Cherry Cheesecake Bars
Makes approx. 20-24 Bars
2 Cup, Almonds, toasted & finely chopped
1/4 Cup, Brown Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon, Salt
2 Tablespoons, Butter, melted
2 (8oz.) blocks, Cream Cheese, softened
1/4 Cup, Ricotta Cheese
1/4 Cup, Sour Cream
1 1/2 Cup, Sugar
4 Large, Eggs
1 Tablespoon, Pure Vanilla Extract
1/4 Cup, Cream
2 Cups, Fresh Cherries, pitted
3 Tablespoons, Sugar
1/4 Cup, Water
1/4 Teaspoon, Almond Extract
2 Teaspoons, Cornstarch
1 Lemon, Juice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray. Place parchment paper into the bottom of the baking dish, letting it overhang (over the 2 longer sides of the dish). Set aside.
Make the Cherry Mixture: Pit all the cherries. Cut 1/2 of the cherries into smaller pieces (I quartered them); leave the other 1/2 of the cherries whole. Set them aside. Place a smaller sauce pot on the stove over medium heat (I sprayed my sauce pot with some cooking spray so the cherry mixture wouldn’t stick to my pot). Add the water & sugar to the pot and whisk until sugar dissolves. Add all the cherries and the almond extract to the pot and stir. Once the mixture starts to boil, turn the heat to low and simmer for about 5 minutes. In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and the juice of half a lemon (reserve the other 1/2 of the lemon for later). Slowly pour the cornstarch/lemon mixture into the pot of cherries while stirring. The mixture should get nice and thick. Remove form the stove and set aside to cool.
Make the Crust: Add the toasted nuts *(see below for instructions on how to toast nuts) to a food processor. Pulse until the nuts are finely chopped. Add the brown sugar, salt and pulse again to mix the ingredients. Add the melted butter and pulse again just until you have a crumbly mixture. Pour the nut mixture into the baking dish w/parchment paper, spread evenly over the bottom of the dish and gently press it down. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven & set aside.
Make Cheesecake Filling: In a standing mixer, add the cream cheese, Ricotta Cheese, Sour Cream and Sugar and mix on medium until combined. Add the vanilla and mix again. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, mixing well after adding each egg. Add the cream and mix again. Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix one more time until the filling is creamy. Pour the mixture into the baking dish, on top of the crust.
Add the other 1/2 of the lemon juice to the cherry mixture. Using an immersion blender, puree the cherry mixture until there are no more chunks of cherries left. You can also place into a blender and puree. The mixture should still be somewhat thick but you should be able to pour it. Using a spoon, start adding spoonfuls of the cherries to the cheesecake (If you like to dress up your plate when serving this dessert, reserve a few spoonfuls of the cherry filling for later).
Take a knife or even a skewer and start dragging it through the cheesecake & cherry mixture to create a swirling pattern. You really cannot go wrong here; make any pattern you like; have fun with it!
Bake the cheesecake in the oven for approx. 30-35 minutes or until a knife comes out clean in the center of the cheesecake. My cheesecake took approx. 40 minutes to bake. (cooking time may vary, depending on the size pan you use). Remove from the oven, set aside to cool. Let it completely cool before cutting. A lot of times I will make bar cookies the day before I need them. I let them cool in the fridge overnight before removing them from the baking dish and cutting them into bars. They come out much cleaner by allowing them to setup overnight. If you need them the same day or you just cannot wait to try one, just allow them to completely cool off before cutting into them. It also helps to have a cup of hot water and a sharp knife. You can cut the bars and as the knife gets cheesecake on it, dip it into the hot water and wipe the knife clean.
Cut the cheesecake into squares, place the bars onto a plate. If you reserved any of the cherry mixture, place a teaspoon of it onto the plate and drag it (with back of spoon) across the plate for a pretty design. You could also place them all onto a platter and serve.
You can Toast Nuts in the oven or on the stove. Here is a how to guide:
Oven: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Toast nuts whole (before chopping them into smaller pieces). Place nuts in a single layer on an uncreased baking sheet (cookie sheet). Bake in the oven for approx. 5-10 minutes or until they are golden brown. Remove from pan to cool before chopping them.
Stovetop: Place a saute pan on the stove, over medium-low heat. Add the nuts and heat through (stirring frequently) until they are golden brown, about 5-10 minutes. If the pan is too hot, turn it to low heat. Remove from stove, set aside to cool.