There are so many great things about summer, and I say it every year, but my favorite thing by far is the wide variety of local produce that is so readily available. It makes cooking and baking a thousand times more exciting, and adds such a fun, seasonal flair to every dish. This year again I grew some herbs and tomatoes on my deck, but not a lot of sugary baking recipes call for those ingredients, so I went instead to my Grandpa’s garden to harvest these raspberries (and about 10lbs of rhubarb too!).
He’s been working on his garden for the past 40+ years, and I’m so lucky to be able to walk through it and take the things I want. Amongst the many vegetable plants, herbs, and decorative flowers he has two patches of seasonal raspberry bushes – one set of summer bushes and one set of fall bushes. The fall berries are definitely my favorite, though the summer berries are lovely too, just rather delicate and not suited for all recipes. I wanted to pick something that would showcase their natural flavor, but that wouldn’t require them to keep their structure, because even fresh picked they were pretty soft.
This recipe originally called for blueberries, but I liked the idea of using the raspberries instead, and the recipe offered some wonderful, subtle tastes and textures to enhance the bright berry flavor. I used regular rolled oats instead of quick-cooking oats since that’s what I had on hand, and the chewier texture was definitely noticeable. If I made these again, I would definitely use quick-cooking oats, or give my regular rolled oats a few turns in the food processor.
Other than the chewy oats (which weren’t so much a problem, just changed the texture), these bars were great. Sometimes I think if you’re had one cheesecake bar you’ve had them all, but this one offered just enough personality and flair that it really took them to a new level, and made them totally worth enjoying. The proportions of oat crust to cheesecake to raspberry filling were spot on, and I especially appreciated the little bit of crumb topping that you finish the cheesecake with. Flavor-wise, this actually tasted like something I might enjoy at brunch – it was reminiscent in flavor to those boxed raspberry streusels you get at the supermarket that are super processed and could probably last for 2 years without going bad. (I still love a bite here and there though…) To this day my Grandma always keeps those boxed streusels around at her house for whatever guest or passer-by might stop in for a visit, which I find highly ironic given the plethora of unprocessed wonder growing in her back yard. Old habits die hard, I guess. But I’m making a habit out of using the fresh stuff to achieve flavor goodness. If you’ve got any berries lying around, I’d definitely recommend giving these a try!
Raspberry Crumble Cheesecake Bars
adapted from Beantown Baker
1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
Scant 2 cups raspberries
3 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp cornstarch
2-3 tsp lemon juice
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar (I used organic cane sugar)
1 tsp vanilla
Heat oven to 350. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with non-stick foil or parchment paper.
Prepare Crust: In a large bowl, mix oats, flour, brown sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Add melted butter and mix with a fork until evenly moistened (mixture will be very crumbly). Reserve 1/2 cup crumb mixture for topping, and press remaining mixture evenly into the bottom of a foil-lined pan. Bake 12 minutes to set crust.
Prepare Filling: In a small saucepan, combine raspberries, sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice. Turn heat to medium and cook, stirring often, until mixture begins to thicken (about 7 minutes). Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly before pouring over pre-baked crust.
Prepare Cheesecake Filling: In bowl of electric mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add sugar, vanilla and salt and beat until completely incorporated. Add egg and beat again until combined. Pour cheesecake filling over raspberry filling. Crumble reserved crumb mixture evenly over top.
Bake 30 minutes until top is browned, cheesecake is set and filling is bubbly. Let cool completely in pan set on a wire rack. When cool, chill for an hour before cutting. Once chilled, lift foil by ends onto a cutting board. Peel off foil; cut into 16 bars. Store in refrigerator, but serve at room temperature.