The first draft for #weeknightbakingbook is officially turned in and I am equal parts relieved, proud, and generally exhausted. Because I spent so much time on recipe testing and development, I felt like I rushed through the actual writing of the book itself — all I can say is that my editor has a whale of a task ahead of her, that’s for sure. I was literally down to the wire, translating my manuscript from Google Docs to Microsoft Word* the midnight before my contractual deadline. I also can’t relax just quite yet since I’m spending the rest of the month styling and shooting photos for the book. I still have about 70 shoots to get through before I can fully rest and relax, eeep.
*Also, if you missed it, I was doing some High Quality Content Creation at 12:30AM this past Monday, complaining about formatting my manuscript from Google Docs to Microsoft Word — on a whim, I did a quick poll and found that many of you guys still use Microsoft Word. What gives?!
Although I’ll be pretty heads down for the rest of the month, I’m still making an effort to carve out some time for myself here and there. For 4th of July, we celebrated with a hot pot feast at my friends Sze Wa and Jeremy’s place, before walking over to Broadway Bridge to catch the paltriest view of Portland’s fireworks. It was also Erlend’s 30th birthday this past weekend; Erlend’s parents drove down from their summer cabin in Mount Hood to take us to dinner at Zilla Sake. We then feasted on the clafoutis that Erlend made me make for his birthday (instead of, you know, the layer cakes I usually like to make, eyeroll), for which he insisted that I leave the cherries unpitted since it’s the traditional French way and apparently the pits impart an almond flavor? *whisper* I honestly couldn’t tell, but not pitting cherries definitely saved me a ton of time so there’s that. *endwhisper*
Speaking of cherries, we’ve been going through POUNDS of them ever since Northwest Cherry Growers sent me a huge box of Skeena cherries from Pasco, Washington. They’re a beautiful deep red, and are incredibly juicy, ripe, and delicious. We’ve been mostly eating them fresh while saving the rest for #weeknightbakingbook pies, but occasionally I’ll cheat and make another dessert like these cherry streusel cheesecake bars. These bars were inspired by this sour cherry streusel cake from last year, and a variation of the cheesecake bar recipe from my upcoming cookbook. The bars are incredibly creamy with a bit of tang from sour cream, and lots of flavor and crunch from the cherries, streusel, and Speculoos cookie crumbs. Enjoy!
A big thank you to Northwest Cherry Growers for the big box of cherries! Be sure to check out their website to find out more about different cherry varieties, recipes, and other fun facts and trivia about cherries.
- Because this is a multi-component recipe, it can be a bit time consuming to make — there are some tips and tricks that you can take in order to cut down on how long you’re working. Streusel can be made up to 1 week in advance; just keep it in the fridge in an airtight container until you’re ready to use. Cherries can be prepped overnight in an airtight container; the juice will darken a little bit to a weird, unattractive brownish red, but it’ll come out a beautiful maroon in the oven. There’s also no need to wait for the cookie crust to cool completely before filling, so go hog wild.
- Cream cheese can be a little tricky to work with — if you use it while it’s too cold, you’ll end up with a lumpy batter. Be sure that both the cream cheese, sour cream, and eggs are at room temperature for the smoothest possible cheesecake filling.
Cherry Streusel Cheesecake Bars
For the Streusel
- 1/4 cup (2.25 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- a pinch of kosher salt
For the Speculoos Cookie Crust
- 1 1/2 cups (5.25 ounces) finely-processed Speculoos cookie crumbs (see baker's notes for substitutions)
- 3 tablespoons (1.5 ounces) melted unsalted butter
- a pinch of kosher salt
For the Cherry Cheesecake Filling:
- 1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup (3.5 ounces) granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup (4 ounces) sour cream, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups (8.5 ounces) heaping ripe cherries, stemmed, pitted, and halved
For the Streusel
- Combine 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, and a pinch of kosher salt in a medium bowl. Use your fingertips to rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is well combined and crumbly, with both lima bean- and pea-sized clumps. Place in the refrigerator until ready to use.
For the Speculoos Cookie Crust
- Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350 (F). Prepare an 8 x 8-inch pan by lining the bottom and sides of the pan with a sheet of aluminum foil, leaving at least a 2-inch overhang on two opposite sides. Layer a second sheet of aluminum foil on top of this sheet, leaving a 2-inch overhang on the uncovered opposite sides of the pan. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups Speculoos cookie crumbs, 3 tablespoons melted butter, and a pinch of kosher salt. Toss to combine until the mixture has the feel and texture of wet sand.
- Transfer to the prepared pan and use a tart tamper or your hands to press the crumbs together evenly across the surface of the pan. You want to apply a decent amount of pressure here so that the crust holds its shape after being pressed together; you can even use the bottom of a coffee mug or heavy glass to pound the crumbs in place.
- Transfer to the oven and bake. Bake for 10 minutes until the crust is set but not completely brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly while preparing the cherry cheesecake filling. Leave the oven on for the next steps.
For the Cherry Cheesecake Filling
- Reduce the oven heat to 325 (F).
- In the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat 1 1/2 cups cream cheese on medium-low speed until soft, about 1 minute. Add 1/2 cup sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy, about another minute. Turn the mixer down to its slowest setting and add 2 eggs, one at a time, only adding the next egg until the previous one is fully incorporated. Once the eggs are incorporated, turn off the mixer and scrape down the paddle and the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Turn the mixer back on to its slowest setting and add 1/2 cup sour cream all at once. Turn the mixer to medium and beat for about 1 minute, or until the sour cream is fully incorporated and the mixture is pale and thick, with a slight shine.
- Scrape the mixture on top of the parbaked Speculoos cookie crust, using an offset spatula to spread it evenly across the pan. Scatter 1 1/2 cups stemmed, pitted, and halved cherries across the surface of the cheesecake filling. Sprinkle streusel over the cherries and filling. Transfer to the preheated oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the edges are set but the center still wobbles slightly — don’t worry about this wobble, it’ll continue to set after you pull it out of the oven. Transfer to a wire rack to cool to 30 minutes, before transferring to the refrigerator to chill uncovered for about 4 hours, preferably overnight.