulce de leche and cream or milk in microwave-safe bowl in 10-second intervals until melted. Stir to blend, adding more cream by teaspoonfuls if too thick to pour (amount of cream needed will depend on brand of dulce de leche).  Be careful not to thin the glaze too much, as you don't want it to be runny.  Pour glaze over cooled cheesecake; spread evenly. Refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour (glaze will not be firm).   This can be done up to two days in advance, if you can resist them that long.

Cut cheesecake lengthwise into 4 strips, then crosswise into 4 strips, forming 16 bars.

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