If you're looking for a make-ahead dessert for Easter that will feed a large crowd and pretty much please everybody (ok, not you Laurence) I think you're seriously going to want to consider whipping up a batch of these luscious and decadent Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars. Do you really need to ask why?!!
There's an old joke in our family that my dad asked my husband (who was still just my boyfriend at the time) whether he wanted a hamburger or a sandwich for dinner and if you know Richie at all, he likes to maximize the different flavor and texture experiences at any one meal, so he answered, "I'll have a hamburger and a sandwich" which made my dad laugh and decide then and there that he was a keeper. Hmmm....the story doesn't exactly translate that well to paper, or should I say screen, maybe you had to be there, but that's what I think of when I think about these bars. You get to eat your cake and your cheesecake too!!
And unlike other mixed bars that I've made, the cheesecake doesn't get dominated by the chocolate but exists in perfect harmony, so every bite is filled with the deliciousness of chewy chocolate chip cookies with the rich creamy splendor of cheesecake.
Basically you make two batters--a cookie dough and a cheesecake and then layer them in a baking dish, finishing with large dollops of cookie dough on top of the cheesecake layer so what bakes up is a swirly marbled wonder!
And because these need several hours of fridge time to set up, you're sort of forced to make them ahead, which everyone knows is the key ingredient to staying sane during the holidays!
Decadent, sweet, creamy and filled with chocolate--I'll say it again--do you really need to ask why?
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars
Makes at least 3 dozen or you can cut them in half so that they're more like bites to serve a bigger crowd
Prep Time: 20 minutes; Bake Time: 40-45 minutes
For the cheesecake filling
- Two 8 ounce bricks of full-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the cookie dough
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- 2 1/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups (340 grams) semisweet chocolate chips
- 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF and spray a 9x13-inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray or grease with butter and set aside.
2. To make the cheesecake filling: Use an electric mixer to beat the cream cheese and sugar together in a medium bowl on high speed until fluffy and light. Add in the eggs and vanilla and beat well until smooth and creamy and the sugar is entirely dissolved. Transfer the mixture to another bowl, set aside and wash out the bowl and beaters of the mixer.
3. To make the cookie dough: In the clean bowl of the electric mixer, using clean beaters, mix the butter, both sugars and the vanilla together on medium-high speed until creamy. Add the eggs in one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping the bowl down with a rubber spatula as necessary. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together. Add to the mixing bowl and mix on low, just until there are no traces of flour visible. Stir in the chips and nuts (if using) until well dispersed. The batter will be thick and not that easy to mix.
4. Place about half of the dough into the prepared pan and smooth out into a thin even layer with a knife or flexible spatula. Try to kind of press it into the corners. Pour the cheesecake filling over the whole thing and spread it out evenly across the top. Now take spoonfuls of the remaining cookie dough and drop them all over the top of the cheesecake filling.
5. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the top looks golden brown and the center is set--if it seems too jiggly, give it another 5 minutes or so. Remove and let cool completely. Then cover and chill for at least 4 hours to allow the bars to set up. Cut into small squares or half them so that they're more like little bites (they're pretty rich) and keep covered and chilled until ready to serve.
6. You can make these at least 3 days ahead and store them covered in the fridge. If you're doing that, I would wait to cut them until the day you're serving them.
Note: Recipe adapted from Wintersweet by Tammy Donroe Inman. I left out the nuts and cook them longer so the cheesecake is a little bit firmer.