Creme Brulee Cheesecake Bars

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I know – it’s January. You still feel a little ill at the thought of all that Christmas food, and are feeling a righteous determination to stick to your New Year’s resolutions, which include losing weight and/or eating less sugar/carbs/fat. Right? Boring. Life is too short, and dessert must still be served. Rather than go all ‘supermodel’ with your food, if you feel the need to be a little healthier in 2015, reduce the portion size of what you’re eating. Instead of two pieces of cake, have one. Instead of four biscuits with coffee, have two. While I’m not going to pretend that cheesecake is a health food, these cheesecake bars are substantially smaller that a traditional slice of cheesecake – perfect for those who, like me, are pretty stuffed at the end of a meal but still want a taste of something sweet. I borrowed the idea for the cheesecake bars from Handle the Heat, but I used my own cheesecake recipe, shown here.

Creme Brulee Cheesecake Bars

200g biscuits (I used Moirs Tea Lovers)
100g margarine
500g Philadelphia cream cheese (always a block, never a tub)
500g ricotta cheese
140g castor sugar
2 vanilla beans
4 eggs
* makes about 20 bars, depending how big you cut them

Empty the biscuits into a large ziplock bag, and crush with a wine bottle until they have the texture of breadcrumbs. Melt the butter/margarine in a bowl, add the biscuit crumbs and mix to combine (try not to eat too much of this deliciousness). Press the mixture down into two 20cm square cake tins, or whatever else you have available. Loose-bottomed tins are the best for taking the cheesecake out later, if you have them. Otherwise line regular tins with baking paper, leaving overhang. Place the tins in the fridge to set the biscuit base. While they are setting, beat the cream cheese and ricotta in a large bowl with an electric mixer until they are well combined. Beat the eggs in one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl between each one. Slit the vanilla pods open with a sharp knife, and scrape out the seeds. Beat the seeds and castor into the mixture. Taste it, just to be sure it’s amazing. Yup, confirmed.

Pour the filling onto the biscuit bases and spread evenly. Bake at 160°C for about 40 minutes, until there’s only a slight wobble to the cheesecake. Let cool on the countertop for a while, and refrigerate overnight. Carefully remove the cheesecakes from the tins, and cut into bars using a large, sharp knife (dipped in hot water and wiped dry between cuts). Refrigerate until needed, then sprinkle very liberally with castor sugar. You want a solid layer of sugar on the top of each bar. Use a kitchen blowtorch to melt the sugar until it bubbles and turns golden, creme brulee style. Serve on a platter or cake stand for maximum effect.

* note: you can do the creme brulee topping beforehand, and put the bars in the fridge until needed. But you’ll lose the crunch of the topping. Up to you.

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