My brother has only ever made one request of my blog:
“Can you make something that’s not healthy again? Like those pumpkin pie-stuffed chocolate cupcakes?”
Of course, my brother is the one blessed with a lightning metabolism and is the slender size of a string bean and could probably stay that way living happily off of cookies and fruit tarts for the rest of his life (two of his baking specialties). I gave a noncommittal “eh” (code for: probably not)…and then made cheesecake-stuffed chocolate chip cookie bars.
Only because (1) my roommate and I found ourselves with a very uncharacteristic overabundance of cream cheese in our fridge and I couldn’t think of anything healthy to make with it and (2) these looked really delicious. And (3) this was around the start of the month so my mood was, shall we say, a little irregular.
So I made them. Then looked up the nutrition facts and died. And then realized that the definition of why moderation is necessary was sitting in front of me, so maybe a lesson could be learned. And justified it by the fact that I don’t calculate the nutrition facts of birthday cake and that it was probably someone’s birthday that day anyway. Somewhere in the world, I was sure someone turning 22 (the candle numbers I happened to have). Actually, probably many someones.
In fact, today is someone’s special day. One of my awesome blogger friends who I met in North Carolina! Her name is Kaylie and she blogs at Skinny Muffin. I’m pretty sure (like me) she is a cake person (rather than a cookie person, like both my roommates…something I’m still trying to wrap my head around), but still. One of the many reasons I love her blog is her recent series called “Dietetic Dish” and it’s all about what she’s learned in her nutrition class as she studies to become a dietitian. Thanks to her, I’m committing myself to buying organic eggs (apparently the semi-cheap “vegetarian” eggs I used to buy means nothing in terms of humane chicken treatment.)
Anyway, it’s her birthday! HAPPY BIRTHDAY KAYLIE! If I had to bet on it, I would bet you are not turning 22. I would bet you are turning at least 23 or 24. But thankfully, 22 has been immortalized, so happy 22nd in spirit! Inside I think we all know it feel like a perfect night…for breakfast at midnight.
Ew. Why did I just do that.
Okay so even if you’re going for full-out indulgence, there are a few swaps you can make to sneak a tiiiny bit more nutrition into whatever you’re making. Here are some of my favorite tips for healthier traditional baking:
- Instead of using all refined white flour, use part whole-grain flour like whole wheat, oat, or buckwheat (I listed my blend in the recipe)
- Use Greek yogurt instead of a half the equivalent portion of butter (i.e. instead of 4 tablespoons of butter, use 2 tablespoons of Greek yogurt)
- Reduce the amount of chocolate chips
- In the cheesecake, use half Greek yogurt, half cream cheese instead of all cream cheese
Cheesecake is baked in the middle of two thick chocolate chip cookie layers. Pure birthday bliss for the cookie-lover in your life!
- For the cookie layer:
- ½ cup unsalted butter, very soft
- 2/3 cup Morena (unrefined cane sugar) sugar
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
- 1 large egg
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup + 2 tablespoons flour (I used a blend of ¼ cup all-purpose, ½ cup whole wheat and 6 tablespoons oat flour)
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup chocolate chips
- For the cheesecake:
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature*
- 1/3 cup Morena sugar (or regular)
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8x8” glass pan well (I used the butter wrapper).
With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugars in a small mixing bowl (if the butter is soft enough, you may be able to do the mixing by hand). Add the egg and vanilla; cream again until smooth. Add the flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir gently until incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips. Store in refrigerator until ready to use.
Cream the cream cheese and sugar together until fluffy (you will probably need an electric mixer to do this properly). Add the egg and vanilla and mix again until well combined.
Press half of the slightly chilled cookie dough into the bottom of the greased pan. Pour the cream cheese mixture on top. To spread cookie dough on top of the cream cheese layer, I rolled the remaining cookie dough into 1-inch balls and then smashed them, and layered the flattened rounds across the surface, then filled in the gaps with any leftover cookie dough. If there are gaps in the cookie dough, remember that the cookie dough will expand in the oven.
Bake for 40 minutes or until the top is set—the center may be a tiny bit jiggly, but not catastrophically so. Check earlier if your oven tends to run hot. Let cool, then cut into tiny squares. Unless, of course, you’re the birthday girl/boy, in which you can take a fork to the pan.
*This will give you a normal-sized cheesecake layer. I used a total of 13 ounces since I was trying to use up what we had, and that yielded the mondo-thick layer in the photos. If you really, really, REALLY love cheesecake, go for it (increase the sugar slightly and use an extra-large egg if you have one). Otherwise, I wouldn't recommend using more than 8 or 10 ounces max.
A few other cheesecake recipes for ya: