March is my favorite winter month…longer days, the sun is higher in the sky, and the winds that blow hold the promise of spring. Another sure sign of the changing season is the galvanized metal buckets hanging from the maple trees that line the roadways, and the miles of plastic tubing that provide the continuous flow of sap to sugar houses
Maple syrup is an important component of our seasonal Maine diet and our local economy. My family consumes about 5 gallons a year, mainly as a replacement for white sugar,( which is produced primarily from genetically-modified sugar beets.) Not just for pancakes and waffles, we enjoy maple syrup on hot cereal with heavy cream, whisked into salad dressings, and baked in muffins, breads and pies.
Many recipes are easy to convert from sugar to maple syrup, particularly those that are in liquid form. It helps to remember that syrup is sweeter than sugar, and that it adds extra moisture to the recipe. As a general rule, in baking and cooking, when substituting maple syrup for sugar, I use about three fourths the amount of maple syrup as sugar in the recipe, and reduce the dominant liquids by a third. Make careful notes, and keep trying the recipe until it works for you.
In Maple Black Bottom Cheesecake Bars, maple syrup is used both the in the rich, buttery shortbread crust, and in the cheesecake mixture. The chocolate layer beneath the maple cheesecake adds a depth of flavor. I need to warn you…these addictive bars are very rich They probably would freeze well…but in our house, they are always eaten.
Maple Black Bottom Cheesecake Bars
For the crust:
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1/3 cup Maple Syrup at room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups all purpose flour
For the cheescake
- 1 pound cream cheese
- 1/2 cup sour cream or greek style yogart at room temperature
- 2 eggs at room temperate
- 3/4 cup Maple Syrup at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- Using your electric mixer, beat the cream cheese until light. Beat in the sour cream or yogurt, and then the eggs, one at a time. Gradually beat in the maple syrup. Then add the vanilla and lemon juice.
- Sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly over the crust. Gently pour the cheese mixture over the top. Bake in the 425 degree oven for 15 minutes. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees and bake until set, about 30 minutes. The cheesecake will puff up and probably have cracks. Cool on a rack and chill well before cutting into bars.