I love recipes that use almond, and almond extract is so fabulous! I always have a can of roasted almonds in the pantry for snacking on too. I also love cheesecake, but making and storing a big cheesecake takes time and space. Cheesecake bars, on the other hand, are quick and they store beautifully, taking up very little room in the fridge.
My friend Tami, over at Tami’s Kitchen Table Talk, hosts the Cookie Carnival each month. It’s a fun, no stress baking event that offers up a cookie recipe each month and anyone can participate. This month, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, Tami chose some lovely green Walnut Mint Bars from Hershey.
I know what you’re thinking. Umm, yoo hoo! Amanda! These aren’t green!
There are six people in this house, five of which don’t like mint flavored desserts. So I decided to change mine to suit our tastes. Instead of walnuts, I used slivered almonds that I chopped up, and I substituted almond extract for the mint extract. And of course, I simply didn’t use the green food coloring and subbed butter for their margarine. I also had to use more vanilla wafer cookies because the generic brand that I bought had considerably small cookies, about 2/3 the size of Nilla Wafers.
The verdict? Delicious! At first though, I really wasn’t too sure. I let them cool to room temperature, then I chilled them in the fridge for a couple of hours. They were good, but nothing special. It wasn’t until they had sat overnight in the refrigerator, allowing the flavors to really shine, and the cream cheese to firmly set, that these bars went from “ok” to delicious. :)
One last adjustment. The recipe says to drizzle the chocolate on first, then chill, then cut the bars. However, their professionally styled photograph shows otherwise. They cut them first and then drizzled, so that’s what I did as well.
If you love that almond flavor and are a cheesecake fan, you will enjoy these!
I changed these considerably, including the directions, so if you want to see the original and give it a try, visit Hershey’s for the recipe.
Almond Cheesecake Bars
1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1-1/2 cups vanilla wafer crumbs (about 45 wafers, crushed)
1 cup slivered almonds, chopped
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk)
3/4 teaspoon almond extract
3 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon shortening
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 13x9x2 baking pan with foil, this will allow you to lift the bars out and onto a cutting board once cooled. Do not grease the pan or the foil.
Melt 1/2 cup butter in medium saucepan over medium-low heat; stir in crumbs, walnuts, sugar and cocoa. Press firmly on bottom of foil lined 13x9x2 baking pan.
Use food processor to beat cream cheese, remaining 2 tablespoons butter and cornstarch together until fluffy. Gradually add in sweetened condensed milk then egg, and the almond extract. Pour evenly into prepared pan.
Bake 25 minutes or until center is set. Don’t be concerned if there are bumps or bubbles, they will settle as it cools. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.
Lift cooled block out of pan using the sides of the foil as handles and place on a cutting board. Cut into bars. Drizzle each bar with chocolate and let chocolate set.
Hint: if you drizzle right after they come out of the refrigerator, the chocolate will set quickly, using the chill from the bars themselves.
To store, layer between wax paper in a plastic container in the refrigerator.
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