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Cheesecake Bars

by Stephanie Zonis

1-2/3 cups chocolate wafer crumbs (I use Nabisco Famous brand chocolate wafers)
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

6 ounces good-quality white chocolate, finely chopped
2/3 cup heavy cream
19 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs, graded "large"
1 tsp. freshly-squeezed, strained lemon juice

4-1/2 ounces good-quality semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
Few grains salt
1/2 cup heavy cream

1 ounce good-quality white chocolate, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. heavy cream

Line a 13 by 9 by 2 inch pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil, shiny side up. Fold any overhang back against the outsides of the pan. Adjust oven rack to center position; preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

For Crust: In medium bowl, combine chocolate wafer crumbs and sugar. With spoon, mix to blend well. Add melted butter; blend thoroughly. Press evenly onto bottom of prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven for 7 to 8 minutes, just until crust is set. Remove to cooling rack, but leave oven on.

For Filling: Place white chocolate (which must be finely chopped) into small heatproof bowl. In small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat cream over low heat until very hot, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; add about one-fourth of hot cream to chocolate. Let stand for a minute or two, then stir or whisk very gently until smooth. Gradually stir remaining cream into chocolate. Set aside. Cool until just tepid.

In large bowl, combine softened cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla. With sturdy, hand-held electric mixer, beat at medium speed just until perfectly smooth, scraping bowl bottom and sides frequently (this can also be done in the small bowl of an electric stand mixer). Add eggs, one at a time, beating at a low speed after each until smooth and scraping bowl bottom and sides (and beaters) often. At low speed, add melted white chocolate mixture, beating only until blended in. Stir in lemon juice.

Pour the filling slowly over a spatula onto the crust, which may still be hot. If necessary, spread filling to level it. Place into oven.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes. This is done when the edges are slightly risen and set; if you gently tap the sides of the pan, the center of the cheesecake layer may still quiver slightly. The corners and sides may be starting to brown. Do not over bake. Remove to cooling rack. Allow to cool about 20 minutes at room temperature, then place in refrigerator (support the pan on trivets or pot holders on the refrigerator rack, as the bottom may still be hot). During cooling, the cheesecake layer may appear to fall slightly, except for the very edges--OK. Note: the bars must not become too cold before you glaze them. I start to make the Glaze and Decoration as soon as the bars go into the refrigerator; if the bars are chilled for more than about 30 minutes, they can become cold enough to give you trouble with the Decoration.

For Glaze: In small, heatproof bowl, combine finely chopped chocolate and salt. In small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat cream over low heat until very hot, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; pour about half of hot cream over chocolate. Allow to stand for a minute or two, then stir or whisk gently until smooth. Gradually stir in remaining cream. Stirring occasionally, cool to room temperature before using (the best way to test this is on the inside of your wrist).

While Glaze cools, make Decoration (it's used immediately after the Glaze is applied): Place finely chopped chocolate in small cup. In very small container, heat cream over low heat until very hot, stirring occasionally. Pour hot cream over chocolate, then stir or whisk gently until smooth. Cool before using, stirring occasionally.

When bars have chilled until they are no longer warm, remove from refrigerator. To glaze, pour the room temperature glaze slowly over the top of the bars; spread evenly to within about 1/4 inch of all edges. Immediately apply decoration: with a teaspoon (not a measuring teaspoon), form thin parallel lines of the melted white chocolate mixture all across the glazed top surface (I make my lines parallel to the long sides of the pan). Don't make the lines too thick, or you may run out of the white chocolate mixture. Immediately, using a toothpick, draw it back-and-forth in very thin lines at a 90 degree angle to the melted white chocolate lines. Don't score the top of the cheesecake layer too deeply with the toothpick. Chill bars until cold, at least 3 hours. If chilling overnight before cutting, cover tightly when cold; be sure to fasten a piece of paper towel to the inside of your cover (this will prevent any condensation that forms from dripping onto the glaze).

To cut, you'll need a large, sharp, heavy, straight-edged knife. If you want to keep your cuts neat, you'll have to run the blade under very hot water, then shake it off, before each cut. Remove the bars, still in foil, from the pan to a cutting board. Gently peel foil back from edges. Trim about 1/4 inch from each edge, then cut into 32 pieces.

32 bars

Variation: Omit the Glaze and Decoration. Thinly slice good strawberries; macerate with sugar to taste (don't make them too sweet!) and maybe a bit of Grand Marnier for about one hour at room temperature, lightly covered (stir occasionally). When the uncut pan has been chilled, cut into 16 to 24 bars. Serve each bar on a plate with some of the berries and their juices over the top.

© Stephanie Zonis, 2002

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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