Blackberry Cheesecake Bars with Brown Sugar Crust

The second half of 2013 was pretty crazy for us - we spent almost all of July and the first part of August in Chicago. My sister got married in St. Martin, my brother got married out of town as well (think all of those bridal festivities that go along with two weddings!).  Add in out of town football games and out of town guests, and you've got a jam packed six months.  In those six months, we ate at some great restaurants and tested out some amazing recipes.

The downside to traveling so much and such a full schedule was our neglect of putting together posts and this blog.  One of our resolutions for the new year is to give this blog (a true joint love of ours) the attention it deserves.  We love sharing our food finds, recipes and restaurant reviews with everyone.

Fast forward to the here and now.  These decadent little dessert bars are one of my new favorites.

I made this recipe from Yammie's Noshery recently when we had some friends over for dinner.  The meal was heavy (think red meat, potatoes, etc.) and I wanted something bright to finish, but that was also "worthy" of the delicious meal already consumed.  They were a big hit and apparently (according to one of our friends) were even better the next morning with a cup of coffee!

The brown sugar crust is not merely a crust with these bars, it truly shines.  It is a thick, buttery layer and you definitely taste the depth and richness of the brown sugar.  It is sweet, but not cloyingly so.  It is a perfect base for the cheesecake, which has minimal sweetness and is a very straightforward cheesecake taste. The beautiful, plump blackberries soften and sink partially into the cheesecake.

Even if these bars required a lot of work, I would make them again. BUT THEY DIDN'T! They were so easy - I didn't even break out my stand mixer for this one. You don't even bake the crust ahead of time. And the topping, isn't even a real topping - the blackberries are just sprinkled all over the cheesecake middle. It really can't get much simpler than this for cheesecake bars.

A few notes:
- I was worried my blackberries were too large, so I cut them in half.  Also, I used only about 1 1/3 cups of blackberries.
- Really use the parchment paper lining - this makes it so easy to remove & cut the bars, as well as clean up is a breeze.
- If you don't have brown sugar (or have a few extra minutes), make your own! The rule of thumb is 1 tbsp of molasses to one cup of regular white sugar.  Combine in a small bowl with a fork and continually fluff/stir until all the clumps are gone and the color is uniform.  Freshly made brown sugar always beats the bagged kind in my book.
- I baked for a minute longer than the 35 minutes called for - I think this is pretty spot on. You definitely don't want overcooked cheesecake bars and runny cheesecake isn't too fun either. To be sure the 35 minutes is enough just jiggle the pan a bit and make sure the center is set.

Blackberry Cheesecake Bars with Brown Sugar Crust

For the crust:
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup soft butter

For the filling:
8 oz. softened cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons flour
1 egg
2 cups washed and dried blackberries

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line an 8x8 inch pan with parchment paper and grease the parchment paper.

Mix together all the crust ingredients until crumbly and press firmly into the bottom of the pan. 

Combine the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, 2 tablespoons of flour, and egg and mix until smooth. Pour over the crust. 

Sprinkle with the berries. 

Bake for about 35 minutes. 

Store in the refrigerator.


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