Two Christmases ago I tasted my first sample of eggnog. It was unique, creamy, and tasty. I can only drink it in small doses, though, because of its acute flavor and natural thickness. (I have only tasted it out of a carton, so I don't know if that makes a difference or not.) Today, eggnog is in one of my favorite holiday recipes: eggnog cheesecake bars. Since I was new to the eggnog world, I wanted to be certain to make something awesome with it. In my book, cheesecake is awesome by default. Plus, I have never made a cheesecake before this recipe and was dying to try it. So, naturally, I Googled recipes. Several came up, but because I'm a typical consumer who is influenced by popular and brand name products, I instantly click on the Martha Stewart website recipe. I felt badly for instantly going to something expected, so I clicked on a few other recipes to compare, just in case. My effort only left me feeling better in that I gave the lesser-known sites a chance--I still ended up with the Martha recipe. It just looked the tastiest. I actually made these bars twice. The first time they didn't set right because I didn't bake it long enough. Learning from my mistake I made them again--and they were awesome! LOVE LOVE LOVE. Even my Grandma (my dad's mom) loved them--and she hates eggnog! Needless to say, these bars are permanently in my Christmas recipe binder--forever.
Due to the fact I made these twice in two weeks, I learned a few things. The first time I used pre-packaged graham cracker crumbs because I had some on hand. Those work great, but I like the texture of the crumbled-by-hand crackers. The crust's texture is more interesting this way and is also easier to cut since it doesn't pack as densely. Also, the recipe calls for a 3/4 cup of eggnog and a tablespoon plus a teaspoon of brandy. I did that the first time and it tasted fine. For me though, simply using a single cup of the "Holiday Nog" (eggnog with the brandy already in it (you can find it in the liquor store)) was much easier and more convenient. Finally, to check if the cheesecake is done, I learned to jiggle the pan it's in a little bit. If it jiggles a lot, then it's not done. If it moves stiffly like jello, then it's done. I've also been told that when the top of a cheesecake is cracked all over, then it is done. However, my second pan of bars didn't crack. The first batch did, though. Maybe it has to do with the Holiday Nog. I don't know. Ultimately, it doesn't matter which way you decide to make these bars (Holiday Nog or not), it just matters that you do!
Eggnog Cheesecake Bars
Barely adapted from marthastewart.com
- 12 graham crackers, finely ground (1 1/2 cups)
- 3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 pound (16 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature
- 2 large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 cup Holiday Nog (eggnog that already has brandy in it)
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, plus more for dusting top of bars
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
--Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
--Spray a 9-inch square baking pan with cooking spray. (I used an 8x8 inch glass pan.)
For the crust
--Combine graham crackers, 3 tablespoons sugar, and the melted butter.
--Press the mixture into the bottom of the pan.
--Bake in the preheated oven until the crust is just brown around the edges, about 12-15 minutes. (This can be hard to see since graham crackers are already brown. As long as you don't burn the crust, you'll be okay.)
--Let the crust cool.
For the filling
--With the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese in a stand mixer on medium speed until it is nice and fluffy. Approximately 2 minutes.
--Then add the remaining 3/4 cup sugar, eggs, yolk, eggnog, flour, vanilla, nutmeg, and salt. Beat until the mixture is smooth.
--Pour the filling over the cooled crust.
--Set the pan in a roasting pan and add enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the baking pan. (I didn't have a roasting pan handy, so I just used an aluminum 9x13 inch cake pan. However, combined with my glass 8x8 pan, the cake pan turned black where the water was, after baking. This doesn't affect the cake pan other than cosmetically, but be warned. The black goes away after time, but it takes a long time.)
--Bake until just set. (If you jiggle the pan, it should seem stiff like jello.) Approximately 40-45 minutes.
--Once set, remove the baking pan from the water in the larger pan and set it on a wire rack.
--Let cool for about 30 minutes, then refrigerate the bars for at least 3 hours.
--Cut into equally sized bars.
--Lightly dust with freshly grated nutmeg. (Optional.)
--Enjoy!! (Not optional.)