Why eat a slice of cheesecake with a fork when you can make cheesecake bars you can eat with your hands? In this recipe, a graham cracker crust holds a rich cream cheese filling swirled with whiskey caramel—the ideal creamy treat with just a hint of smokiness.
To achieve the perfect swirl of caramel, make sure all the cheesecake ingredients are at room temperature. If the mixture is cold, the caramel will seize up when drizzling, making it difficult to swirl into a pattern. Any which way you swirl, we dare you to try and eat just one.
Whiskey-Caramel Cheesecake Bars
Recipe from the Tasting Table Test Kitchen
Yield: One 9-inch square tray
Prep Time: 25 minutes, plus cooling and chilling time
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour and 25 minutes, plus cooling and chilling time
For the Crust:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
For the Whiskey Caramel:
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
¼ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons whiskey
½ teaspoon kosher salt
For the Cheesecake:
1½ pounds (three 8-ounce packages) room-temperature cream cheese
½ cup room-temperature sour cream
½ cup granulated sugar
3 room-temperature eggs
1 tablespoon whiskey
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
1. Make the crust: Preheat the oven to 350º. In a medium bowl, mix the crust ingredients until the crumbs are evenly coated in butter. Add the crumbs to a parchment-lined 9-inch square pan and press in an even layer with your fingers. Bake until the crust is lightly golden, 12 to 14 minutes, then set aside to cool.
2. Meanwhile, make the whiskey caramel: In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and water over medium-high heat. Cook until the sugar has dissolved and the caramel is amber in color, 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining caramel ingredients until smooth, then set aside.
3. Make the cheesecake: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the cream cheese, sour cream and sugar until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. With the motor running, add the eggs, one at a time, and scrape the bowl as needed, until well incorporated. Add the remaining cheesecake ingredients and beat until incorporated.
4. Pour the cheesecake batter over the cooled crust and smooth the top with a spatula. Drizzle the caramel over the cheesecake, then use the tip of a small knife to swirl the caramel into the batter. Bake until golden brown and set, 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely, then chill for 1 hour before cutting into squares and serving.