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Recipe

Sour Cherry Cheesecake Bars

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Erin Kunkel

Yield: Makes 16 bars

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 (see the tip below). 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.

Ingredients

For the compote

  • 3 cups (15 oz.) pitted sour cherries, thawed if frozen
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 Tbs. cornstarch

For the pastry

  • 9 oz. (2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 3 large egg yolks

For the cheesecake

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg

Preparation

  • 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 Tbs. 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.
  • 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.

Make Ahead Tips

Store the bars in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

If you have a little extra compote, save it for a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Tip

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.

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