Easier than traditional cheesecake but just as delicious, homemade Cheesecake Bars feature a buttery graham cracker crust and a tangy, creamy filling. Strawberry Topping optional, but highly recommended.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Prepare a 9-inch by 9-inch baking dish with a foil sling, and spray with non-stick spray. In a food processor, or in a plastic bag with a rolling pin, finely crush graham crackers.
In a medium bowl, add graham cracker crumbs, butter, and sugar and stir to combine. Pour into prepared baking dish, using the bottom of a measuring cup to press the crust evenly and firmly into the bottom of the dish. Bake for 10 minutes, remove from oven and set aside.
For the cheesecake filling:
In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla on medium speed until well mixed. Add sour cream and mix thoroughly. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing on low speed until blended. Pour the mixture over the partially baked graham cracker crust, filling the mixture to almost the top of the pan.
Bake until center is almost set, about 40 minutes. Remove from oven and run a knife or metal spatula around the rim of the baking dish. Chill for 4 hours or overnight. Allow to stand 20 minutes at room temperature prior to serving. Remove from the pan using the foil as a handle and cut into 16 squares. Serve with strawberry topping.
For the strawberry topping (optional):
In a small pot over medium heat, combine the strawberries and sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low heat and simmer for 20 minutes, whisking occasionally. Add vanilla, stir to combine, and remove from heat.
Graham crackers: Honey-flavored, cinnamon, or even chocolate graham crackers all work well. If graham crackers aren’t available in your part of the world, you can substitute 1 ½ cups crushed digestive biscuits (9 sheets of graham crackers yields about 1 ½ cups of crumbs).
Sugar: Or substitute 2 tablespoons brown sugar in the crust.
Cream cheese: Plain (full-fat) blocks of cream cheese are best. Allow them to soften to room temperature before starting the cheesecake filling.
Strawberries: The strawberry topping is optional but recommended. Fresh or frozen strawberries both work, whatever is easiest to find. Or, substitute a different fruit such as blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries.
Yield: One recipe makes 16 bars. Treat yourself by slicing the pan into 12 or 9 portions for larger pieces.
Make ahead: Strawberry Topping can be made several days ahead and refrigerated. The cheesecake can be made and baked up to 2 days in advance and chilled, too.
Storage: Refrigerate, but allow the bars to sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes before serving for the best flavor and texture.
Freezing: Without the topping, Cheesecake Bars freeze well. Wrap individual squares or the whole pan tightly in plastic wrap and foil, and freeze for up to 1 month. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before serving.