Dulce De Leche Banana Cheesecake Bars.

Dulce de leche.  Mexican caramel.  Sweetened condensed milk that has been carmelized. Best caramel ever? It's possible.  Although Bourbon Caramel is up there too.  A friend told me that all you have to do to make dulce de leche is put a can of (eagle brand, not sure if it matters?) sweetened condensed milk into a pot of boiling water, and keep it boiling for about 3 hours. Pop open the can, and voila.  The golden brown, gooey, richness ensues. 

That may have been easier than the search that I had to take on to find this little can of sticky deliciousness. I went to Whole Foods, with the rationale that they have tons of weird and cool stuff that you normally can't find in traditional groceries.  I was wrong.  Next was the international market.  Could not find it there either.  The last place I checked, and the most unlikely place to have a can of dulce de leche?  Kroger.  Yup.  Plain ole' Kroger had it in their pathetic 1/4 of an isle "international section".

Now, add this caramel as a topping onto a banana-flavored cheesecake-topped with a sprinkling of sea salt to offset the sweetness, and lain atop a buttery almond crust, and you have found happiness-that lasts at least as long as the cheesecake hangs around, so I'm not guaranteeing a whole lot of time here, since these little bars tend to disappear quite quickly.  

My rationale for eating the whole 800 calories and 50g of sugar that is in each little piece of this dessert (ok not really that much, but they taste like it!) is that my half marathon is tomorrow.  Tomorrow!  13.1 miles that I will be running tomorrow morning at 0700 am.  I have heard rumors that the 1st 8 miles of this race is uphill, and the last 5 are downhill.  Oh man.  I hate hills.  hate Hate HATE them.  Oh well.  I suppose I'll get over it.  

Dulce De Leche Banana Cheesecake Bars (I really need to come up with a shorter name for this.)
Very loosely Adapted from Epicurious

For the crust:
non-stick spray, or butter
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 T sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup crushed up almonds
1 1/4 stick (10 T) butter, melted

For the filling:
3 8-oz pkgs cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 over-ripe bananas, mashed
3 large eggs
1/2 cup dulce de leche
2 tsp vanilla extract

For the topping:
2/3 cup dulce de leche
3 T heavy whipping cream (I used whole milk instead, to tone down the richness just a bit)
Sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Coat casserole or baking dish (9x13 works fine) with butter or nonstick spray.  Mix graham cracker crumbs, sugar, cinnamon and almonds in a bowl.  Add the melted butter and stir.  Spread the crumb mixture onto the bottom of the dish, pressing it together evenly to cover.  Bake until light golden, about 10 mins.  Cool completely.

Blend cream cheese and sugar until smooth.  Add eggs one at time, blending in between eggs.  Add dulce de leche, bananas and vanilla.  blend until smooth and creamy.  spread batter evenly over crust.  Bake until set in the center and edges begin to crack just a little, about 35 mins. Cool completely.

Heat dulce de leche and cream/milk in a saucepan, until the dulce de leche thins out to a glaze. pour onto the cheesecake and spread evenly.  refrigerate at least 1 hour.  cut cheesecake into bars and sprinkle bars with  sea salt right before serving.

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