My father-in-law is a HUGE fan of a dessert I make (he requests it anytime I offer to bring something to their house) and I was inspired by my husband's love affair with cookies to try a special twist: making it into a hand-held bar! The original version has a graham cracker crust, layer of cheesecake, topped with blueberry pie filling, and then finished with whipped cream. DAN-GER-OUS! This new version was a comedy of errors coming to life (think crumbled cookies and lots of aggravated huffing as I recipe-tested) but I think I've got it right. You can try the original version in a 9x9 inch pan, or upgrade to a 9x13 pan if you want to feed an army. I give you all the details for both options below!
Tips: You can adjust the amount of cookie dough on the bottom layer depending on how thick you like your bars. This layer WILL PUFF UP when it cooks. Be careful not to overcook initially because you will be baking once more.
Poke holes in your cookie dough layer to release some air. This will help the dough not puff so much and also allow for some of that delicious cream cheese to penetrate when you add that layer.
Have patience! This is a dessert that takes time. It has multiple steps but they're worth it in the end, I promise.
For this recipe you will need: Baking dish (9x9 or 9x13)) cutting board and knife, pot, measuring cups and spoons, 3 mixing bowls, electric or hand mixer, pastry cutter, and parchment paper.
INGREDIENTS: Makes approximately 9-16 bars depending on pan size. This recipe is for a 9x9 inch pan with alterations for a 9x13 pan listed.
For the Sugar Cookie Layer- this is just a classic sugar cookie, so you can use the leftover dough for the crispiest, most buttery sugar cookies!
2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 cup butter, softened
1 ½ cups white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Blueberry Layer- for 9x13, use 4 cups blueberries and 3/4 cups sugar, and 1 Tbps lemon juice.
3 cups frozen/fresh blueberries
1/2 cup sugar
Juice of one lemon, approximately 2 Tbsps
3 Tbsps corn starch
3 Tbsps water
For the Cheesecake Layer- for 9x13, use 2 packages of cream cheese, 2 eggs, 3/4 cups of sugar. and 1/2 tsp almond extract.
1, 8 oz package of cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1/4 tsp almond extract
For the Crumble Topping- for 9x13, use 3/4 cups flour, 3/4 cups walnuts, 1/3 cup packed brown sugar, 6 Tbsps cold butter, 1 tsp cinnamon, and a pinch of salt.
1/2 cup flour
1/4 C brown sugar
3 Tbsp. butter, cold
1/2 C walnuts, chopped
LET'S MAKE SOME BARS!
Prepare your sugar cookie base
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Line your pan with parchment paper
Mix dry ingredients together (flour, baking soda, and baking powder)
Cream wet ingredients (softened butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla)
Slowly add dry to wet and combine
Use 1-2 to 3/4 of your dough (spending on desired crust thickness) for 9x13 and press into a baking dish lined with parchment paper. You can refrigerate or freeze the rest to make cookies later, or another 9x9 pan of these bars
Poke holes with fork or toothpick to prevent puffing up
Bake for 12-15 minutes.
Remove from oven to cool. Poke additional holes for air to escape and cookie to fall
Work on your blueberry filling
Over medium heat, add 1 cup blueberries, sugar, and lemon juice to a pot. Stir and simmer until sugar dissolves and mixture appears liquidy
Mix water and cornstarch and pour into pan
Stir gently and then add remaining blueberries
Simmer until mixture is bubbly and thick
Set aside and cool completely
Let's get (cream) cheesy
Add cream cheese and egg to a bowl and beat with electric mixer until combined
Add sugar, almond extract, and vanilla and beat until smooth and pourable
Ready to crumble
Chop walnuts into small pieces and set aside
Add flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt to a bowl and mix
Cut in your cold butter, 1 Tbsp at a time. This is where a pastry cutter is really handy. If you don't have one you can just use a fork
Mix crumble until a sandy texture is reached and add walnuts
Mix until a consistent crumble is formed
Pour cream cheese filling over cookie crust
Gently spoon blueberry filling over cream cheese
Top with crumble and bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes for 9x9 (35-45 minutes for 9x13) or until the center only slightly jiggles when pan is shaken
Cool completely on baking rack and store in fridge up to 1 week.
SERVING TIPS: These are so good once cooled, but if you're short on time you can prepare a batch the night before. I would suggest doing a test run to see what methods and flows you like to use when preparing each step. It can get overwhelming try to manage the steps, but the results are a layered, sweet, crumbly treat that will have everyone begging for the recipe. You can definitely try to use any berry, like strawberry or blackberry, or try another seasonal fruit like peaches for a summery twist in this recipe.
If you love these bars, try exploring some more recipes that I know you'll enjoy!
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