Cheesecake Bars with Candied Orange and Pizzelle Crust

This elegant dessert showcases a mild anise-flavored pizzelle cookie crust with rich cheesecake and glossy candied orange slices.

Cheesecake Bars with Candied Orange and Pizzelle Crust
Cheesecake Bars with Candied Orange and Pizzelle Crust. Photo:

Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer / Prop Styling by Thom Driver

Active Time:
40 mins
Total Time:
6 hrs 30 mins
Servings:
12

The perfect ratio of cream cheese, sour cream, and eggs yields a creamy and dense cheesecake filling in this recipe from chef Camille Cogswell. Best of all, there's no water bath required. Pizzelle cookies, a delectably thin and crispy traditional Italian Christmas cookie adorned with a decorative waffle pattern, take the place of graham cracker crumbs in the buttery crust. The cheesecake bars are shingled with candied orange slices just before serving. Reserve the extra candied orange syrup for sweetening cocktails and tea or drizzling over pound cake.

Ingredients

  • 9 ounces pizzelle cookies (about 36 [3 3/4-inch] cookies), crushed

  • 4 cups plus 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided

  • 2 1/4 teaspoons ground fennel seeds

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter (5 ounces), melted, plus more for greasing

  • 4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

  • 2/3 cup sour cream

  • 2 teaspoons orange blossom water, divided

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon), divided

  • 6 large eggs, at room temperature

  • 1 1/2 cups water

  • 2 medium (5-ounce) mixed citrus (such as blood orange and Cara Cara orange), cut into 1/8-inch-thick half- moons, seeds removed

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Process cookies in a food processor until finely ground, 30 to 45 seconds, stopping to stir halfway through. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar, ground fennel seeds, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; pulse to incorporate, about 5 pulses. Add butter; process until mixture is evenly combined and loosely holds together when squeezed, 25 to 35 seconds, stopping to stir halfway through. Press cookie mixture into bottom and about 1/2 inch up sides of a lightly greased (with butter) 9- x 13-inch baking pan.

  2. Bake in preheated oven until cookiecrust is set and lightly browned on top, 10to 12 minutes. Transfer baking pan to a wire rack, and let cool completely at room temperature, about 30 minutes.

  3. While crust cools, reduce oven temperature to 300°F. Wipe food processor clean, and add cream cheese, 1 cup sugar, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Process until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl as needed. Add sour cream, 1 teaspoon orange blossom water, and 1 teaspoon lemon juice; pulse to combine, about 4 pulses. Add eggs, 2 at a time, processing well after each addition, until well combined and smooth, 1 to 2 minutes total. Set aside until ready to use.

  4. Pour filling over cooled crust in baking pan, and spread in an even layer. Bake at 300°F until edges are puffed and center of filling is slightly wobbly, 45 to 55 minutes. Transfer cheesecake in pan to a wire rack, and let cool completely at room temperature, about 1 hour. Transfer cheesecake to refrigerator; chill, uncovered, at least 4 hours or up to 2 days (covering with plastic wrap after 4 hours).

  5. While cheesecake chills, bring 1 1/2 cups water and remaining 3 cups sugar, remaining 1 teaspoon orange blossom water, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar. Add citrus slices, and stir. Reduce heat to low; cover and gently sim-mer, stirring and pressing citrus slices with the back of a spoon to submerge every 10 minutes, until rinds are translucent and tender, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from heat, and let cool completely at room temperature, about 1 hour. Transfer mixture to an airtight container, and chill, covered, at least 2 hours or up to 5 days.

  6. Remove chilled citrus syrup from refrigerator, and let come to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Remove chilled cheesecake from refrigerator, and slice evenly into 12 (about 3- x 3 1/4-inch) bars. Using a slotted spoon, remove citrus slices from syrup, and arrange on cheese-cake bars. Using a small spatula, carefully remove cheesecake bars from pan, and serve immediately. Reserve remaining syrup for another use.

Make Ahead

Cheesecake can be made up to 2 days in advance and stored, covered in plastic wrap, in refrigerator. Candied citrus slices can be made up to 5 days in advance and stored in an airtight container in refrigerator.

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