I have never been ashamed to admit that I can be utterly shallow. Nor have I ever feigned ignorance of my obsession with chocolate in its purest form. However now and again a girl is struck by something that goes beyond infatuation and adoration. Something deeper than that; something that touches your very soul. Of course, I am talking about greed.
Were you expecting something different?
I will admit, maybe something along the lines of love and affection would be more apt for today - and I have been looking at lighter-than-air mousses and soufflés, pillowy madelines and coyly trembling panna cottas. But I cannot deny my want, nay the necessity, for something much more soul-satisfyingly decadent than a trifle of the palate.
Dense and rich, these squares are so very indulgent that one overlooks their rather indelicate appearance; they are reminiscent of a elementary bake sale treat but oh so much better. A tumble of chocolate, peanut butter and toffee chips, unctuous dulce de leche tempered by a ribbon of tart cheesecake ... sigh. Attempt to restrain yourself to just one.
Chockablock cheesecake squares
Fans of the famous recipe will note that the cookie base is a variation on the classic Nestlé® Toll House® cookies. I recommend cutting these into either 1 1/2”x2 1/4” bars or 1 1/2” squares.
For the cookie base
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks, 1/2 pound) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2/3 cup peanut butter chips
1/3 cup of toffee bits
For the cheesecake layer
1 8 ounce package of cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup dulce de leche or caramel sauce (use up to 1 cup, depending on your taste)
Preheat oven to 350ºF (175ºC). Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-by-9-inch baking pan. Line with parchment paper, allowing for a 1-inch overhang on two sides to form handles.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set this aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugars on medium high speed until combined. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides. Continue to beat the mixture, stopping to scrape down the sides as necessary, for approximately 3 minutes or until the butter is fluffy and pale in colour.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down sides of bowl. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the flour and stir to combine. Add in chips and candy. Refrigerate dough.
In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment in place, beat the cream cheese and sugars on medium high speed until combined and smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. On medium speed, add the egg and vanilla.
Take approximately half the refrigerated cookie dough and, with floured fingers, press into the prepared pan. Using an offset spatula, spread the dulce de leche over the bottom layer. Pour over the cream cheese mixture. Crumble the remaining cookie dough over the cream cheese.
Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until golden brown. As with many cheesecake recipes, you may see a bit of “wiggle” in the centre of the pan; not to worry, it will set up as it sits. Cool 1 hour. Refrigerate at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. Cut into squares or bars, as desired.
Makes 1 9-inch pan. Approximately 24-36 bars, depending on size. These bars should be stored in refrigerator and can be frozen.
• For the cookie crust, I like to use a large flake sea or kosher salt for a salty-sweet combination.
• You can use whatever combination of morsels, nuts and candy you like for the cookie crust; aim for about 2 cups in total.
• If you prefer pockets of caramel, swirl the dulce de leche with the cream cheese filling, rather than layering it.
• The dulce de leche can be substituted with a chocolate ganache or thick chocolate fudge sauce as well.