Pretzel-crusted cheesecake bars with salted caramel sauce

A fast and flavourful sweet treat!

I love classic cheesecake but the other day I wanted to see if I could speed up the process for a short-notice dinner party. This recipe is the result and I know I’ll be making it often. There’s lots to like about this dish: you don’t need a springform pan, it cooks more quickly and you can use readily-available gluten-free pretzels for the crust, if you prefer. We love salted caramel sauce on lots of different desserts but these bars would be equally delicious with a drizzle of melted chocolate and a few sliced, fresh berries. If you’re a cheesecake fan, you might also enjoy these cherry cheesecake popsicles.

Ingredients

For the pretzel crust:

  • 1 cup (60 g) finely-crushed pretzels (regular or gluten-free)
  • 1/4 cup (57 g) butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons (27 g) brown sugar, packed

For the cheesecake filling:

  • 16 oz (454 g) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup (201 g) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) heavy whipping cream

For the salted caramel sauce:

  • 1/3 cup (67 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) water
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) heavy (35%) cream
  • Few pinches good quality salt (Maldon, fleur de sel, etc.)
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) vanilla extract

Method

  • Preheat oven to 400 F. Line an 8 x 8 inch (20x 20 cm) baking pan with parchment paper – be sure there’s enough hanging over the sides to lift the cooked and cooled bars out of the pan. Note that the easiest way to do this is to crumple the paper and run it under warm water, squeezing until softened. Shake the water out and drape the paper into the pan with ease. Set lined pan aside.
  • Make the pretzel crust by mixing together the crushed pretzels, melted butter and brown sugar in a medium bowl until well combined. Press the mixture firmly into the base of the prepared pan and bake for 6 – 7 minutes, until set. Set aside to cool and reduce oven temperature to 350F.
  • While pretzel crust is baking, make the cheesecake layer. Using a stand mixer (or large bowl with an electric mixer), beat the cream cheese and sugar on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1-2 minutes. At low speed, add eggs one at a time and beat for 1 minute after each addition. Scrape down sides of bowl then add vanilla and heavy cream; mix on medium-low speed until creamy and smooth, about 1-2 minutes.
  • Pour the filling into the pre-baked and slightly cooled crust. Spread evenly then bake for 30-35 minutes or until mostly set with a slight jiggle in the middle; it will firm up as it cools. Let it cool at room temperature for 1 hour, then transfer to an airtight container and store in the fridge for at least 6 hours but preferably overnight.
  • While cheesecake cools, make the salted caramel sauce. Put sugar and water in a small saucepan or skillet, preferably one with a heavy bottom. Melt sugar over medium heat, swirling pan occasionally so sugar heats evenly. Pay close attention and don’t let the sugar get darker than a medium amber colour.
  • When it reaches this state, add the cream. Be careful as the mixture will bubble and spatter.  The caramel may also seize (harden slightly) but it will re-melt as you cook in the cream. Over medium heat, cook the caramel sauce, stirring often, until it is smooth and any hard bits have melted. Remove from heat and stir in sea salt and vanilla. Pour into a clean heatproof canning jar or measuring cup and let cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until serving time. Extra sauce can be used on ice cream, cakes, yogurt and more.
  • To serve, cut cheesecake into rectangles or triangles and place on serving plates. Drizzle with caramel sauce.
  • Remaining cheesecake (if any) can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Serves 10 – 12.

Author: Paula Roy

Welcome to my kitchen! I love simple dishes prepared with passion and am always seeking to find new methods to make food as fun and flavourful as possible. If you enjoy this space be sure to check out my Rogers TV Ottawa cooking show, Paula Roy's Favourite Foods, available on local cable, streaming and a dedicated playlist on Rogers TV's YouTube channel.

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