Monday, May 25, 2015

Rhubarb in Cheesecake Bars Naturally Gluten Free

Continuing with the rhubarb theme, and the need to use a large amount of rhubarb that was given to me already cut up, the latest endeavor was Rhubarb Raspberry Cheesecake Bars. To up the interest, I used a swirl pattern in the cheesecake. Only one word for these bars: YUM!
Rhubarb Raspberry Cheesecake Bars, with whipped cream and fresh raspberry. Chiffonade of mint for color.

Gluten Free Recipe

For this recipe, I wanted to go gluten free. Not because I need to have a gluten free dessert, but only because there are people who do need things gluten free. There are so many wonderful foods, including desserts, that are naturally gluten free. While my kitchen is not a gluten free zone, and wheat, rye and barley are used almost daily, if you are on a gluten free regimen, you will already have a gluten free kitchen, or the means to make this without contamination. 
Rhubarb Raspberry Cheesecake Bars

When I was visiting with my sister in November, she made an offhand comment about anything gluten free tasting just awful. I tried to speak with her on this, to say that there are many things that are gluten free by their very nature, but she would hear none of it. This recipe is gluten free just because the ingredients needed are gluten free. It uses a little cornstarch as a thickening agent in the sauce and also in the cheesecake as I feel it gives a silkier texture. So with that in mind, I hope this recipe will tempt everyone, and not just the Gluten Intolerant

Most bars or cheesecakes have crust made with cookie crumbs or graham cracker crumbs or other wheat based crumb mixture. For most of my cheesecakes, I have used an almond or other nut based mixture, and this is what was used in this case. The recipe for the almond crust tastes excellent  and it holds up just as well as the cookie crumbs types. If you have a nut allergy, then this particular crust is not for you. For my purposes, this worked spectacularly. This recipe can be used for a cheesecake baked in a spring-form pan also, and the crust will extend up the sides of the pan to about 1 or 1 1/2 inches. If it is used in a 9 x 13-inch pan as I did here, it is pressed only onto the bottom of the pan.

Almond Crust

makes enough for a 9-inch round spring-form pan or a 9 x 13-inch baking dish

1 1/3 cups whole, raw almonds
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

Preheat oven to375 degrees. Place the almonds and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and process to very small bits. Add the extract and the butter and continue to process until very fine. Press this mixture into the pan of choice. If using a round pan, press the mixture partway up the sides. In a 9 x 13-inch baking dish, press evenly into the bottom. Bake the crust for about 15 minutes, until set and slightly golden. If the mixture pushes up during baking, press it back into place with a glass or other flat object as soon as it comes from the oven. Set aside to cool.

Crust crumbs pressed into parchment-lined pan         |  crust is baked, and then pressed back into shape                 
Using this crust in a 9 x 13-inch pan for this recipe, I chose to line the pan with parchment, so the dessert could be lifted out cleanly. In a spring-form pan, obviously the rim is detachable, so this is not necessary. If you are leaving the dessert in the pan and cutting it there, the parchment liner is unnecessary. 

When planning the cheesecake filling for this dessert, I wanted a pink swirly pattern, so I first created the rhubarb and raspberry sauce. I made the crust and this sauce both the evening before, so they both had adequate time to cool. This cheesecake could easily be made in a round, spring-form pan if desired. Baking time may be different, and it would be best to use a water bath to ensure the filling does not get overbaked. It was easy to watch in this low baking dish. In a deeper pan, it is more important to keep an eye on the filling as it bakes.

The cheesecake part of the mixture is pretty straightforward. Cream cheese and sour cream, eggs, sugar, a little cornstarch and flavorings are the basis. Making the rhubarb raspberry sauce takes no time at all. Five minutes to cook, and then it is just a decision of how to puree. I have an old food mill, and this kept most of the raspberry seeds out of the mixture. Pressing through a sieve would take a little more time, but work equally well, if not better. If desired, simply puree in a blender. With a Vita-Mix blender, it would puree the seeds completely. However this is done, the mixture must be cooled down before proceeding with the recipe. If desired, a drop or two of red food color can be added to make the color more vibrant in the final product. I did not add food coloring; what is seen in the photos is the natural fruit color.

Rhubarb Raspberry Cheesecake Bars

Rhubarb Raspberry Cheesecake Bars
makes one 9 x 13-inch pan

Almond Crust above (or crumb crust of choice)

2 cups fresh rhubarb, cut in small chunks
1 cup fresh raspberries, lightly crushed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
pinch salt
1 tablespoon cornstarch

3 (8-ounce) blocks cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 eggs

Prepare the crust and allow to cool completely. 

In a medium saucepan, mix together the Rhubarb Raspberry Sauce ingredients and bring them to a boil. Cook, stirring for 5 minutes, until the fruit has broken down and the sauce is thickened. Pass the mixture through a food mill, sieve, blender or food processor (depending on how fine you prefer the cheesecake filling to come out). Cool the mixture and chill completely.
Sauce ingredients in pan              |          sugar stirred in creates juices          |          sauce is cooked and pureed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the room temperature cream cheese (very important it be at room temperature or the cream cheese will stay lumpy) in the bowl of a mixer and beat until smooth and creamy. Add the sour cream and sugar and beat at low speed to combine. Add in the cornstarch, vanilla and salt; mix well. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing gently after each addition, until well incorporated. It is important to not over-whip the cheese mixture as this tends to cause the cheesecake to puff up while baking and then crack. Mix gently, so as not to incorporate too much air. 

Divide out about 1/3 of the cheesecake mixture. To this 1/3, add all the Rhubarb Raspberry Sauce and whisk well to combine. Drop about 1/2 of the pink mixture onto the crust Do not spread. Drop on about 1/2 of the white cheesecake mixture, without spreading. Repeat this process once more with the pink mixture and then the white mixture. Once all the cheesecake batters are in the pan, use a table knife to gently swirl figure-8 patterns through the mixture. Do not over mix. 
dropping dabs of cheesecake mixtures in pan       |            all in the pan                 |           swirled in figure-8 pattern             

ALTERNATELY: Combine the fruit sauce with all of the cheesecake and stir well, making a pale pink cheesecake.

Tap the pan 2 or 3 times sharply on the counter to release any air bubbles. Bake the cheesecake bars for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees, then lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees for 20 minutes more. The cheesecake may be a little jiggly in the center, but set at the edges.

Allow the cheesecake to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 3 or 4 hours, or overnight before serving. To make clean cuts, use a knife that has been run under hot water and wiped dry after each cut.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.