Cherry Almond Goat Cheese Bars

During quartet camp today, I realized that it was the middle of August, and I can’t figure out how my summer managed to go by so fast. Yesterday, I finished my first week of quartet camp, which was fantastic as always. I study chamber music with the program director during the year, so being able to buckle down and work on 2 full quartets in 2 weeks is very intense, but also really fun. The members of my quartet are some of my best friends, so rehearsing with them is really great.

DSC_0054Cheesecake is such a fun but temperamental thing for me to make. As you can see, the amount of cheesecake recipes here on the blog is rather limited, but that’s partially because I have a limited audience that will actually eat the cheesecake. My family tends to stay on the healthy side (surprising for an avid baker) so super rich and creamy desserts aren’t big sellers in my house. Not to mention, goat cheese is one of the few foods that almost no one in my family really likes, so I don’t think these bars ever got the attention that they truly deserve.

DSC_0077I loved these bars that I found on Sift and Whisk. The crust is not graham cracker based, but rather crushed almonds give it not only a wonderful crunch, but an amazing warm flavor too. The mixture of the goat cheese and the cream cheese ensures that the batter is not too dry, but it has a little bit of a tangy flavor because of the goat cheese, which I just loved. The fresh cherries not only mixed into the batter but sprinkled on top provide a sweet contrast to the sour edge of the cheesecake. All in all, I can’t rave about these bars enough.

Cherry Almond Goat Cheese Bars

Ingredients

For the almond crust:

  • 1 cup (140 grams) raw, whole almonds
  • 1 cup (120 grams) all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup (55 grams) packed light brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:

  • 8 ounces (226 grams) goat cheese, softened
  • 8 ounces (226 grams) cream cheese, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (150 grams) cherries
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Spread almonds on a baking sheet and roast for about 10 minutes, until fragrant, stirring occasionally. Let cool slightly, then roughly chop the almonds.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together chopped almonds, flour, brown sugar, salt, and melted butter. Press into the bottom of a 9-inch square baking pan. Bake crust for 12-15 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool on wire rack while making filling.
  3. Halve cherries and remove pits. In the bowl of a food processor, process goat cheese, cream cheese, eggs, and sugar. (If you do not have a food processor, you can use a hand or stand mixer. Beat the goat cheese and cream cheese together first, until smooth and creamy, then add the eggs and sugar.) Remove the food processor blade, then gently stir in most of the cherry halves by hand, reserving 18 cherry halves for the top. Pour filling onto cooled crust. Arrange remaining 18 cherry halves, cut side up, on top.
  4. Bake at 325°F for 35-40 minutes, until the center just barely jiggles, or a thermometer inserted in the middle of the pan reads 155-160°F. Cool to room temperature on a wire rack, then transfer to the refrigerator to chill for at least 3 hours. Cut into 16 squares and serve.

Don’t be fooled by the goat cheese- these are some great cheesecake bars.

-Rayna 🙂

 

 

Cornmeal and Olive Oil Biscotti with Pine Nuts and Dried Cherries

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope your day is filled with lots of joy and happiness (but most importantly, tons of delicious food!) Instead of the typical pecan cookies or chocolate and peppermint cookies, I thought that a biscotti would be a wonderful thing to wake up to on a cold December morning. I’ve never made a biscotti before, so trying something new from Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Crunchy sounded especially interesting to me.

Biscotti is not like a cookie or sliced cake, mainly because it is baked twice. The first time, you shape the dough into a log and bake it just until it gets a cake-like texture, and then you slice them and re-bake them so they get the signature crunch that they lend themselves to so well. This is an American style biscotti, as Mommy the chef told me, and the difference is in the ingredients. While the Italian one uses almond flour and honey, the American one uses all-purpose flour instead. Interesting, right? Either way, I hope you enjoy this not-so-typical twist on a widely enjoyed breakfast treat.

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Cornmeal and Olive Oil Biscotti with Pine Nuts and Dried Cherries

Ingredients

  • 1 cup and 2 tablespoons (5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup (3.67 ounces) cornmeal
  • 3/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2/3 (4.625 ounces) sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of white pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • Zest of 1 medium lemon
  • 1 cup pine nuts
  • 2/3 cup dried cherries

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine the flour, cornmeal, and baking powder in a medium bowl and whisk together thoroughly.
  3. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the olive oil, sugar, salt, pepper, eggs, and lemon zest on high speed for 3-4 minutes, until lightened in color and slightly thickened.
  4. Stir in the flour mixture. The batter will be thick and sticky. Stir in the pine nuts and cherries. Scrape the batter down the center of the prepared pan and spread it to form a flat rectangle 14 to 15 inches long and 5 inches wide.
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the loaf is golden on top and golden brown at the lower edges. Rotate the pan from front to back halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking. Set the pan on a rack to cool for at least 15 minutes. Leave the oven on, turning it down to 325 degrees.
  6. Transfer the loaf carefully to a cutting board. If you used a liner, slide a metal spatula under the loaf to detach and remove the liner. Use a thin sharp knife to cut the loaf crosswise into 1/2-inch slices. Transfer the slices to the unlined cookie sheet, standing them at least 1/2 inch apart. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the edges and tops of the biscotti turn slightly golden. Rotate the pan from front to back halfway through the baking time. Set the pan on a rack. Cool the cookies completely before stacking or storing. May be kept in an airtight container for at least 2 weeks.

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Fresh Cherry Tart

Today is my official last day of summer and at 7:30 tomorrow morning, my junior year will have officially begun! But today, my family and I are driving my brother up to college and getting him settled in. It will feel weird around the house to only have one sibling here and to not hear the constant whistling going on next to me while I do my homework. Who will be my homework buddy at midnight from now on? I’m certainly going to miss him, but I know that we’ll be seeing him again soon.

Now, we all know that the best part about late summer is the fantastic produce, and this summer is a way to get in those dark red, sweet as sugar cherries that I just love. The cherry crisp that I made last year was good, but this tart from Martha Stewart was amazing. I made it with reiner cherries which made the tart especially gorgeous. In addition to the graham cracker crumb on the bottom, I sprinkled on some almond paste, which gave the otherwise simple crust a candy like quality that was amazing. It was almost a little too hard, making it a (kind of) pain in the butt to cut through, but the flavor was absolutely amazing. With a simple cream in the middle, what’s not to love?

Fresh Cherry Tart
Makes 1 9” Tart

Ingredients

  • 9 graham crackers (each 2 1/2 by 5 inches)
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup almond paste
  • 6 ounces bar cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 pound fresh sweet cherries, such as Bing, pitted and halved
  • 1 tablespoon seedless jam (I used apple)
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare a 9” tart pan. In a food processor, pulse the graham crackers and 2 tbsp sugar until ground. Add the butter and process until combined. Transfer the mixture to the tart pan, and using the base of a dry measuring cup, firmly press the mixture into the bottom and sides of the pan. Sprinkle on the almond paste. Bake until browned, 10-12 minutes.
  2. While that is baking, using an electric mixture on medium speed, beat the cream cheese, vanilla extract, almond extract, and 1/4 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually add the cream and beat until soft peaks form. Spread the mixture in the cooled crust and scatter cherries on top.
  3. In a small saucepan, combine jam and 1 teaspoon of water. Heat on low until liquified, about 2 minutes. Using a pastry brush, glaze the cherries.

A perfect Labor Day dessert…(for one)!

-Rayna 🙂

Cherry Crisp

Sorry for the disappearance everyone! For this past week I was flipping around at gymnastics camp in Crossville, Tennessee. After I got back from that stifling weather in Tennessee, I wasn’t the happiest camper once the northeast was 103 degrees. So what other sensible thing to do than bake?

As you all are aware, summer is the absolute BEST time for fruit. It’s juicy, ripe, and just waiting to be made into some delectable summer treat. When my mom came back with a bag of ruby red cherries, I knew what to do.

This is not a recipe for those who are afraid of getting dirty, because as I found out AFTER pitting the bag all by hand, cherries stain! So I would advise either wearing gloves, or if you plan on doing more with these tasty little cherries, you could invest in a cherry pitter.

Cherry Crisp: Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

Ingredients

For the Crisp Topping

  • 6 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch squares
  • 3/4 cup pecans, choppped

For the Cherry Filling

  • 1 (2 pound) bag of cherries, pitted (about 6 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon Creme de Cassis

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and spray an oval baking pan
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the pitted cherries, sugar, cornstarch, and Creme de Cassis. Set aside for 5-10 minutes, or until mixture becomes thicker.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, sugars, and cinnamon together until combined. Add in the butter until completely coated. Once coated, break apart the butter pieces with your fingers until the mixture is crumbly, like wet sand. Add the pecans, combine, and set aside.
  4. Put the cherries in the baking dish and spread around evenly. Sprinkle on the topping.
  5. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes, and then raise the temperature to 400 degrees for the last 5. Once the top is a nice golden brown and the cherries are bubbling out the sides, it’s done!

Scoop out with hungry eyes and eat with vanilla ice cream 🙂

*Note* If you would like, you can replace the Creme de Cassis with vanilla extract.

It’s nice to be home. And baking. 🙂

-Rayna 🙂