You've probably gathered by now that there are an awful lot of baked goods in our house on any given week. Even though I scale most recipes back, I'm still churning out more sweets than a two person household can (or should) eat, especially since Shane is only interested in about 25% of the recipes I try. Luckily, the solution is pretty simple; our friends and family are generally more than willing to help with our sweets overload by taking things off our hands. It's actually made the recipe selection process pretty interesting for me. I find myself browsing through recipes wondering not whether Shane or I would like them, but instead, keeping an eye out for flavors I know are personal favorites of our friends or family. Case in point - these eggnog cheesecake bars. Eggnog is a popular seasonal flavor, but honestly doesn't appeal much to me so left to my own devices I wouldn't be posting any recipes incorporating it. I have a good friend, though, who is a big fan of both eggnog and cheesecake so as soon as I saw this recipe I flagged it with her in mind.
These bars would be a great alternative to a full-size cheesecake if you're hosting or attending a holiday party this year. They're easily cut into individual portions for serving, or, if you need to travel with them, they're portable too - it's a win, win. Added bonus, the recipe is super simple. I didn't run into any of my usual cheesecake problems - cracking, guessing at doneness, or liquid from the water bath seeping in and making things soggy. The bars were perfectly cooked at 45 minutes for me, and sliced without issue. You can dust them with a little bit of freshly grated nutmeg to make them party ready if you'd like. I have to say that even this non-eggnog lover was a fan of the cheesecake bars. They're creamy, smooth, and yes, full of eggnog flavor with a rich, buttery graham cracker crust. The rest of the bars are heading to my friend's house today, fingers crossed she's as big a fan as I think she'll be.
Eggnog Cheesecake Bars
from Martha Stewart
12 graham crackers, finely ground (about 1 1/2 cups)
3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 pound cream cheese (2 - 8 oz bricks), at room temperature
2 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup eggnog
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon brandy
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil leaving overhang on opposite sides so you can lift the bars out easily. Coat the foil-lined pan with cooking spray.
To make the crust: In a medium bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, 3 tablespoons of the sugar and the melted butter. Stir to evenly moisten the crumbs. Press the mixture evenly over the bottom of the prepared baking pan. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the crust is just slightly brown around the edges. Remove to a wire rack to cool.
Fill a large saucepan 3/4 full with water and bring to a boil. Maintain at a simmer while you make the filling.
To make the filling: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining 3/4 cup sugar, eggs, egg yolk, eggnog, flour, brandy, vanilla, nutmeg and salt to the bowl and beat just until smooth (you don't want to overmix here). Pour the filling evenly over the crust.
Place the cake pan in a large roasting pan. Pour enough of the hot water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the cake pan. (I usually set the roasting pan/cake pan combo in my oven before pouring in the water so I don't have to move the delicate set-up into the oven.) Bake until the filling is just set, about 40-45 minutes. Remove the cake pan from the roasting pan and transfer to a wire rack and let cool for about 30 minutes. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and chill for at least 3 hours or up to 1 day.
Use the foil to lift the bars out of the cake pan. Cut into 3 by 1 1/2-inch bars. The bars can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days. If you'd like, dust the tops of the bars with freshly grated nutmeg just before serving.