College students are a great food audience. They typically either: live in a dorm with no kitchen and eat at the cafeteria (the ‘Caf’); or they have a small kitchen, not much cookware and no budget with which to buy ingredients. They are fairly deprived of access to homemade goodies. So, it doesn’t take much to wow them and endear them to homemade baked goods.
Conveniently, I know a bunch of students because I am a professor of social work at Belmont University in Nashville. These students are bright, dynamic, wonderful and great at eating goodies. I love baking for my students.
I try to bake muffins or cookies for them when I can. It is such fun to show up to an 8 a.m. class with a basket full of muffins, or a batch of cookies to munch on in the afternoon. Our department hosts a dinner each semester for students, faculty, staff and significant others to hang out and get to know each other outside of the classroom. Last night was our fall social work dinner which we hosted at our home. The house was filled with conversation, eating and laughter. I made 2 pans of Chocolate Chip Cheese Cake Bars. My friend, Audra, introduced them to me a couple of years ago and I promptly made them for my students, thinking they would really enjoy them. How could they not? They are pretty much 2 slabs of doughy chocolate chip cookies with a layer of cream cheese gooeyness tucked between them. And my hunch was right- they gobbled them up and ‘oohed’ and ‘ahhed’ and requested them for the next event, which I gladly provided. I am guessing they love it so much (as does my husband) because they'll buy a roll of cookie dough from the grocery and eat it with a spoon.
So, I joyfully made them again this semester to express my adoration for my students and to treat them to some homemade chocolaty goodness. In addition to these, we had some yummy pumpkin muffins, cookies and brownies that were brought by my colleagues. The students appeared to delight in the feast. Mission accomplished!
I will say, the challenge with this recipe is cooking it evenly so that the middle is done and the edges and top aren’t over done. Last night the middle was oozing all over the place, which didn’t stop them from lopping it up, but it made me concerned that they were basically eating liquid cheese cake. It could have been named “Chocolate Chip Cream Cheese Goo”. Next time I will make it in two smaller pans (maybe square glass dishes) so that there are more edge pieces.
You can cut corners (though not cost) by using 2 rolls of purchased chocolate chip cookie dough instead of the cookie dough recipe. But I prefer it with from-scratch cookie dough.
Chocolate Chip Cheese Cake Bars
Cookie Dough Layer
(This is my adaptation of the classic Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe)
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
2 sticks butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
2 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 cups chocolate chips
Combine butter, sugar and brown sugar in a mixing bowl. Beat until creamy. Add vanilla and eggs. Beat together. Add flour, salt and baking soda. Mix well. Stir in chips. Refrigerate for an hour or so. (You can omit the refrigerating, it is just a little stickier of a job).
Cream Cheese Filling
2 (8 oz packages) cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1 ½ tsp. vanilla
Beat cream cheese in mixer until smooth. Add sugar, eggs and vanilla and blend thoroughly.
Preheat oven to 350. In a greased baking pan carefully place ½ of the cookie dough- pressing it together and into the pan.
Pour the cream cheese filling over this layer. Spread evenly.
Place the remain ½ of the cookie dough on top- this is tricky so you need to crumble little pieces all over and gently press together.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until browned on top and when jiggled only moves a little…like I said this is tricky to discern!
Let cool for at least 15 minutes. Serve in the pan- there’s no way to cut this and transfer to a pretty serving dish, so don't even try - just get your spoon ready!