Friday, May 30, 2014
Apricot Swirl Cheesecake Bars
We're dashing into the height of spring stone fruit season and I couldn't be happier. I've just spied the first blush of apricots so they are among my gorgeous new purchases. Let this be a signal to all that we're now solidly into that time of year when we really have to get busy making the most of the season's offerings.
These are very easy cheesecake bars that provide a substantial chewy crust topped with a cream cheese layer and a swirl of fresh tart apricot puree. The apricots are simmered with some sugar for about 5 minutes, just long enough to coax their full flavor.
I prepared the base for the bars and the apricot puree in a food processor. I switched to an electric mixer for the cream cheese filling so I wouldn't beat too much air into the mixture. The base is baked about 15 - 20 minutes and then the filling is added and baked for another 20 - 25 minutes. Cool and chill and presto! You have some bright and lovely spring bites to enjoy.
- Recommended: I doubled the ingredients for the apricot puree and used half for the cheesecake. The remainder can be stirred into plain yogurt or warm oatmeal or slathered on fresh biscuits or scones.
- You can recycle a quarter-piece of dried vanilla bean from your vanilla sugar jar to use for the apricots. I do this to flavor pastries and desserts when vanilla isn't the star ingredient. So save your used vanilla pods: wash and dry them out, cover with sugar and store in a sealed jar. They will still impart a lot of flavor. You can even finely grind the casings to a powder and use them.
- Be sure to lower the heat to 325 degrees F once you've baked the base.
- Room temperature cream cheese is important for a smooth filling without lumps.
- Once baked and cooled, chill the pan until the cheesecake is firm enough to slice. Then let the bars warm up a bit for the best texture of the base.
- Store cheesecake bars in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Apricot Swirl Cheesecake Bars
Makes 16 bars
3 (6 oz) fresh apricots
1 tablespoon (13 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 tablespoon (7 grams) honey
1/4 vanilla bean
Bar Cookie Base
1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 oz) flour
1/4 cup (1 3/4 oz) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (1 3/4 oz) brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 oz (8 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons (1 oz) milk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
8 oz cream cheese @ room temperature
1/3 cup (2 3/4 oz) sour cream
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (2 3/4 oz) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice, to taste
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 large egg @ room temperature
Cut apricots in half, remove pit and slice each half into 4 wedges. Place in a small saucepan with the sugar, honey and a piece of split vanilla bean. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring to prevent scorching. When sugar is dissolved, reduce heat and continue to simmer on low until the apricots have softened, about 4- 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease an 8" square pan and line the bottom with a piece of parchment large enough to form an overhang along two sides of the pan.
Combine the flour, both sugars, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in the bowl of a food processor and process until the ingredients are combined. Cut the cold butter into 1/2" pieces and add to the dry ingredients. Process until it looks like coarse meal. Combine the egg yolk, milk and vanilla and add. Process until the mixture starts to form large clumps and holds together when pinched. Press the dough clumps into the prepared pan to form an even bottom layer.
Bake until the crust is puffed up and the surface looks dry and slightly browned, about 15 - 20 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees.
Beat room temperature cream cheese and sour cream until smooth. Add the sugar, vanilla and lemon juice and combine thoroughly. Scrape down the bowl, add the egg and mix until smooth. Pour into the crust and smooth out evenly to the edges.
Place the cooled apricots in the bowl of a food processor and puree. Drop spoonfuls on top of the cream cheese mixture. Use a thin knife to make a swirl pattern in the puree.
Bake until the edges are set with just a little bit of a jiggle at the center, about 20 -25 minutes. Place on a wire rack to cool. Chill until firm before cutting into squares, about 2 hours.