I don’t know about you but after hosting a house full of family for the Thanksgiving weekend, I ended up with a very random collection of food items in my fridge. Of course, there were the dishes you would expect like turkey and mash potatoes. But I also ended up with 3 pounds of cream cheese and a helluva lot of butter among other things. There was also quite a bit of homemade cranberry jelly left over. Some leftovers I am willing to throw out after a week. However, family-recipe cranberry jelly is not one of them. Cranberry swirl cheesecake bars came to the rescue.
I love how festive the cranberry jelly makes these cheesecake bars (both in flavor and color). And the taste is amazing. If it wasn’t for the fact that I needed to photograph these bars today, I might have been tempted to finish off the pan before my husband and kids got home yesterday. Instead, I just had to hide the bars from curious foragers and keep myself from sneaking to the fridge to slice off tiny slivers (for testing purposes, of course).
You can actually use any flavor jam or preserve if you don’t happen to have some leftover cranberry jelly. I’m happy to have this quick and easy recipe on hand to use up any future jam surpluses. Now if I can just figure out what to do with the 8 cups of grated cheese and a large bag of green beans still lurking in the fridge.
For the crust
- 1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs (8-9 whole crackers processed in a food processor into fine crumbs)
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
For the cheesecake
- 1 pound (2 8-ounce packages) cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2/3 cup cranberry jelly or your choice of jam (see Notes)
For the crust
- Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with 2 sheets of parchment paper (crisscrossed), leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, stir together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter until evenly mixed. Pour crumb mixture into prepared pan and press into an even layer on bottom of pan.
- Bake crust until set, about 10 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack to cool while assembling the filling.
For the cheesecake
- Lower oven temperature to 325 degrees F.
- With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat cream cheese and sugar until fluffy and smooth. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl between each addition. Beat in vanilla.
- Pour 2/3 of cream cheese mixture over prepared crust (it doesn’t need to be completely cooled). Spread the cream cheese mixture into an even layer. Drop small dollops of jelly or jam on to the surface of the cream cheese mixture. Using a thin knife, swirl the preserves into the cheesecake batter. Repeat with the remaining cream cheese mixture and jelly.
- Bake cheesecake until it is puffed and mostly set but still slightly jiggly, about 30-40 minutes.
- Place pan on a cooling rack and let cool then transfer pan to the refrigerator. Refrigerate at least 3 hours before cutting.
- To serve, use parchment overhangs as handles and carefully lift the bars out of pan and transfer them to a cutting board. Using a long knife, cut into desired number of squares or rectangles.
Be sure to vigorously stir the jelly or jam to break up any large clumps.
To get the cleanest slices, wipe the blade of the knife clean between each cut.
Recipe adapted from Tea Time Magazine.