When I want dessert, 99.9% of the time, I’ll look to something in the chocolate family. Not today. Today is all about the vanilla bean cheesecake.
Generally, I’m not picky: chocolate ice cream, chocolate cookies and chocolate chips straight from the bag all count (although I’m not so proud of the latter).
The other .1% of the time – or when I’m baking for people whose lives don’t revolve around cacao – I like rich, but simple desserts: like these thick and creamy vanilla bean cheesecake bars nestled in a buttery shortbread crust, from Baking Bites.
I made them recently for a party and rather than baking them in a 9×13 pan and slicing them into twenty thin bars, I modified the baking instructions just a bit to accommodate an 8×8 inch baking pan and slicing them into small, square, “bite-sized” pieces.
This was also my first endeavor with the vanilla bean – I was surprised how easy it is to slice them to pack such intense taste with such a small amount of flavoring.
- ⅓ cup sugar
- ½ cup butter, softened
- 1½ cups all purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup half & half or light cream
- 2 (8-oz) packages plain cream cheese, room temperature
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- ½ vanilla bean or 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
- Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking pan (8x8 will also work if you like thicker bars).
- Begin by making the crust. In a large bowl, cream together sugar and butter, until smooth and fluffy. Working at a low speed, gradually beat in flour and salt until mixture is crumbly. Press evenly into prepared pan and bake for 15-17 minutes.
- While the crust bakes, combine sugar, half & half and cream cheese in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Add in eggs one at a time, waiting until each in incorporated before adding the next. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the mixture (or add extract) and add the flour. Pulse until smooth.
- Pour the filling over the hot crust when it has finished baking. Return pan to oven and bake for 23-26 minutes, until the filling is set (baking time should be reduced slightly if using a 9×13-inch, as the filling will be slightly thinner) and not jiggly.
- Cool completely before slicing (don’t be alarmed if the cheesecake appears to deflate somewhat as it cools), or refrigerate until ready to serve.