Cheesecake Bars with Strawberries and Chocolate Ganache

www.jamiecooksitup.blogspot.com
Time: Cheesecake bars: 1 hour + overnight to refrigerate

Ganache: 10 minutes 
Yield: 12 large pieces, or 36 small pieces
Recipe adapted from Kraft Foods

CRUST

2 C graham cracker crumbs
1/4 C sugar
6 T butter, melted
1/8 t cinnamon
dash salt

CHEESECAKE FILLING
 4  8 oz packages cream cheese, softened
1 C sugar
2 t vanilla
1 C sour cream
4 eggs

CHOCOLATE GANACHE
12 oz bag semi sweet chocolate chips
12 oz whipping cream
dash salt
1/4 t vanilla

1 pound strawberries, sliced thin

mint leaves (optional)
                                                                           INSTRUCTIONS
CRUST
 1. Line a 9x13 pan with tin foil.  
2. In a small mixing bowl combine all crust ingredients together. Press into the bottom of your pan and bake at 350 for 10 minutes.
 
CHEESECAKE FILLING
 1. Beat the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla together in a medium sized mixing bowl with electric beaters, or in your handy dandy Kitchen Aid until well combined.
 2. Add the sour cream and mix well.
3. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing on low after each one is added. Only mix the eggs in until they are combined. Don't over do it here.
4. Pour the filling over the top of the crust.
5. Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes. I always place a pan (another 9x13) of water on the rack below the cheesecake. This will help the bars not crack down the middle. They may still crack just slightly at the sides...don't sweat it. All will be well. You can pour the ganache right over the top. Take the the cheesecake out when the center is almost set. 
6. Let it cool completely on your counter, then cover and refrigerate overnight.

CHOCOLATE GANACHE
 Our Best Bites has a great tutorial on ganache I would recommend you read, if you are nervous about making Mr. Ganache.
1. In a large mixing bowl combine the chocolate chips and the whipping cream. Place the bowl in the microwave and heat for 30 seconds at a time, stirring after each cooking interval. You might get a bit worried here while you are stirring. It's going to look kind of strange....be patient. Wait for the beauty! Just keep stirring and heating it. Add the vanilla and dash of salt once the chocolate and cream have joined. It will be thin, and then magically once the chocolate and cream are blended it will begin to thicken. The longer it sits the thicker it will become. If you want to make it a day ahead you can store it in the fridge and then just heat it up a bit when you are ready to serve.  
 
To serve just use the tin foil to lift the Cheesecake up and out of the pan. Lay them on your counter and cut them into pieces. Use a sharp knife. The cheesecake will get pretty goopie on the knife. Just keep a warm wet cloth handy and wipe the knife off when you need to.
 
Top with the ganache and berries and serve! Enjoy the beauty!

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