This recipe is courtesy of Kraft Kitchens, I’ve made it time and time again when I’m in a bind for time and I’ve promised to bring dessert.

It’s ideal for buffet-style parties, like baby showers and Christmas pot-luck dinners, because guests can grab the bars and eat them over a napkin.

Ingredients:

1-1/2 cups graham crumbs
1 cup chopped pecans, divided
1/4 cup butter, melted
4 pkg. (250 g each) brick cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp. vanilla
4 eggs
1/4 cup caramel ice cream topping

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 13×9-inch baking pan with foil, with ends of foil extending over sides of pan. Grease foil. Mix graham crumbs, 1/2 cup of the pecans and the butter. Press firmly onto bottom of prepared pan.

Beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add sour cream and vanilla; mix well. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing on low speed after each addition just until blended. Pour over crust.

Bake 45 min. or until centre is almost set. Cool completely. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight. Lift bars from pan onto cutting board, using foil handles. Drizzle with topping; sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup pecans. Let stand until topping is set.

My substitutions:

The sky is the limit here, why not try chopped hazelnuts and chocolate sauce instead of the pecans and caramels? Why not Smarties or M&Ms for a kids’ birthday party? Or even three raspberries per cheesecake bar.
If you do take my advice on one thing, and one thing only, use the pure vanilla extract and not the artificial stuff. Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract is my favourite.
And if you remember to do a second thing, let the cheesecake sit in the oven for a while before taking it out, and letting it cool properly. This helps to avoid cracking.

Grade:

Four stars out of five. This recipe is heavy in fat and sugar content, so it can be heavy for some with more genteel tasetes. While these cheesecake bars are a surefire hit, some of the baking shortcuts make for cracking cheescake. If you want to do it the right way, you should bake it in a water bath. The good news is, if you’re still hard-pressed for time, you can still take the shortcuts and hide all the flaws with copious amounts of caramel sauce and pecans.