In high school biology was one of my favorite classes. Actually, despite the fact that I did not enjoy school, I loved a lot of the classes I took. I always liked to learn and the passion of teachers who had taught the same thing for sometimes twenty years was an awesome way to learn.
Still biology was my jam.
On the first official day of high school, I walked into my advisor’s office and hung out waiting for the day and our first homeroom meeting. Shortly after I arrived (early, there weren’t a lot of days like that 😉 ), a senior slid into a chair opposite me and asked to see my schedule.
She was pretty and hip and a senior and she was talking to me and this was EVERYTHING! She told me I had a pretty good schedule but to watch out for my biology teacher since he gave all essay exams. Wait, what? I’d never taken an all essay test in my entire life. I lived on multiple choice and guessing c when in doubt.
I was worried. But as I got to know the teacher, the class structure, and the material, I quickly saw there was nothing to worry about. Essay tests were freedom! I didn’t have to know all these little facts that allowed me to correctly answer multiple choice questions but could answer broad essay questions with all the information I remembered, leaving out facts that had left my brain and still receiving at least partial credit.
Adding to my new love for essay tests was the game of biology themed Jeopardy we played before each exam for extra credit.
Like Dad, Jeopardy is kind of my jam, and in-class, biology themed Jeopardy was no different. We played on teams, and one game stands out in my mind above the rest. I can’t remember whether the material was particularly difficult or if some event or the rapidly approaching end of the year meant the rest of my classmates were unprepared, but I dominated. I answered so many of the questions and led my team to victory and ten points added to our test scores.
It’s not like that day made us life long friends, or even year long friends, but there were smiles and high fives and “good jobs” and it was fun.
My studies in biology ended there, but my love of science definitely led into baking. Take these Caramel Swirled Cheesecake Bars for example, without the science of caramelizing sugar with the proper proportions and creating fluffy, creamy cheesecake with eggs for structure, they do not exist. It turns out you do use a couple things you learn in school for the rest of life. Geometry not so much, but science, of yeah 🙂
Beyond the science, these bars are everything you like about cheesecake with little upgrades. Graham crackers are swapped for butter cookies. Sour cream is added to the cheesecake mixture for tang and lightness. And bourbon caramel is swirled into it and drizzled on top since I made a double batch because bourbon! Caramel!
Put on an episode of Jeopardy and let science lead you to deliciousness.Print
- 2 ½ cups butter cookie crumbs
- 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- ¼ cup water
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ½ stick unsalted butter, cold, cubed
- ¼ cup bourbon
- ½ teaspoon flaky sea salt
- 24 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- ½ cup sour cream, room temperature
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon bourbon
- 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8 or 9 inch square pan.
- Stir together the cookie crumbs and melted butter until well combined. Pour into the buttered pan and press firmly into the bottom and up the sides using a measuring cup for pressure and guidance. Bake about 15 minutes until light golden brown.
- While the crust bakes, make the caramel. In a medium saucepan, stir together the sugar and water over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Continue cooking until the sugar turns a deep amber color, about five minutes. Do not walk away during this time. Remove from the heat and stir in the cream, followed by the butter. Stir until combined, placing back over the heat if necessary. Remove from the heat again and stir in the bourbon and salt. Pour into a bowl to cool.
- Make the cheesecake. In a large bowl, whisk together the cream cheese, sour cream, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and bourbon until well combined. This may also be done with a hand or stand mixer. Pour the cheesecake into the baked and slightly cooled crust. Drizzle half of the caramel over the cheesecake. Some of it will sink, some will swirl, all will be delicious!
- Bake 50-70 minutes, until the cheesecake is golden brown, set around the edges, and still rather giggly in the center. Tent the cheesecake if it is becoming too brown at any point. Cool two hours at room temperature before placing in the refrigerator to cool completely. Cut into bars with a very sharp knife and serve with extra caramel.
- Leftover bars may be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or frozen, individually wrapped in parchment and foil and placed in z zipper bag for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight.
Recipe adapted from Tasting Table
- Prep Time: 25 minutes
- Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes