Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake Bars

 

Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake Bars
An autumn-appropriate dessert that’s rich, creamy – and totally company worthy

November means peak cranberry in the US. Cranberry sauce, relish, and salads are staples on Thanksgiving tables.

But cranberries like dessert, too. As in these Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake Bars.

Because why should pumpkin pie have all the fun?

Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake Bars

Recipe: Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake Bars

This recipe has four basic prep steps: First, make the cranberry sauce (for the swirl topping). Second, make the crust. Third, make the cheesecake batter. Fourth, create a swirlable purée from the sauce. It’s a pretty straightforward recipe, though. Even with several moving parts, nothing is that time consuming or difficult.

Mrs. Kitchen Riffs is the dessert maven in our household. She adapted this recipe from one she found at Broma Bakery.  

Prep time for this recipe takes about 30 to 45 minutes (depending on how quickly you work). Baking time is about 45 minutes. Cooling time is an hour or two.

This recipe yields about 9 to 16 servings, depending on how large you cut the bars (see Notes). Leftovers will keep for a few days if refrigerated in an airtight container.

Ingredients

For the Cranberry Sauce:

  • 12 ounces cranberries (fresh or frozen)
  • zest of 2 oranges (see Notes)
  • ½ cup granulated white sugar
  • ~½ cup water

For the Crust: 

  • ~10 graham crackers (about 5 ounces or 145 grams)
  • ¾ cup shelled walnuts
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 8 to 10 tablespoons butter, melted

For the Cheesecake Batter: 

  • 16 ounces full-fat cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup crème fraîche or sour cream
  • ~¾ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract (that tablespoon isn’t a typo, and you may want even more; see Notes)
  • 2 large eggs

Procedure 

  1. Make the cranberry sauce: Add all the ingredients to a saucepan and place over medium stovetop heat. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the cranberries burst open and begin to break down. Stir the mixture a few times, using the back of a spoon to break down the cranberries and bring out their juices. Set aside to cool. (You may want to reserve some of the cranberries for garnish; see Notes.)
  2. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line an 8×8-inch pan with parchment paper.
  3. Make the crust: Add the graham crackers to a food processor, then pulse until they’re reduced to coarse crumbs. Add the walnuts and sugar, then pulse until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Pour in the butter and pulse until the mixture holds together. Press the crust around the bottom of the prepared pan.
  4. Make the cheesecake batter: In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl, using a hand mixer), beat the cream cheese until it’s soft. Gradually add the crème fraîche, the powdered sugar, the vanilla extract, and the eggs, beating until all the ingredients are smooth and well combined. Pour the cheesecake batter over the crust in the prepared pan. 
  5. Strain the cooked cranberry sauce to create a swirlable purée: Pour the cranberry sauce into a fine mesh strainer placed over a bowl. Use a spatula to squeeze the liquid part of the cranberry mixture through the strainer, pressing down to get as much liquid out as possible. Dispose of the solids left in the strainer. 
  6. Pour the strained cranberry purée into a small squeeze bottle. Squeeze dots of cranberry purée over the top of the cheesecake batter, using about half the purée. Then use a chopstick to create a swirl pattern. Reserve the remaining cranberry purée.
  7. Bake the cheesecake for about 45 minutes, or until the top begins to look puffy. If you’re unsure, use an instant-read thermometer to test for doneness. Once the internal temperature of the cheesecake reaches 160F degrees, it’s done. Don’t overbake.
  8. Cool the cheesecake to room temperature, then refrigerate until it’s completely chilled. You can speed up the process by popping the cheesecake into the freezer for up to an hour.
  9. Cut the cheesecake into bars and serve. Garnish each plate with some of the reserved cranberry purée. (See Notes for alternative garnishing ideas.)

Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake Bars

Notes

  • The cranberry purée in this recipe has a very understated orange flavor. If you want something more citrus forward, just add more orange zest.
  • Don’t have walnuts on hand? Just leave them out and double the amount of graham crackers.
  • Crème fraîche is similar to sour cream. But crème fraîche has a higher fat content – and a richer taste. 
  • Many supermarkets stock crème fraîche (we often see it shelved in the dairy section with the whipping cream or sour cream; sometimes we find it in the cheese case). It’s easy enough to make your own, though: Just combine 1 pint of heavy cream with 2 tablespoons buttermilk in a nonreactive container. Cover and let the mixture sit at room temperature until it’s as thick as you like (this will take about 12 hours). Then refrigerate until ready to use.
  • Vanilla extract seems to make the flavor of cheesecake pop. So adjust the amount to your taste. Cheesecake craves vanilla, in our humble opinion.
  • We’ve made our own vanilla extract in the past, but these days we find it easier just to buy good quality commercial brands. Do buy pure vanilla extract, though. Its flavor is so much better than imitation.
  • We’ve discussed this in the past, but a refresher: Pure vanilla extract is made by soaking vanilla beans in a mixture of water and alcohol for several months. The FDA stipulates that pure vanilla extract must contain at least 35% alcohol (it’s a preservative). If the label doesn’t say “pure,” that means it’s made from synthetic vanilla. The artificial kind is usually made from the sapwood of conifers, or sometimes from coal extracts. So appetizing. Not.
  • If you haven’t made a swirl pattern on a dessert before, it’s easy. (We’re decorating challenged, and even we can do it.) We find it easiest to produce swirls when we use a chopstick. BTW, there are plenty of videos on the interwebs that demonstrate how to make swirls.
  • We usually cut this cheesecake into bars about 2 inches square, but anywhere from 1½ to 2½ inches square works. This is rich stuff, so you don’t want to cut pieces that are too large. 
  • We usually garnish each plate with some dots of the cranberry purée. Or with orange zest. Sometimes we reserve a few of the whole cranberries and garnish the plate with those (as we did in the pictures accompanying this post).
Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake Bars

Cheesy

“Boy oh boy,” I said. “Love me some cheesecake. Nice cranberry swirl, too.”

“This is good stuff, I’ll admit,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “And a piece of cake to make.”

“So this week you get to take the cake with your jokes?” I said. “But those swirls! Weren’t they difficult to make?”

“Nah,” said Mrs K R. “I just channeled my inner Jackson Pollock.”

Guess that explains the abstract expression on my face. 

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64 comments:

  1. OMG what a beautiful dessert. Better yet, I think I can ketofiy it with very few changes. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Mrs.K R!

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    1. Hi Anne, isn't this pretty? And SO good! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  2. This looks beautiful and sounds delicious, John. Just the right amount of decadence for a holiday dinner too!

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    1. Hi Terry, it's a wonderful dish -- tons of flavor. TONS. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  3. Festive, pretty, and delicious. Perfect for the upcoming holiday season.

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    1. Hi Pam, isn't this pretty? And such lovely flavor! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  4. What a gorgeous cheesecake! The cranberry swirl gives the cheesecake such a beautiful and festive touch. Just fabulous, John.

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    1. Hi Angie, that swirl is so pretty isn't it? :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  5. Another winner from Mrs. Riffs! But I'm guessing you are the real winner in this! It looks and sounds SO, SO GOOD!

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    1. Hi Abbe, you're right: I AM the real winner. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  6. I'm used to raspberry for cupcakes but I bet cranberries add the perfect touch of sourness that highlights perfect the richness of the cream cheese! :)

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    1. Hi FT, raspberry would be good in this, too, although of course at this time of the year the US goes mad for cranberry. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  7. Cranberries appeal to me in just about any preparation, though most of my experiments have combined them with chocolate. Like cranberry brownies. This sounds like a great taste combination too. I’m thinking a plate with one white and one dark cranberry bar.

    best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

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    1. Hi Mae, cranberry brownies are awesome! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  8. I going to have to make these bars John. They look fantastic.

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    1. Hi Gerlinde, you really do need to make them -- SO good. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  9. Oh man this cheesecake looks impeccable. Loving this luscious cranberry swirl which nicely balances the richness of the cheesecake. Perfect for the holiday season!

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    1. Hi Ben, this is so, SO good. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  10. YUM!!!! Mrs. KR makes a beautiful dessert. I actually prefer cheese bars to a cheesecake. Love the cranberry sauce to add a little tartness and sweetness to the cheese.

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    1. Hi MJ, we usually prefer bars, too. Among other reasons, a more sensible portion size! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  11. It has been some time since we have seen a dessert come from the Riff's kitchen and this one has been worth the wait! That crust, creamy cheesecake and cranberry swirl make for one festive dessert. So pretty too. Love this idea as it can be made in advance and a great idea for utilizing any leftover cranberry sauce from the holidays too.

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    1. Hi Bobbi, we don't make enough desserts. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  12. Perfect dessert for the holidays. This is one that everyone will enjoy

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    1. Hi Pat and Dahn, yup, everyone we've served this to has really liked it. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  13. An ideal way to use cranberries that's fresh and fun. Fab recipe, sir, with an eye-catching swirl!

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    1. Hi Brooks, cranberries make swell swirls. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  14. John how wonderful to have fresh cranberries at your disposal, we never do.This looks absolutely delightful, and I am tempted to make it with frozen cranberries. It's generally the dried variety that I buy.Cranberries really mean Christmas don't they? Well done to Mrs. KR on a fabulous dessert.

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    1. Hi Pauline, frozen cranberries work pretty well in this. Haven't thought of trying it with dried -- that would be a fun experiment. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  15. Oooh, yeah!!! I'm putting dibs on that top slice!! Love the pairing of tart cranberries with a rich, luscious cheesecake. Brilliant!

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    1. Hi Liz, we do like the combo of tart and sweet. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  16. I love everything about this recipe. I simply must make this soon.

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    1. Hi Lea Ann, you must! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  17. when I saw these on Facebook, I just knew I would be making it for the holidays. One thing about cheesecake, in general, is that it is too sweet. The tartness of the cranberries will help balance that perfectly. Thanks for another great recipe, John.

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    1. Hi David, I love cheesecake, but it's usually over-the-top sweet. This one is less so (still quite sweet, though), and the cranberries do help temper that. Thanks for the comment.

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  18. I have never met a cheesecake that I didn't like. I could seriously eat this whole pan. Well done!

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    1. Hi Laura, we didn't eat the whole pan. But we could have. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  19. All of these cranberry recipes that are coming out is killing me, I wish we have cranberries here. That recipe looks delicious

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    1. Hi Raymund, you could always substitute strawberry or raspberry, but of course the flavor would be much different. Colors would look great, though! Thanks for the comment.

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  20. I always look forward to fall when fresh cranberries are back in stores. The bars are beautiful with the swirls of cranberries. They look delicicious, too.

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    1. Hi Dawn, cranberries are so good, aren't they? Love their flavor in this dish! Thanks for the comment.

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  21. That red swirl is perfect for Christmas party tables! Everyone in my family loves cheesecake so this will be a win for sure. :)

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    1. Hi Judy, we're decorating challenged, as we said in the post, but making swirls is SO easy. And they look so good. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  22. I love cranberry and cheesecake, and a combination of these two sound so divine for autumn!

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    1. Hi Balvinder, it's a terrific pairing. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  23. What a festive and fun dessert for the holiday season. And so true, what should pumpkin get all the fun? ;-) ~Valentina

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    1. Hi Valentina, isn't this such a neat dish? SO good. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  24. I love this post, John. Interesting info about the vanilla ... from coal? Yuk! I've been making my own for years: two bottles, one steeping while I'm using the other. Anyway, this is the perfect way to use up either leftover cranberries, or leftover cranberry sauce!

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    1. Hi Jeff, the imitation vanilla is really not all that pleasant. The "pure" is really good, though. As is, of course, vanilla you make yourself. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  25. yay love cranberries. just wish we had them here. i've always wondered why they don't grow them down south in tasmania here. i reckon the weather would be very suitable...

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    1. Hi Sherry, haven't been to Tasmania, but from what I've read I, too, think the weather would be suitable. Maybe not enough demand? Anyway, thanks for the comment.

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  26. Thank you SO MUCH for sharing this recipe. I can't get enough cranberries this time of year! Even my husband who isn't fond of them, would enjoy this!
    Happy Thanksgiving!
    Cheers!

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    1. Hi Roz, enjoy! Happy Thanksgiving, and thanks for the comment.

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  27. Admittedly I'm not a pumpkin pie fan. In fact, nowadays I much prefer a cranberry-centric dessert for the holidays because its bright flavors are the perfect palate cleanser after a heavy meal. This looks ideal!

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    1. Hi Carolyn, we do like pumpkin, but like cranberry more. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  28. Replies
    1. Hi Ashley, it's fun to make swirls! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  29. I'm always up for another cranberry recipe during Thanksgiving season. This looks really good and the swirl add that something extra.

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    1. Hi Judee, it IS really good! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  30. That swirl is perfection! And I bet the tartness and the tanginess of the cream cheese are magnificent.

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    1. Hi Laura, it's really an excellent combo of flavors and textures. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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