Thursday, October 10, 2013

Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bars

Who doesn't love caramel?

I mean, it's milky, creamy, sweet, and has the best indescribable taste. When someone asks, what does caramel taste like? I can only say, Well... it tastes like caramel! You just can't explain it! But now that I think about it, I hope no one asks that!

I made this recipe for a Mexican dinner night I had with friends last week. I made cheese and green chile enchiladas, my friend Irene brought this delicious black bean salad with black beans, avocado, tomatoes. It was so good! Then for dessert, we ate this!

This recipe was a little time consuming, so I made it earlier that day to give it time to chill before we divulged in it. The Dulce de Leche itself was the most time consuming, and then baking the cheesecake took 45 minutes. But while it was time consuming, it was also really easy. Read my directions below before you start so you can time manage properly.

First, before you start anything, set out the cream cheese. Let it soften naturally so your cheesecake filling will be light and fluffy. Try your best to not microwave it to soften it, because this liquifies the cream cheese and the density is heavier.

Second, get that crust in the oven and out of the way. It's super quick and easy. You'll want to focus your time and efforts on the Dulce de Leche. Dulce de Leche, by the way, is basically a Spanish caramel. It is translated to "candy of milk" and is a caramelization process of milk and sugar. This is unlike caramel, which is just a caramelization of sugars only (no milk). Most caramel candies, however, are made of milk and sugar, so this is going to taste similarly to those square caramels you buy from Kraft. You know... those ones you eat about 20 of before you realize you just ate 20 of them.

To make the Dulce de Leche is quite easy, but it needs your constant attention while you're making it, or you might burn it, which is no bueno. You are going to pour your condensed milk into a sauce pan and heat it on medium-low heat for quite a while. Mine took about 20-25 minutes. When you pour the condensed milk in, it will be a nice milky-white color. At the beginning, let it cook and stir occasionally, keeping an eye out for bubbles. If it starts to bubble, stir more frequently. You're going to see it turn into multiple shades of beige and brown before it gets to where you want it, which will look like the color of real caramel (and some say you can also compare it to the color of peanut butter). Once it starts turning to a light beige, you'll need to be stirring it very frequently, watching for the color changes and making sure none cooks to the bottom of the pan. Once it gets to the perfect color of brown, take it off the heat and pour it onto the graham cracker crust. You'll place that aside for about 5 minutes to cool, then place it in the fridge while you make your cream cheese filling.

It's really not that hard! I'm always wary of trying new baking/cooking processes, especially on things that are so sensitive (caramel, yeast, etc) that if you don't do it properly it could ruin the recipe. But if I can do it, so can you! You're going to love this recipe!

Crust -
1 C graham cracker crumbs
2 tbsp granulated sugar
3 tbsp butter, melted
Dulce de Leche -
1 - 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk
Cream Cheese Filling -
16 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 C granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
The Glaze -
3 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 tbsp butter

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line an 8" square baking dish with parchment paper and grease the parchment paper with non-stick spray.

2. To make the graham cracker crust - Mix the graham cracker crumbs and sugar together, then pouring in the melted butter. Press into the bottom of the baking dish. Bake for 10 minutes and let cool.

3. To make the Dulce de Leche - Pour the sweetened condensed milk into a small sauce pan. Heat over medium-low heat, stir constantly, for about 20 minutes. It will turn from a milky white color to a lovely caramel color. Pour the Dulce de Leche into the graham cracker crust and place in the fridge while making the cream cheese filling.

4. To make the cream cheese filling - Beat the cream cheese until fluffy. Add in the sugar until well combined. Add in both eggs and vanilla and beat until fully incorporated. Pour on top of the Dulce de Leche layer.

6. Bake at 325 degrees F for 45 minutes until the center is only somewhat jiggly. Let cool completely before placing it in the fridge.

7. To make the glaze - Melt the butter and chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl at 30 second increments until fully melted. Pour on top of the cheese cake and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Serve by cutting into squares. Store in the refrigerator.

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