It’s peanut butter jelly time, it’s peanut butter jelly time.
Sorry, but how else could I introduce this recipe?!
Aside from the poor souls who are allergic to nuts, I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t love a good ol’ PB&J. Breakfast, lunch, or an anytime snack, the classic combo can’t be beat.
Everyone has their own “way” with this sandwich. White or wheat? Crusts on or off? Creamy or crunchy peanut butter? What flavor jam? And probably most importantly, cut down the center or diagonally?
Me? My go to is soft multigrain bread, crusts on, cut diagonally, with either strawberry or raspberry jam. As for creamy or crunchy, I alternate every time I buy a new jar of peanut butter. A weird quirk I have, I guess.
It’s actually pretty infrequently I find myself eating peanut butter and jelly in sandwich form, however. More often I spread the combo on a rice cake or graham cracker. So the other day, when I opened the fridge to get my jars of peanut butter and jelly out and slather them on a graham cracker, I spotted the two blocks of cream cheese I’d bought earlier in the week with no intended purpose. I knew what I had to do. I already had a tried and tested recipe for a peanut butter cheesecake I’ve used as a base for other desserts, and I figured it could only be made more awesome by a few swirls of jam.
These bars will for sure become a favorite. The lightly-sweetened graham cracker cracker crust is the perfect vehicle for the creamy filling. I love this filling because the peanut butter flavor is good but doesn’t overpower; it still tastes like cheesecake. The jam swirls are easy to create and look so pretty. You may use whatever flavor of jam you prefer, just try to avoid “preserves” or anything with big pieces of fruit.
How big you slice the bars is up to you. As you can see I cut mine into a few different sizes. These would be great cut into “bites” and served on a dessert tray! But in that case, you’ll need to eat more than one. 🙂
So pour yourself a tall glass of milk, serve yourself a peanut butter & jelly cheesecake bar, and reminisce about how lucky we were to grow up in the days before peanut butter was banned from all schools.
Lastly, I can’t resist but leave you with this blurry photo of me from eight years ago. If you don’t understand the reference and why I had to post it alongside this recipe, I am so sorry. You’ve got to start watching more television.
Peanut Butter & Jelly Cheesecake Bars
Yields an 8-9″ square pan (16-32 bars)
- 1.5 cup graham cracker crumbs (10 full graham cracker sheets)
- 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
- Dash of salt
- 6 Tbs. (87g) unsalted butter, melted
- 16 oz. cream cheese (two 8oz. blocks), softened
- 2/3 cup (135g) granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup (120g) sour cream, room temperature
- 1/3 cup (85g) creamy peanut butter*
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 1/3 cup (95g) strawberry jam (or preferred flavor)
Preheat the oven to 350°F . Line an 8-9″ square pan with parchment paper.
To make the crust, pulse graham crackers in a food processor or blender until you have fine crumbs. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the sugar and salt. Slowly drizzle in the melted butter, using a fork to combine until the mixture holds together when pinched.
Firmly press the crumbs into the lined baking pan, making it as tightly packed and even as you can. You can either use a tool designed for this purpose (see photo below, I just learned it’s called a “tamper”), or the bottom of a small drinking glass also works well.
Bake the crust for about 8 minutes, until slightly golden and puffy. Remove from the oven and set aside while you prepare the filling.
But first, fill an empty pan with an inch of water and place it on the bottom rack of the oven.
Using a stand mixer or a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese on medium speed in a large bowl for three minutes, or until completely smooth and no lumps remain. (It is really important that your cream cheese have softened to room temperature.) Add the sugar and continue to mix another minute until thoroughly combined. Add the sour cream, peanut butter, and vanilla, and beat for an additional minute or two, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.
Turn your mixer to low and add the eggs one at a time. Stop beating just as soon as everything is combined. With eggs, the more you mix, the more is incorporated, and the more likely your cheesecake is to crack! So be very careful not to overdo it.
Pour the filling over the prepared crust. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to release any air pockets.
Stir the jam with a fork to loosen. You may also microwave it for a few seconds, if needed. Drop spoonfuls of jam over the filling. Using a toothpick or a knife, create swirls by gently running through each circle, keeping your tool no deeper than 1/4″ below the surface. Less is more here, as the effect gets lost if you swirl too much. Scroll down for photos.
Bake the cheesecake for approximately 50 minutes, until puffed up and ever so slightly wobbly in the center. You can begin checking at 40 minutes, but try very hard not to open the oven before that. Depending on your oven, your bars may need to bake ever longer.
Leaving the cheesecake inside, turn off the oven and set your timer for one hour.
After the hour is up, you can remove the pan and transfer it to the refrigerator, uncovered. Allow to chill for at least four hours before cutting into squares.
These bars keep well stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days.
*You will need to use a peanut butter that stays emulsified at room temperature, like the traditional Skippy or Jif. Natural peanut butters that need to be stirred will not produce a good result. However, both Skippy and Jif make “natural” varieties that have the same consistency as their original products, and that is what I use.
A few step-by-step photos:
My crust pressing thingamabob. My mom bought it for me one Christmas and I remember thinking she was silly, but now I use it all the time!