Southeastern Massachusetts, where we live, is known for having an abundance of cranberry bogs! There are several cranberry bogs not too far from where we live, and because October is the peak of cranberry harvesting season around here, it’s not unusual for us to be driving behind a truck that is loaded up with beautiful, vibrant red just-harvested berries!
If you ever have a chance to see cranberries harvested – please take advantage of it as it’s quite an interesting process to watch! While some cranberries (those that are sold in bags at the supermarket as whole berries) are dry-harvested with a mechanical picker that combs the berries off their vines, most of the bogs around our house use a ‘wet harvest’ method (these berries are used for juices, sauces and other processed cranberry foods). A wet harvest first involves flooding the bogs with water; then the berries are loosened from their vines so that they float to the surface. Finally the berries are corralled to one side of the bog and vacuumed up out of the water and into trucks to be taken to be processed. (You can read more about the harvesting process here.)
With an abundance of cranberries nearby, it probably won’t come as a surprise to you that we love to cook and bake with this fruit, and these Oatmeal Cranberry Cheesecake Bars are one of our favorite ways to enjoy the sweet-tart taste of cranberries!
These oatmeal cranberry cheesecake bars start with a sweet oatmeal cookie bottom crust. Then a layer of cream cheese filling that has been flavored with hints of lemon and vanilla is added. Next, whole-berry cranberry sauce is carefully spread on top of the cream cheese layer, and finally, an oatmeal crumb topping is sprinkled on before baking.
When my husband Jack first saw me making this recipe he said, “Oh YUM! All of my favorite things in one dessert!” And he’s right – the marriage of oatmeal, cranberries and cheesecake all in one delicious cookie bar is truly a winning combination! They are moist and sweet plus a touch of tartness from the cranberries, and the sweet oatmeal crumble is the perfect light topping! I hope you love these oatmeal cranberry cheesecake bars as much as we do!
This recipe was adapted from one originally published in Better Homes & Gardens magazine. Marta Chavatel of Timonium, Maryland won $400 in the magazine’s monthly recipe contest in the Best Brownies and Bar Cookies category.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 ¼ cups quick-cooking oatmeal
- ¾ cups packed brown sugar
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened to room temperature
- 12 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 16-ounce can whole berry cranberry sauce
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13x9-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together the flour, oatmeal, and brown sugar. Add the softened butter to the mixing bowl and mix on medium speed until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Measure out 1 ½ cups of the crumb mixture and set aside in a separate bowl.
- Pour the remaining crumbs into the prepared baking dish and press evenly into the bottom of the dish. Bake for 15 minutes.
- While the crust is baking, in the same bowl of the stand mixer, cream the softened cream cheese and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, lemon juice and vanilla extract and mix well.
- Also while the crust is baking, in a small bowl, combine the cranberry sauce and cornstarch and mix thoroughly.
- When the crust is done baking, remove from the oven and pour the cream cheese mixture evenly over the crust. Then spoon the cranberry mixture evenly over the cream cheese mixture, spreading gently with the back of a spoon so that it is evenly coated. Then sprinkle the reserved oatmeal crumbs over the top of the cranberry mixture.
- Bake for 40 or until completely set and very lightly golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Cover and refrigerate the baking dish for at least 3 hours so that the bars can firm up.
- Once chilled, cut into bars and serve.
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