Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Squares

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It’s no secret that I have a deep, passionate love for cheesecake. It’s by far one of my favorite desserts and I will try any and every variation that I can find. So when Annie asked if I’d be interested in doing a virtual bake-along with her and suggested these cheesecake squares, it took me about 2.2 seconds to eagerly agree. Not only did they involve cheesecake, but also dulce de leche and a chocolate glaze. Bonus! For those that aren’t familiar with dulce de leche, it hails from Argentina and is very similar to caramel, made by slowly heating sweetened milk. Dulce de leche is typically sold by the jar and can sometimes be hard to find in the store. I have seen it in Italian groceries near the Nutella, and in regular grocery stores in the International aisle by the Mexican or Hispanic foods. If you are unable to find it, you can substitute caramel or make your own (I have included the method with the recipe below).

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I significantly altered the original recipe, using it as inspiration to create dulce de leche cheesecake bars. The first thing I did was make the dulce de leche an actual layer instead of being mixed into the cheesecake filling. I wanted it to stand out on its own, so it now sits atop the crust. The second alteration was the cheesecake layer. The original recipe calls for a gelatin mixture to be used so that the cheesecake layer sets up and is easier to pick up and eat with your fingers. Unfortunately, I’m a cheesecake purist. And while I typically claim that there’s always room for Jello, there is no vacancy for it in my cheesecake. Cheesecake is cheesecake and if it becomes a little more difficult to pick up in bar form, well, I’ll just lick my fingers :)

Oh, and I should note that the original recipe calls for cutting these into 64 squares. No way was that happening. I cut them into 36 and even those are way, way too small for my liking. I guess that’s good even if you just want to grab one for a snack or are taking them to a gathering and want them to be able to feed a bunch. If you want to serve these for dessert I would cut them even bigger. But like I said, I’m insane when it comes to cheesecake!

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Want more cheesecake? Who doesn’t?! Check out these recipes:
Coffee-and-Espresso Layered Cheesecake
Brownie Mosaic Cheesecake
Brown Sugar-Apple Cheesecake
Hidden Berry Cream Cheese Torte
Chocolate Rum Cheesecake
Oreo Cheesecake

Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Squares

Yield: Makes 36 small squares or 16 dessert-size pieces

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 55 to 65 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes

Ingredients:

For the Crust:
3½ ounces graham crackers, crushed (1 cup of crumbs)
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons butter, melted

For the Filling:
12 ounces dulce de leche or 1 cup (or caramel, if you can't find it and don't want to make it)
16 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the Glaze:
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
½ stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 teaspoons light corn syrup

Directions:

To make Dulce de Leche: Pour one 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk into the top of a double boiler pan and cover. Place over boiling water. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 40 to 50 minutes, or until thick and light caramel-colored. Remove from heat and whisk until smooth.

1. To make the Crust. Position an oven rack in the middle position and preheat oven to 325F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides. Spray parchment paper with non-stick spray.

2. Finally grind the graham crackers with the sugar in a food processor. With the motor running, add the butter, blending until combined. Press mixture evenly onto bottom of baking pan. Bake 10 minutes, then place on a cooling rack to cool for 5 minutes.

3. Make the Filling. Spread the dulce de leche evenly over the graham crust, then place pan in refrigerator while you prepare the cream cheese layer.

4. Beat the cream cheese on medium-high speed unti light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar and continue to beat on medium-high for another 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl if necessary. Beat in the vanilla extract.

5. Pour the cream cheese mixture over the dulce de leche layer evenly, and bake for 45-55 minutes, or until the center only slightly jiggles. Remove from the oven and cool completely before refrigerating for at least 3 hours.

6. Glaze the cake. Heat the chocolate, butter and light corn syrup in a double boiler or in a microwave at 30-second intervals, stirring until smooth. Pour the glaze over the cheesecake, tilting the pan to ensure the top is coated evenly. Chill for at least 30 minutes before serving.

7. Lift the cheesecake from the pan using the parchment handles and slice into squares using a sharp knife, wiping it clean after each cut.

(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen and Tyler Florence)