Apple cheesecake bars with walnut streusel topping

With a shortbread crust, an apple-cheesecake filling, and a crunchy walnut streusel topping, this dessert has it all. Save this recipe for a holiday dessert, or make it now for an afternoon treat.

Eat. Run. Read.
Make use of apples while they're in season. These bars will get you thinking of fall.

Imagine your holiday dessert plate: there's a slice of apple pie on there because that's what the uncles like, there's a piece of cheesecake because that's what Sister 1 makes best, and maybe if you're lucky there's one of Auntie Robin's shortbread cookie in the corner. Clearly you stick your fork into all three treats at the same time, creating a tangy creamy bite of apple pie, with some buttery crunchiness in there, too.

Are you with me here? OK. Now imagine all that awesomeness baked into one bar. Yep, my apple kick continues with these apple cheesecake bars with walnut streusel topping, and they are good. Shortbread crust, cheesecake, apple-pie-like filling, and a crunchy, walnut streusel on top. 

There's a lot of apple going on in here – three big Granny Smith apples cook down to a whole layer of spicy goodness.

I'm not saying you should make these instead of your other holiday desserts, but it wouldn't hurt if you made them in advance, just to get yourself in a sufficiently dessert-happy holiday season mood.

Apple cheesecake bars with walnut streusel topping

Crust

1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour 

2/3 cup powdered sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

3/4 teaspoon salt

12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1-1/2 sticks) at very cool room temperature, cut into 1-inch pieces, plus extra for greasing pan

Filling

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons, divided

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Streusel

 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup quick cooking oats

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened

1. Crust Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter a 13-by-9-inch baking dish.

2. If you have a food processor: Pulse flour, powdered sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Add butter and process to blend, 8 to 10 seconds, then pulse until mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse meal, about three 1-second bursts.

3. If you're doing it by hand: Mix flour, powdered sugar, cornstarch, and salt in medium bowl. Freeze butter and grate it on large holes of box grater into flour mixture. Toss butter pieces to coat. Rub pieces between your fingers for a minute, until flour turns pale yellow and coarse.

4. Sprinkle mixture into pan and press firmly with fingers into even, 1/4-inch layer over entire pan bottom and about 1/4 inch up sides.

5. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, then bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

6. Filling In a large bowl, beat cream cheese with 1/2 cup sugar in an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth. Then add eggs, one at a time, and vanilla. Stir to combine. Pour over warm crust.

7. In a small bowl, stir together chopped apples, remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

8. Spoon evenly over cream cheese mixture. 

9. Streusel In a small bowl, combine all ingredients.

10. Sprinkle streusel evenly over the top of bars (I didn't use it all – I had about 1/2 cup leftover, which can be stored in the fridge in a Tupperware for a while and sprinkled on top of the next batch of muffins you bake).

11. Bake 30 minutes, or until filling is set.

12. Cool completely before serving. 

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