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These Vanilla Bean Cheesecake Bars give you all the great flavors of cheesecake without the fuss of making a big cheesecake. Total game-changer!
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Vanilla Bean Cheesecake Bars
A slice of luxuriously rich cheesecake is one of my favorite guilty pleasures, especially since moving to the city. But despite this love of cheesecake, I rarely make cheesecake at home, because it can be a bit fussy. Enter: these vanilla bean cheesecake bars, which are a completely different story. You get all the great flavor of cheesecake without the fuss of making a big cheesecake.
These vanilla bean cheesecake bars have a rich and tangy flavor perfectly balanced by the lightly sweetened graham cracker crust. The best part? They’re easier to make and easier to eat; talk about a serious win-win!
Ingredients for Vanilla Bean Cheesecake Bars
These vanilla bean cheesecake bars are surprisingly simple to make; here’s what you’ll need:
- Graham crackers: It is a graham cracker crust, after all… Replace with an equal amount of digestive biscuits if you can’t get your hands on graham crackers!
- Sugar: You’ll need granulated sugar for the cheesecake filling and just a bit for the graham cracker crust.
- Fine sea salt: Desserts made without salt can sometimes taste a little plain, so don’t forget it! You’ll need it for both the graham cracker crust and the cheesecake filling.
- Unsalted butter: To help hold together the graham cracker crust.
- Cream cheese: Can’t make cheesecake without cream cheese! Use full-fat block cream cheese, not a cream cheese spread. Also, make sure it’s properly softened so you don’t have any lumps in your cheesecake bars.
- Heavy cream: This helps ensure a super creamy cheesecake filling.
- Eggs: You'll need 3 large eggs for the filling; make sure they're at room temperature!
- Lemon juice: Without getting too much into the baking science behind it, the acid of the lemon juice reacts to the fatty proteins in the filling and gives you that nice thick texture that you’re looking for. Don't leave it out or you'll be left with runny cheesecake bars!
- Vanilla bean or vanilla bean paste: Vanilla bean seeds are added straight to the cheesecake batter for a sweet and fragrant vanilla note. Use two teaspoons of vanilla bean paste if you don’t have any fresh vanilla beans on hand.
How to Make Vanilla Bean Cheesecake Bars
There are two main components to these vanilla bean cheesecake bars.
The Graham Cracker Crust
To make the buttery graham cracker crust, start by grinding up your graham crackers using either a food processor or blender (or throw them in a plastic bag and beat them on the counter). You need 9 full sheets of graham crackers; 9 full sheets = about 1 and 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs. Don’t have graham crackers where you live? (I’m looking at you, UK readers!) Use 1 and 1/2 cups of crushed digestive biscuits instead.
Mix the crushed graham crackers with 1/3 cup granulated sugar, 5 tablespoons of melted butter, and a pinch of salt. I like to use a good amount of butter (shocking) in my graham cracker crust because it provides flavor and is the key binding agent here. Once you mix it all up, the mixture will be thick, sandy, and coarse and you’re ready to press it into your prepared pan! Once firmly pressed in, you’ll freeze the crust for 10-15 minutes and then par-bake at 375°F (190°C) for 8-10 minutes; this ensures a stable bottom rather than a crust that is too crumbly and falls apart.
The Vanilla Bean Cheesecake Filling
They wouldn’t be cheesecake bars without a delicious cream cheese filling! To make the cheesecake layer, beat together the cream cheese, granulated sugar, vanilla beans, and lemon juice until smooth. Beat in 3 large eggs, one at a time, then add the heavy cream and beat until smooth. Pour the batter on top of the slightly cooled crust, and then bake at 325°F (165°C) for 35-40 minutes, or until the cheesecake has set up and the edges are lightly browned. The bars will be very puffy but will sink slightly as they cool.
How to Serve & Store Vanilla Bean Cheesecake Bars
Serving: These vanilla bean cheesecake bars need a few hours (preferably overnight) to fully chill, however, you can serve them chilled or at room temperature. To get them to room temperature after chilling, just let them stand at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes before serving.
Storage: Leftovers should be stored in an airtight container and kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Leftovers can also be individually wrapped in plastic wrap surrounded by tin foil and then be frozen for up to 1 month; thaw in the fridge, on the counter, or in the microwave before serving.
Vanilla Bean Cheesecake Bars Recipe Troubleshooting & FAQ
VANILLA BEAN CHEESECAKE BARS: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Can I make these vanilla bean cheesecake bars ahead of time?
Of course! In fact, you kinda have to! Your cheesecake will need at least 2 hours to cool down at room temperature and then need 3 hours to set in the fridge before you can slice it and serve it up, so you’ll probably want to make it the day before you plan on serving it!
How long will these vanilla bean cheesecake bars last?
As long as you keep the cheesecake bars covered tightly, they will last 5-7 days in the fridge. They are perfect for making ahead of time for parties and events. Or you can just enjoy them all week long.
VANILLA BEAN CHEESECAKE BARS: TROUBLESHOOTING
Help! My cheesecake has lumps of cream cheese in it! What did I do wrong?
Sounds like your cream cheese wasn’t softened enough! Room temperature cream cheese becomes creamier when it’s mixed and it incorporates much better with the other ingredients in this recipe. If your cream cheese is too cold, it tends to stay lumpy in the batter and doesn’t fully mix!
Help! My cheesecake bars have sunk! What did I do wrong?
Sounds like you incorporated too much air into the mixture! Too much air will make your cheesecake rise in the oven and then deflate when out, causing the surface to sink and potentially crack.
You can prevent this by starting with room temperature ingredients which will help prevent you from overworking them. You can submerge eggs in hot tap water for five minutes to bring them to room temperature and pop your cream cheese blocks in the microwave for 15 seconds at medium power to warm them up.
Help! My cheesecake bars have a weird dry and crumbly texture! What did I do wrong?
It sounds like you overbaked your cheesecake bars! The center of the cheesecake should still wobble when you remove it from the oven; it will continue to cook as it cools on the counter. If you leave it in the oven until it's completely firm, it'll be overbaked (and cracked) by the time it's ready to eat. For other visual clues, make sure the filling is pale—you're not looking for golden brown—and that the edges are just barely puffed.
Vanilla Bean Cheesecake Bars
For the Graham Cracker Crust:
- 130 g graham cracker crumbs (approx. 9 crackers)
- 75 g granulated sugar
- 75 g unsalted butter melted
- ⅛ teaspoon coarse sea salt
For the Vanilla Bean Cheesecake Filling:
- 454 g cream cheese softened
- 200 g granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs (approx. 150 g), room temperature
- 60 g heavy cream room temperature
- seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean or 2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- 15 g lemon juice
- Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Grease an 8x8-inch pan with butter and line the pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on all sides. Grease the parchment paper with butter, then set it aside.
- Make the graham cracker crust: Using a food processor or blender, pulverize the graham crackers into a fine crumb. Pour into a medium bowl and mix with the granulated sugar, melted butter, and salt. Press firmly into the lined pan and bake for 8-10 minutes. Allow to cool as you prepare the filling. And then reduce the oven to 325°F (165°C).
- Make the cheesecake filling: Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and granulated sugar together on medium speed in a large bowl until the mixture is smooth and creamy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the heavy cream, lemon juice, and vanilla beans (or vanilla bean paste), then beat until fully combined. At low speed, add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition until just combined. After the final egg is fully incorporated into the batter, stop mixing.
- Pour the batter into the slightly cooled crust and firmly tap the pan on a hard surface to release any air bubbles. Check to make sure your oven has cooled to 325°F (165°C), then bake for 35-40 minutes, until the filling is set but still a little jiggly in the center. (An instant-read thermometer, inserted into the filling about 1" in from the edge, should read between 180°-190°F (80°-90°C.) The cheesecake will continue to cook and set as it cools.
- Remove the bars from the oven and cool at room temperature for 2 hours. Refrigerate until cold, at least 3 hours but preferably overnight.
- Use the parchment paper overhang to lift the cheesecake bars out of the pan and onto a cutting board. Cut into squares, wiping the knife clean with a warm, damp paper towel between slices. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
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