Summer fruit is like candy. Who needs dessert? When it’s hot out you also definitely don’t want to turn on the oven. But, some things are worth sweltering in the heat a bit, like these cherry swirl cheesecake bars. Creamy cheesecake that only comes from using eggs and slowly baking away in the oven. Am I the only one who doesn’t really care for no-bake cheesecake?
My favourite way to eat these cherry swirl cheesecake bars is frozen, though they are (of course) delicious fresh. I have half a mind to shove a popsicle stick in them and coat them with chocolate before freezing. Maybe another time!
You can have cheesecake year-round, so I also I recommend stashing some pitted cherries in the freezer to make these when the weather starts to cool.
- 1 cup fresh cherries, stemmed and pitted
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- 1/2 tsp lemon zest
- 1/2 - 1 tsp almond extract
Graham Cracker Crust
- 1 ½ cups gluten free graham cracker crumbs
- ¼ cup sugar
- pinch of salt (optional)
- ½ cup (8 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted
- 2 packages of cream cheese (16 oz)
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 2 large eggs
- ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp GF Patisserie Gluten Free All Purpose Flour
For the cherry sauce:
- In a small saucepan, add the cherries and sugar and toss to coat. Let sit for at least 20 minutes, this will help draw the juice from the cherries.
- Add the 1/4 cup of water and cook the cherries over medium high heat, bringing the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and allow to simmer for 5 minutes or until the juices have reduced about a third. Stir often.
- Carefully transfer the mixture to a blender, or use an immersion blender, and puree the cherries. (Be careful, it's hot! If you want, allow the mixture to cool to room temperature before blending and then proceed with next steps.)
- Transfer the puree back to the pan and bring it back to a simmer over medium high heat.
- In a small bowl, stir the cornstarch and lemon juice together until smooth, then whisk into the cherry puree.
- Bring the mixture back to a boil, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Cook until thickened, about one minute, then remove from the heat.
- Add the lemon zest and 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract. Taste the mixture (take a spoon and let cool first before trying it) and adjust as needed. If you feel it needs more almond extract, add the other 1/2 teaspoon or more. For more sugar or lemon juice, add more one teaspoon at a time.
- Let the sauce cool while you prepare the crust and cheesecake filling.
For the crust:
- Line an 8 x 8 x 3 inch baking pan with parchment paper.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter, and mix until it holds together when pressed.
- Pour the crumb base into the bottom of the prepared pan and press to form the crust.
- Bake for 10-15 minutes, until lightly golden and set.
- Place on a wire rack to cool while you prepare the filling. Increase the oven temperature to 400 degree F.
For the filling:
- Beat the cream cheese until smooth, scraping the bowl down frequently to prevent lumps.
- Add the granulated sugar, and mix until smooth and glossy.
- Gradually add the heavy cream, mixing until just combined.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until just combined. Scrape down the bowl between additions, and be sure not to overmix.
- Scrape down the bowl, then add the vanilla extract, mixing until combined.
- Sift in the flour, and mix until just incorporated.
- Pour the cheesecake filling over the cooled graham cracker crust.
- Tap the pan on the counter a few times to remove air bubbles.
- Using a teaspoon, dollop the cherry sauce all over the top of the cheesecake filling.
- To create the swirl pattern, use a butter knife or small straight spatula to drag the cherry sauce through the cheesecake.
- Set the pan in the oven (preheated to 400 degrees F) on the middle rack and bake for 10 minutes.
- Turn the oven temperature down to 250 degrees F and bake for another 40-50 minutes, or until the edges are set and the cake is slightly jiggly in the centre.
- Turn off the oven, but do not remove the cake. Open the oven door so it is slightly ajar, and allow the cheesecake to rest in the oven for 1 hour. This will help prevent cracks.
- Remove the pan from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely.
- Once cooled, refrigerate (uncovered) for a minimum 4-6 hours.
- To remove the cake from the pan, lift it out using the overhanging parchment.
- Cut into squares and enjoy!
The graham crackers for the crust were made using GF Patisserie's Gluten Free Graham Crackers recipe. This recipe was developed for GF Patisserie (gfpatisserie.com) and has been reprinted with permission.
To make this recipe non gluten-free, simply swap in regular graham crumbs for the crust and regular all-purpose flour for the cheesecake filling.
Wait, I don’t need to make a water bath!?
That’s right! While a water bath does help evenly bake cheesecakes, I was always frustrated because the process is unbearable and the difference (I find) is minimal. So I came upon this trick several years ago and have been using it ever since. As you can see, no cracks, and this cheesecake is almost impossibly creamy.
Skip the springform pan?
It’s like the cheesecake gods are against anyone trying to get the perfect cheesecake. They always recommend a springform pan or a pan with a removable bottom and to use a water bath. Common problems? Water gets in, making the crust soggy. Filling leaks out, burning on the bottom of the oven.
All you need a is a regular pan, lined with parchment to ensure nothing sticks to the bottom, only because you should refrigerate your cheesecake before removing it from the pan anyway. If using a square pan, leave an overhang and you can easily lift it out. If you use a round pan instead, do the same with two crosswise strips under the bottom piece of parchment.
What if I don’t have a cherry pitter?
I finally bought a cherry pitter and it’s a tool I (now) find useful to have on hand. But don’t fear, if you don’t have one you can use a metal straw or a pastry tip to pop out the seeds (it just might take you a while longer).
What kind of cherries should I use?
Whichever ones you like best! The fresh ones near me were sweet, but these would be AMAZING with sour cherries too.
Do I have to purée the cherry filling?
Not if you don’t want to, it just may be harder to create fun swirls. If you’re all about getting some chunky bits of cherry in your cheesecake, go for it! You can also make extra cherry sauce to pour over top when serving.
You made this gluten free? Can’t I just make it with regular graham crackers and flour?
You can certainly swap out the gluten free graham crackers and gluten free flour for equal amounts of their gluten-filled counterparts. I promise I am not part of the trend to just make everything gluten free, even though that’s what everyone seems to be doing. Honestly, I make certain recipes gluten free because my mum is celiac and she sells the best (I know I’m biased, but it really is) gluten free flour. I happened to have made a batch of her recipe for Gluten Free Graham Crackers, and why not show off how tasty those things are!?