Food writer, blogger and stylist Samantha Seneviratne has a dessert book out that will have you running to restock your pantry with cake flour, molasses, extracts and…basically, restock your pantry with baking ingredients. Her latest collection of recipes, The New Sugar & Spice, covering the classic cookie to the brand-new brownie, is photographed so beautifully, you may find yourself biting off more than you can chew.
Sour cherries are gorgeous. Their bright red skin practically sparkles. But just like the rubies they resemble, they can be hard to come by. Look for them at your local farmers’ market in the heat of summer. The good news is that they freeze well. I always buy pints and pints of them when they appear and set them aside for making pies, cobblers and bars all year round. To store sour cherries, pit them first, then freeze them in a single layer on a parchment-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Then store the frozen berries in an airtight container. They should last for up to a year.
These cheesecake bars are an excellent vessel for summer sour cherries. Making the spiced compote from scratch, instead of using store-bought jam, makes the fruit, and not the sugar, the star. I brought these to my accountant when he was doing my taxes, and he knocked $100 off his fee.
- 3 cups pitted sour cherries, thawed if frozen
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Pinch of Kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 3 large egg yolks
- 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 large egg
For the bars
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9-inch-square baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on two sides.
To prepare the compote, bring the cherries, sugar, cloves, cinnamon, and salt to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the cherries are very tender, about 5 minutes, then crush them in the pan with a potato masher. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and about 2 tablespoons of the juice from the cherry mixture. Add the cornstarch mixture back into the saucepan and simmer until thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the compote cool slightly. It should be the consistency of a loose jam. Reserve 1 1⁄2 cups of the compote for the bars. (If you have a little extra compote, save it for a scoop of vanilla ice cream.)
To prepare the pastry, in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, add the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the egg yolks and pulse just until the mixture is evenly moistened but still somewhat sandy. Sprinkle a little bit more than half of the flour mixture in the prepared pan and press it down into an even layer. Bake until set and golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool slightly.
To prepare the cheesecake layer, whisk together the cream cheese and sugar in a medium bowl until smooth. Whisk in the egg.
Spread the cream cheese mixture evenly over the baked bottom crust. Drop the cherry compote in dollops evenly on top of the cream cheese mixture and then gently spread it out, keeping the cream cheese layer in place as best you can. Sprinkle the remaining flour mixture on top, squeezing it to make some clumps bigger than the others.
Bake until the cheesecake layer is set and the topping is deep golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack. To serve, cut around the edges to loosen them from the pan, then use the parchment to lift the uncut bars out of the pan and onto a cutting board. Use a long sharp knife to cut into bars.
Store the bars in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.