Anna Cooks: Orange Cheesecake Bars

Photo May 14, 4 35 58 PMMy parents stopped by briefly on their way through town this week.  Maybe this is a girl thing, but I always try to have my digs spotless when the parents roll through so they won’t think I’m living in squalor and make me take on a housekeeper.  The end result of this compulsion is me cleaning for hours, then not wanting to leave the house for snack items and throwing together something with what I have in the fridge.  This recipe is quick, summery, and made from things you probably already have on hand.  I adapted it a touch from a recipe in a recent Better Homes and Gardens, which I subscribe to despite having neither a home nor a garden.

You will need:

  • A food processor or a great imagination
  • 1/2 cup coconut  (The original recipe calls for “raw chip” but I use the regular old shredded sweetened kind)
  • 3/4 c graham cracker crumbs (If you’re making them yourself, this is about 7 cracker sheets)
  • 2T sugar
  • 1 t finely shredded orange peel
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 (8oz) package cream cheese, about room temp
  • 1/3 c sugar
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1/4 cup orange juice (I obviously squeezed this fresh but I guess you could use Florida’s Natural and that would be ok.  Not that I did.  I didn’t.)
  • 1 egg

Note:  I don’t always have fresh oranges around, shockingly.  My friend Annie gifted me this awesome dehydrated orange peel from Penzey Spices and I reconstitute them all the time for bread and cake and cheesecake. Highly recommended.Photo May 14, 2 04 59 PM

Make the crust:

1. Preheat the oven to 350.  Spread coconut in a 8×8 pan and bake 4 or 5 minutes, stirring once, until coconut is golden brown.

Photo May 14, 1 41 53 PMNo, that’s way too dark.  Rule #1 of nut and coconut toasting:  Never Walk Away!  Rule #2:  Everyone Knows That and Walks Away Anyway.  Just keep extra coconut on hand.Photo May 14, 1 48 00 PMThat’s more like it.  Now let that coconut cool.

2. Put 2T of the toasted coconut in the bowl of a food processor and pulse.

3.  Add the graham cracker crumbs (or whole graham crackers), the 2 T sugar, and the orange peel to the bowl of the food processor and pulse until blended and/or pulverized.

Photo May 14, 1 34 57 PM

4.  Pour the melted butter into the running food processor slowly until the crumbs begin to come together and look like this.

Photo May 14, 1 49 35 PMPhoto May 14, 1 56 04 PM

5.  Press the crumbs into the 8×8 pan and bake 10 minutes, then cool about 15 minutes.  Photo May 14, 1 57 21 PM

Meanwhile, Make the Filling:Photo May 14, 2 02 22 PM

Note: I like to just wipe out the bowl of the food processor and use it again to save dishwashing later.  I like to think that simply wiping the crumbs out of the bowl rather than washing ties together the flavors of the crust and filling.  That could be true, right?  This method will yield a few air bubbles in your mixture, so if you like perfect looking cheesecake, use a mixer…or pop the bubbles with a toothpick prior to baking.

1.  Beat the cream cheese, 1/3 cup sugar, and vanilla.

2.  Add the orange juice to the mixture, blend, then add the egg.  If using a food processor, be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally during this process to avoid lumps.  The mixture will be fairly runny.Photo May 14, 2 27 47 PM

3.  Pour the filling mixture onto the warm crust and bake about 15 minutes or just until set. Note: I use the rule of thumb that the center of the cheesecake should look wet but not wobble when you tap the pan.  It always looks undercooked but if you wait for a cheesecake to look nice and golden, it will be way too dry.  This is especially helpful when making larger “real” cheesecakes or even custards.Photo May 14, 2 45 13 PM

See?  Doesn’t look done, but I promise it is as soon as the middle stops being wobbly!

4.  Cool the bars completely and refrigerate about 2 hours.  Serve with toasted coconut on top and if you have it, fresh fruit.

Photo May 14, 4 35 58 PM

This allegedly makes 16 bars but….8×8 inch pan, you do that math.  I’d say 9 happy people or 16 cranky ones.  Next time I make these, I personally will be doubling the filling because, well, then there will be twice as much cream cheese.  

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