An admission: maybe I don’t really like gardening. I do love the idea of it and so I like to pretend it’s a hobby of mine, despite that I’ve been avoiding any gardening work for ages. The realization that perhaps I am not as much of a garden fan as I had thought/wistfully dreamed happened while I was doing some weeding this weekend and was forced to come to face with the fact that I am very floppy and useless from spending all day inside.
Of course maybe I’m just sulking because right now gardening is 90% weeding with minimal harvest. But as for what we are harvesting: that is primarily rhubarb! Not to mention that the rhubarb is pretty simple, self-reliant and hardy (all the better to balance my floppiness and uselessness with).
This has been one of my favourite recent rhubarb bakes: thick, creamy cheesecake squares dotted with strawberries and rhubarb and a brown sugar and oat crumble.
These bars were inspired by a recipe from Ed Kimber and my mum’s strawberry rhubarb crumble. It took a few tries to get them to where I wanted them: switching the base and crumble to an adapted version of my mum’s crumble recipe, thickening the layer of cheesecake and adding additional fruit. I did try flavouring one version with rosewater, but that was quickly discarded in favour of going full force with my mum’s crumble flavours: cinnamon in the crumble and just vanilla in the cheesecake.
strawberry rhubarb cheesecake bars
Crumble based on my mum’s recipe, while the cheesecake filling and overall bar concept and structure is from these raspberry cheesecake bars by The Boy Who Bakes (and is also a recipe from his book, One Tin Bakes!).
base & crumble
- 112g butter (1 stick), at room temperature
- 43g brown sugar (1/3 cup, lightly packed)
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 125g whole wheat flour (about 1 cup)
- 33g rolled oats (1/3 cup)
- 33g quick oats (1/3 cup)
- 420g block cream cheese, at room temperature
- 75g granulated sugar
- 70g greek yoghurt
- 20g heavy cream
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 large eggs
- 1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
- 115g chopped rhubarb
- 115g chopped strawberries
- 2 tsp granulated sugar
- 1 tsp tapioca starch
for the base, preheat the oven to 350F. Butter an 8″ square baking tray and line with a parchment sling.
Cream the butter with the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt, then mix in the flour and oats until combined and the mixture holds together in clumps. Reserve 1/3 of the mixture for the top crumble. Take the remaining 2/3 of the mixture (about 220g), break it into clumps, and evenly distribute them into the bottom of the prepared tray. Use your fingers or the bottom of a glass (lightly floured if needed to prevent sticking) to firmly pack it down into an even layer. This makes for a thin layer so if needed, you can add a bit more.
Prick the base all over with a fork and pop in the freezer for 10 minutes to firm and chill. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the bottom crust begins to lightly brown. Set aside to cool slightly.
While the base bakes, begin on the cheesecake layer. In a large bowl, cream the cream cheese and sugar together until smooth and no lumps remain. Mix in the yoghurt, cream and vanilla extract. Mix in the eggs. Lastly, sift the cornstarch overtop and mix until combined.
Pour the cheesecake layer over the partially baked crust and spread into an even layer.
Next, prepare the fruit. Stir together the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar and tapioca starch. Spoon evenly overtop of the cheesecake.
Finish with the crumble and bake. You’ll have 1/3 of the crumble mixture left. Break this up into small crumbs and scatter overtop of the fruit.
Return the pan to the 350F oven and bake for another 30-35 minutes or so, or until the crumble is browned, and the cheesecake layer is mostly set (it’s okay if the middle still has a bit of a jiggle).
Let cool, then refrigerate for at least four hours or overnight. Run a knife along the two edges baked directly against the pan to loosen the bars first before removing. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.