Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake Bars with Nut Crust / by Chelsea Zwieg

This morning I woke up in project mode and so proceeded to purge our pantry, fridge and refrigerator of things I am 100% confident I will never be eating. The winners? Mushroom soup from the freezer that I made last summer. A bag of frozen/broken sugar cookies including a snowman with no head and a gingerbread man sans left arm that I was so sure I was going to decorate before christmas. 7 packs of flavored hot chocolate that I'm pretty sure must have just been there since we moved in, because I have never once felt the urge to buy flavored hot chocolate and, unless she is secretly harboring an Irish cream cocoa obsession, I think my sister can say the same. 

Anyways, after I had accumulated 3 trash bags worth of embarrassment (it wasn't all food, don't worry), I ventured out the door in my most stylish look of today-is-my-day-off-so-no-way-am-i-doing-my-hair-before-noon combined with christmas pajama pants and a t-shirt that I got my first day of college (I like to keep things stylish while I clean) and realized that it was SPRING OUTSIDE! Naturally the trash cans weren't right by the door, as I had anticipated, but were all the way down by the road waiting for trash pick up. And as I paraded down the driveway with bags of christmas candy and moldy vegetables, I realized that the pavement was actually warm. From the sun. Guys, in case you don't live in Wisconsin and understand the concept of the ground being frozen for 92% of the year, this was a v. v. big deal. 

And, really, what better way to celebrate the thawing of the earth/my toes than with a springy, fruity, swirly dessert? I know that basically every recipe that I make on here involves a food processor in some capacity (because my food processor is my most prized possession), but settle in, because I am going to sing it's praises again. Making cheesecake in a food processor is by far the easiest way to do it because it makes easy and ridiculously fast work of beating out any lumps. Lumps mainly happen when your cream cheese is not completely at room temperature, which, if you're like me, is always. Seriously, the day that I remember to take ingredients out several hours before making a recipe will also be the day I win the lottery. But giving the ingredients a whirl in the food processor produces the most silky, smooth batter you could ever hope for, and it does it in like 30 seconds. I love it. 

These bars have a nut crust, which you can play around with and add a combination of your favorite nuts. I used pecans and almonds, but if you happen to have hazelnuts or macadamia nuts on hand, please invite me over so we can make these again. If you really want to love your life, you can also toast the nuts before making the crust, because toasted nuts always win. The cheesecake is silky smooth, and gets finished off with a bright (and so pretty!) swirl of raspberry. Cheesecake bars are my favorite because they give you the things you love about cheesecake but are not nearly as finnicky/high maintenance as an actual cheesecake. No springform pans, no water baths, just straight up delicious cheesecake. Happy spring/warm driveway day! 

Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake Bars with Nut Crust

Makes 1 8x8 pan

Note: When I made the crust I tried using maple syrup and found that it was not sweet enough for my tastes. However, if you're out of brown sugar or are feeling particularly #healthy, maple syrup is a good substitute. 

| Ingredients

For the crust: 

1 1/2 cups mixed nuts (I used almonds and pecans) 

2 tbsp. butter, melted

2 tbsp. brown sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

For the cheesecake: 

16 oz. cream cheese, room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup sour cream

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

2 eggs, room temperature. 

1/4 cup raspberry preserves (alternatively, you can blend 1/4 cup fresh raspberries with a few tsp. or sugar and strain out the seeds) 

| Instructions

Preheat oven to 325. Line an 8x8" baking pan with foil, leaving an overhang on two sides and spray with non-stick spray.

In a food processor, pulse nuts until finely ground. Add the melted butter, brown sugar and salt. Pulse until the mixture begins to clump together. Transfer crust to the prepared and press firmly into an even layer, making sure to get all the way to the corners. 

Wipe out food processor and add cream cheese, sugar, sour cream and vanilla. Run on high until the mixture is completely smooth, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl occasionally. Add eggs one at a time, pulsing until each is fully incorporated. Beat until completely smooth and no lumps remain (but not longer, or it will be more likely to crack in the oven). You can also make this in a stand mixer. Just beat the first 4 ingredients until smooth, add the eggs one a time and continue to beat until there are no lumps. Pour filling into the pan with the crust and smooth with a spatula. 

Heat raspberry preserves in the microwave until smooth and runny, about 1 minute. Place in a pastry bag or Ziploc bag with the corner snipped off. You want a very small opening. Using your pastry bag, place drops of raspberry sauce all over the top of the cheesecake. Use a toothpick to pull through the dots and create swirls. Bang the pan on the countertop a few times to smooth out the top (and a few more times, because it's just so much fun). 

Bake 35-40 minutes, until the center is set but still wobbly. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely at room temperature. After the bars are completely cool, chill at least 2 hours. To serve, remove from pan using the foil overhang. Cut with a sharp knife, warmed in water and wiped dry. For clean bars, wipe knife in between each cut.