It's been nearly a month since my last post-- whoops! June got the better of me. Between planning a family vacation, not feeling like cooking much and, well, not feeling like blogging much, I totally fell behind.
I've actually had this recipe for cheesecake bars ready to go for a while. I made these for coworkers months ago. When a handful of them realized I diaried my cooking adventures, it was only a matter of time before I was tapped to cook something and prove my chops. I enjoyed having the pressure turned on, and liked having a handful of eager new tasters. Though, I'm sure they're way more likely to say nice things about the free cheesecake left out on a Monday morning at the office than my official taste-tester Dan might being force fed the fifth, then sixth attempt at a new recipe for blackberry swirl cheesecake bars.
That said, if I'm making something to bring to a friend or desserts for my colleagues, obviously I have to make a batch to leave at home. In this case, I made a round cheesecake for home and a square version to cut into bars and bring to the office. Because this recipe has about a 2:1 cheesecake to graham cracker crust recipe, it definitely worked out better as bars. When I eat a slice of cheesecake, I kind of expect a towering slice with barely any, if any, crust. So while both versions tasted the same, the experience of picking up a square of cheesecake to munch while I drank my morning coffee (there's nothing wrong with that, right?) was way more pleasant than digging into a triangle slice that wasn't about to topple over under its own weight.
To get the swirl effect on top, spoon the blackberry mixture on top of the cheesecake in stripes, prior to baking. Then, using a toothpick or chopstick, drag the point through the lines, perpendicularly. The blackberry mixture will drag along, creating a lovely little design on top!
I also replaced about half of the sugar you'd find in a traditional cheesecake recipe with honey, which made me feel a little bit better about snacking on the bars at 9AM, for better or worse. This recipe would work well with any cheesecake recipe you might have, but mine uses ricotta since I had a ton leftover in the fridge!
Anyway, part of the reason I've felt uninspired about blogging recently is that writing recipes can be such a drag. Luckily, this one wasn't really an original creation, but was more of an amalgamation of four different recipes. If my posting the following links in lieu of a traditional recipe feels terrible offensive or confusing to you, please let me know so I can stop being lazy and start getting real (The Real World - Hillary's Blog, *falls on couch with six strangers*). Maybe this feels complicated and messy, but maybe this also will give some people insight on how to go about creating a recipe of your own, using others' work as a guide, like I often do!
For the assembly and baking instructions, I used this recipe from Ree Drummond. I especially like her tip for turning off the heat on your oven, but leaving your cheesecake bars in there to slowly cool. This will prevent your cheesecake surface from cracking, always a dreaded fate! For the actual cheesecake recipe, I used a recipe from Giada. I love that it uses ricotta and honey, making the cake not too sweet, and not too dense. I cut the orange zest, though, since I'm not crazy about citrusy desserts (unless we're talking a perfect lemon tart, and then I am ON BOARD). For the "swirl" part, I used this recipe as a guide, but then replaced the blueberries with blackberries and added a shot of bourbon. You don't really taste the bourbon, but it makes your house smell so nice. And for the crust part, I just ground up half a box of graham crackers, poured in a stick of unsalted melted butter, combined with a food processor, and then pressed the mixture into a parchment paper-lined baking vessel. For a more precise recipe, any of the above links will work great!