Early Summer Blueberry and Lemon Cheesecake Bars
I look forward to the beginning of early summer because this is the time of season when farmer's markets begin to pop up all over my community. Nothing screams early summer at these community events like the humble display of freshly picked blueberries. I love seeing these vibrant pops of color lined up in pint-sized wooden baskets and on proud display at some of my favorite farm stands. Blueberries may be available year round at most 24-hours supermarkets but these fresh bites of flavor are something completely different than the imitation blueberries you will find on the grocery store shelves. They are a refreshing taste of the beginning of growing season and one of my favorite berries to bring along to summer holiday cookouts. Admittedly, I find baking to be rather difficult but this dish is so easy and sweet that it has become my go-to whenever I have blueberries on hand. Simple ingredients, about 20 minutes of prep, 40 minutes of baking and then throw in the refrigerator to chill for a few hours. The best part about this dish is that you can also use local eggs, whole milk and cream to make this dish a true celebration of real food from small farms within your community. Make ahead in the morning and by evening, you have something sweet and savory to enjoy after your meal.
For the Crust:
1 cup graham cracker crumbs (1 sleeve)*
2 Tablespoons cane sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
*There are some great options at Trader Joe's and Whole Foods that do not include things like corn syrup or white granulated sugar. If you are feeling really ambitious, here is one of my favorite recipes for homemade graham crackers.
2 cups fresh blueberries
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 Tablespoons lemon zest
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
Cream Cheese Layer:
2 (8-oz) packages cream cheese, room temperature*
1/2 cup cane sugar
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 Tablespoon vanilla
*Cream Cheese always taste better homemade. If you have access to a local creamery, I highly suggest you use the whole milk and cream to make your own cream cheese. Here is one of my favorite recipes.
Line an 8x8 square baking dish with foil. Butter the foil to prevent the bars from sticking.
Mix graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter in a medium bowl until all the crumbs appear moist.
Press the crumb mixture into the prepared baking dish.
Combine the blueberries with brown sugar, 2 tablespoons lemon zest, and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until berries are barely soft. Set aside to cool.
Beat the softened cream cheese, sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla together. Add in the eggs, one at a time, until combined. Pour the cream cheese mixture onto the graham cracker crust and smooth over the top. Dollop the blueberry mixture randomly over top of cream cheese layer and gently pull a knife tip through the top to create swirls.
Bake on the middle rack of the oven until filling is set, about 30-40 minutes. You will know the filling is set when only a small circle in the middle will still jiggle when you shake the baking dish. This center should set firmly during the cooling process. Cool and refrigerate for a couple hours until chilled. Slice and serve.