Monday, April 18, 2016

Cranberry Cheese Squares

I've had a huge bag of cranberries in my freezer since Christmas (and it's April), so I decided it was about time I used them in something.  I'd considered doing cranberry cheesecake, but decided to cross cheesecake with bars instead.  (I like bars!)  They came out so good, that I made another batch with the remaining cranberries to send with Justin to work so he could share (and double-checking my recipe writing!)

The topping and crust is a little salty, the cream cheese filling is lemony and the cranberry sauce is tart with a cinnamon and vanilla warmth.  All three layers just seem to compliment each other so nicely, I was way pleased with this recipe!  It's a little time consuming but I've made them twice now and they're really not that hard - you just have to dedicate some time to them.

Justin was feeling like something early from The Offspring.  "Jennifer Lost The War" from their 1989 self titled album.  This was actually the first time I've heard this song, I think.  -jen

Prep Time:  45 minutes
Cook Time:  40 minutes
Cooling Time:  minimum 2 hours
Difficulty:  Medium
Makes:  20 bars

Cranberry Sauce:
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1.5 cups rolled oats (also known as old fashioned oats)
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
 Cheese Filling:
  • 8oz cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
  • zest of 1 lemon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  

Make the cranberry sauce first by bringing water, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and salt to a boil in a large sauce pan.  Add cranberries and bring back to a boil, then lower to a steady simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring intermittently - cranberries will pop and begin to break down.  (Careful not to let it boil over!)  Remove from heat and refrigerate to cool while you continue with the other steps.  

Grease a 13"x 9" baking dish with nonstick cooking spray, butter or coconut oil.  Set aside.

For the crust, combine the flour, oats, pecans, brown sugar and salt in a mixing bowl.  Stir in melted butter and coconut oil until combined and all flour is absorbed.  Mixture should be slightly clumpy but break up easily.  Set aside 1.5 cups for topping but spread the remaining mixture into your prepared baking dish, pressing it evenly into the bottom of the pan.  Bake at 350 F for 15 minutes.  Set aside.

While crust is baking and sauce is cooling, make the cheese filling.  Using a hand mixer or the whipping attachment on your stand mixer, whip the softened cream cheese on high for 2-3 minutes until very smooth.  Add remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly on high until smooth (remember to scrape the bottom).

Spread the cream cheese mixture evenly over your baked crust.  Stir in corn starch to cooled cranberry sauce, then gently dollop  over the top of the filling and gently spread it evenly with the back of a spoon, trying not to mix it into the cheese filling.  Sprinkle the remaining flour and oat mixture evenly over the top.  Bake at 350 F for 40 minutes.  Let cool completely before serving.  I like to refrigerate them overnight.

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