Friday, March 5, 2010

Oatmeal Cream Cheese Cinnamon Bars

Growing up, at least when I was old enough to bake, I would wait for the November and December issues of my mom’s magazines to come. I loved all of the holiday recipes that I found. The magazine articles had great recipes, but I also liked the recipes that I found in the advertisements. A couple of my favorite cookie recipes have come from ads.

One year, one of the magazines had a pull out recipe book. The recipes featured Crisco, which isn’t actually something I bake with all that often. I think I still have that cookbook somewhere. I remember making a couple of recipes from that book, all of which contained sweetened condensed milk. Those cookies that I made were good, but they were so sweet. I’m a fan of pretty sweet stuff, but it was even too sweet for me! Ever since, I’ve been a bit hesitant when a recipe calls for sweetened condensed milk.

This recipe came from the Food Network's 12 Days of Cookies that they do every December. They looked good, and I thought that I could substitute cinnamon chips for the butterscotch chips that the recipe specifies. They do call for sweetened condensed milk, but I was hopeful that the oat crumb topping and the cream cheese would balance the sweetness. Many of my coworkers (who get to eat all of my Friday cookies) are from other countries, and they generally don’t like sweetness as much as Americans do.

I’m pretty happy with how these turned out. They aren’t super sweet, but their taste is a little different than I expected. The biggest surprise is that the cinnamon flavor isn’t very strong, which is odd considering the cinnamon chips and ground cinnamon. You can taste the lemon zest and juice in the filling, which goes well with the oats, brown sugar, and cinnamon. They are very crumbly, so you have to be careful when you are eating them.

1 cup butter, cut into pieces
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups oats
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
11 oz. cinnamon chips
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Drape a 9 by 13-inch pan with aluminum foil, allowing the foil to hang over the sides, and butter the foil.

In a food processor add the flour, oats and brown sugar and pulse to combine. Add butter and cinnamon and pulse until the mixture forms clumps when pressed between your fingers. Add the cinnamon chips and pulse until combined. Press half of the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan, reserve the other half. Bake until slightly golden and set, about 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool.

In a large mixer bowl, beat together the cream cheese, condensed milk, lemon zest and juice and vanilla until no lumps of cream cheese remain. Spread evenly over the baked and cooled oatmeal mixture. Sprinkle the remaining half of the oatmeal mixture over the cream cheese. Bake until the top is golden, about 40 minutes.

Cool and chill before cutting. Run a knife around the edge of the pan, and using the foil handles, transfer the bars to a cutting board. Cut into 2-inch squares with a sharp knife and serve.

Recipe from The Food Network

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