Makes 16 bars
Why this Recipe Works:
While these dessert bars may not pack the same fatty punch as whole slices of cheesecake, they’re not exactly diet food either. We wanted to cut the fat from this rich, decadent treat, but still keep the creamy texture and luscious flavor. Ditching the full-fat cream cheese in favor of the reduced-fat variety was a good start, but the filling wasn’t as smooth and creamy as we expected. After trying a variety of low-fat and nonfat dairy ingredients, we landed on nonfat cottage cheese, which we processed to an ultra-smooth texture in the food processor. For the crust, we combined graham cracker crumbs with just a few pats of butter and a small amount of brown sugar for moisture and flavor. Now our revamped cheesecake bars offered all the great textures and flavors of a slice of cheesecake—without any of the guilt.
7 whole graham crackers, broken into 1‑-inch pieces
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
Filling and Topping
8 ounces (1 cup) nonfat cottage cheese, drained if necessary
8 ounces 1/3 less fat cream cheese (neufchatel), softened
2/3 cup (42/3 ounces) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
5 small strawberries, hulled and sliced thin
1. For the crust: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Make foil sling for 8‑inch square baking pan by folding 2 long sheets of aluminum foil so each is 8 inches wide. Lay sheets of foil in pan perpendicular to each other, with extra foil hanging over edges of pan. Push foil into corners and up sides of pan, smoothing foil flush to pan. Lightly coat foil with vegetable oil spray.
2. Process graham crackers in food processor to fine, even crumbs, about 30 seconds. Add melted butter, sugar, and salt and pulse to incorporate, about 5 pulses. Transfer mixture to prepared pan and press firmly into even layer using wide metal spatula. Bake until crust is fragrant and beginning to brown, 12 to 15 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking. Let cool on wire rack for at least 15 minutes.
3. For the filling and topping: Process cottage cheese in food processor until smooth and no visible lumps remain, about 30 seconds, scraping down bowl as needed. Add cream cheese and process until smooth, about 1 minute. Add sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla and process until smooth, about 1 minute, scraping down bowl as needed. With processor running, add eggs one at a time and process until smooth, about 30 seconds. Pour filling over baked crust. Bake bars until edges are set but center still jiggles slightly, 30 to 35 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking.
4. Let bars cool completely in pan on wire rack, about 2 hours. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, 3 to 24 hours. Remove from pan using foil sling and cut into 16 squares. Garnish each with strawberry slice and serve.