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Last Updated on October 12, 2020 by Chenée Lewis
Every year since 2016, my brother and I do a Thanksgiving baking competition, with a blind taste judged by a family member. I have to admit, I can get a little competitive, but it’s all in good fun. It started out friendly enough, but ever since he beat me that time in 2017 (Battle Pumpkin) the gloves have been off. This year we decided to do Battle of the Dessert Bars, and the pressure was on. Tony stepped up on Thanksgiving Day with some delicious Strawberry Rhubarb Oat Bars, but — and I’m not just saying this — these pineapple cheesecake bars were way better. Everyone agreed.
Anyway, enough gloating. You guys have to make these. They are made of some of my favorite ingredients — brown butter, pineapple, and pecans! I All that to make these bars the perfect balance of buttery, tangy, and rich.
What makes these pineapple bars so good?
These layered dessert bars are the perfect combination of flavors and textures:
- Shortbread crust and crumb topping — this easy shortbread is full of buttery pecans and comes together in just a couple of minutes! I love a double-duty crust and crumb layer!
- Pineapple cheesecake layer — the perfect smooth cheesecake filling full of crushed pineapple for the best tropical flavor.
- Brown butter coconut icing — maybe my favorite part! Brown butter and coconut go together so well, and the coconut flavor comes from naturally-flavored coconut extract. It’s the perfect complement to the pineapple cream cheese layer!
Pecan Shortbread Crust/Topping
- all-purpose flour – I would recommend weighing it out with a food scale to make sure you’re measuring accurately. Otherwise, make sure you use the “spoon-and-level” method to make sure that you don’t accidentally use too much flour.
- granulated sugar – adds some sweetness to our shortbread crust and crumb topping!
- salted butter – helps to bring the shortbread together, and adds a fantastic buttery flavor.
- chopped pecans – I love what pecans add to this crust and crumb topping! For this recipe, I just used some bagged chopped pecans.
Pineapple Cheesecake Filling
- softened cream cheese – your cream cheese should definitely be room temperature. Just let it sit out for at least an hour, or you can remove it from the foil and heat it in the microwave for 20 seconds.
- white sugar – boosts the sweetness of the pineapple.
- eggs – helps the filling to set nicely.
- pure vanilla extract – gives the bars that classic cheesecake flavor. I like this one.
- crushed pineapple – that’s how we get all that yummy pineapple flavor and texture! It’s so easy and delicious.
Brown Butter Coconut Icing
- cubed salted butter – used to make brown butter, which gives this icing an amazingly rich, nutty flavor!
- powdered sugar – adds to the texture and sweetness of the icing and helps it set.
- whole milk – helps to thin out the icing so that it can be drizzled.
- coconut extract – gives the frosting that boost of coconut flavor, perfect to complement the pineapple in the cheesecake! I used this one.
This is a basic layered dessert bar recipe, so you won’t need any special tools. First, you’ll need your 9×13 pan, of course, and a mixing tool like a hand mixer or stand mixer. Also, make sure you have a light-colored sauté pan in which to brown your butter, so that you can easily see when it’s done and so it doesn’t burn. Another crucial tool is parchment paper, which as I mention below will help you remove your bars from the pan easily!
Step by Step
Now that you’ve got your ingredients and equipment, you’re ready to make these Hawaiian cheesecake squares! Here are the steps you’ll follow:
- To make your crust/topping, combine your flour, sugar, butter, and pecans and then reserve some to chill in the fridge for later.
- Press your remaining topping mixture into the bottom of your prepared 9×13 pan and blind bake in your preheated oven.
- Whip together your cheesecake ingredients, starting with getting the cream cheese nice and smooth. Then mix in your drained crushed pineapple, sugar, eggs, and vanilla and spread the cheesecake mixture onto the baked crust.
- Top with your reserved shortbread crumbs and bake!
- While it’s cooling, brown your butter for the icing, and then mix it with your icing mixture. Drizzle the icing over your cooled bars.
Tips and Tricks for the best Pineapple Cheesecake Bars
Brown Butter: See my post on how to brown butter for detailed steps and images of the process of browning butter. For this recipe, I’d recommend browning salted butter for the most flavor.
Line pan with parchment: to make sure you can easily remove bars from the pan to aid in slicing, be sure to line the bottom and sides of your 9×13 pan with parchment paper. I like to cut two strips that hang over the sides to make it even easier.
Clean slicing: For dessert bars in general, it helps if they’re fully solidified before you try to slice them, so that the cuts are nice and clean. Another great way to get clean cuts is to run your knife under the faucet before each cut!
These pineapple cream cheese bars are consistently a hit. Give them a try for your next occasion — you (and your family and friends) won’t regret it! And if you like these, I’ve got some fantastic brown butter recipes all over my blog for you! First, you have to try the very first recipe that I posted here, my brown butter black-bottom sweet potato pie! It’s so good and it’s the perfect way to end a holiday meal.
And you love dessert bars, you should also check out my brown butter banana blondies — another rich and decadent dessert bar recipe that’s made with white chocolate, ripe banana, and a brown butter cream cheese icing!
Equipment you may need
Pecan Shortbread Crust/Topping
Pineapple Cheesecake Filling
- Preheat your oven to 350 °F.
- Combine the flour, granulated sugar, butter, and pecans until well combined and crumbly. Remove ⅓ of the mixture and set into refrigerator to chill while you prepare the filling.
- Press the remaining shortbread mixture into ungreased 9 X 13 pan. Bake in the oven for 14-19 minutes. Remove and let cool slightly while prepping the other layers.
Prepare filling & bake
- Beat the cream cheese until smooth, then add in the granulated sugar, eggs and vanilla. Stir in the drained pineapple. Spread over the baked crust.
- Crumble reserved shortbread mixture over cheesecake layer. Cover the pan with aluminum foil.
- Bake, covered, for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 20-25 minutes or until the crumb topping is golden brown.
- Let cool and slice. This freezes exceptionally well!
- To brown the butter, slice the butter and melt it in a light-colored sauté pan over medium high heat. Once it starts to foam up, whisk it constantly and watch for brown solids at the bottom of the pan.
- Once those are a deep golden brown and you smell a nutty aroma, remove it from heat and pour the browned butter into a medium heat-proof bowl, scraping the brown bits in as well. Allow to cool slightly.
- Whisk in confectioners’ sugar, milk, and coconut extract. If needed, add more confectioners’ sugar to thicken or more milk to thin out. Drizzle over cooled pineapple bars, allow to set, then cut into squares.
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