This post is produced in partnership with The Berry Growers of Ontario.
Berries, like any fresh produce, are always best at their peak freshness, and timing for this depends on both variety and geography. You can purchase fresh Ontario field berries in stores anytime from May through October, but Ontario greenhouse berries are available almost all year-round. Want to pick your own or buy fresh from the farm? The Berry Growers of Ontario has a great guide on their website to help you find local berries at a farm-gate market or at pick-your-own farm near you.
It just so happens that it’s peak blueberry season and a couple of weekends ago, Neil and I checked out Andrew’s Scenic Acres, a local berry farm, to source berries for this recipe and came back with a few pounds of gorgeous ripe blueberries that have been put to excellent use in my kitchen (though it was all I could do to not just eat them fresh!).
How do you pick blueberries anyway?
Yes, we went blueberry picking – my first time berry picking in AGES and it was so much fun! It felt a bit daunting at first – there were SO many bushes, I wondered if we’d find any but I didn’t need to worry – there were loads! As a general rule of thumb, you’re looking for the bluest blueberries (sounds silly but once you get picking, you’ll see the various shades of pinks and blue they are depending on where they are in the growth process). To pick them, they should just fall off the bush into your fingers, you shouldn’t need to pull them at all. So even if they *look* blue enough, they might not be ready if they don’t pop off easily.
Don’t think you couldn’t possibly fill a large basket with those tiny blueberries? Oh yes you can! Once you get picking, you’ll see how quickly it starts to fill up! And if you were overly enthusiastic and have more blueberries than you can manage (ahem, it me!), you can always freeze them to enjoy at a later date. Nothing like fresh-picked blueberries in the depths of winter to cheer up your baking! I freeze them in Ziploc bags flat on a baking tray so they take up less room in the freezer.
Ok then, about that recipe? When you have a few pounds of fresh berries hanging around, there are SO many possibilities but as soon as I received this assignment, I had a vague idea that I wanted to make some sort of blueberry compote to really let the fruit shine.
What is a compote and how do I serve it?
A compote is like a jam only chunkier, typically used immediately as a component of a dish as opposed to canning or preserving it and it’s the perfect recipe to make with fresh berries. Fresh compote is the perfect accompaniment to a bowl of ice cream, stirred through plain yoghurt, on top of cream and a pavlova or a shortcake – the possibilities are endless.
Here, I’ve made a simple shortbready base (gluten-free but you could use your favourite graham crust if you prefer), topped it with a no-bake cheesecake mixture and then topped it with the blueberry compote. Because compote is typically a little looser (runnier) than a jam or jelly in this iteration, I’ve added a bit of cornstarch so it sets up nicely on top of the cheesecake and in the video (I’ve included two versions of the video to avoid firewalls that sometimes block them so hopefully you can see one in the recipe card or at the you’ll see that it thickens the mixture quite quickly so you don’t have to spend hours cooking the fruit down until it’s not too runny.
For the base:
- 1 cup (100 g) almond flour
- 1/2 cup (60g) oat flour
- 1/4 cup (40g) raw sugar
- 3 tablespoons (27g) cornstarch
- 4 tablespoons (57g) salted butter, cold and cubed
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla essence
For the cheesecake filling:
- 3/4 cup (180ml) heavy cream (35% also known as whipping cream)
- 1 x 250g (8oz) brick style cream cheese, at room temperature,
- 1/4 cup (35g) icing sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the blueberry compote topping:
- 2 cups fresh blueberries
- 1/4 cup (60ml) water
- 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon hot water
Make the cookie base:
- Preheat the oven to 350˚F.
- Grease and line an 8 x 8-inch square tin with parchment paper, making sure you have some overhang (this will help you lift the cheesecake out when it’s baked).
- Pulse the flours, sugar and cornstarch in a food processor fitted with a metal blade a few times, until well-combined.
- Add the butter and and pulse until just combined. Your mixture should look a little bit like coarse sand, with some pieces of butter roughly the size of peas, some smaller.
- Press the mixture into the prepared baking tin - use your fingertips, the bottom of a glass or a wide flat spatula to press the mixture in as tightly as possible.
- Bake for 18-20 minutes. The base will be lightly golden brown by this time.
Set aside to cool completely while you prepare the filling and topping. You can place he pan in the fridge or freezer to speed things up once it’s nearly room temperature.
Make the cheesecake filling
- Beat the cream using handheld electric beaters or a stand mixer fitted with a whisk until it forms soft peaks (3-4 minutes)
- Beat the cream cheese until smooth and creamy in a separate bowl using handheld electric beaters or a stand mixer fitted with a raffle attachment.
- Add the icing sugar and vanilla mix until combined. The mixture should be smooth and creamy.
- Gently fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese using a rubber spatula. Try to be as gentle as possible so you don’t beat all the air out of the cream.
- Place the filling in the fridge until you are ready to assemble.
Make the blueberry compote topping:
- Combine 1 1/2 cups blueberries, 1/4 cup water, 1/4 cup granulated sugar and 2 teaspoons lemon juice in a medium pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring often (about 5-6 minutes).
- Add the remaining 1/2 cup blueberries and continue to cook over medium-high, stirring often for a further 4 minutes.
- Combine the cornstarch and hot water in a small cup and mix to form a “slurry” (a thin paste).
- Reduce the heat to low and carefully pour in the cornstarch mixture.
- Cook the blueberry mixture for 2-3 more minutes over low heat, stirring continually, until the wooden spoon leaves a clear trail in the bottom of the pan when you stir.
- Pour the blueberry mixture into a cool bowl, allow to come to room temperature and then chill in the fridge until you are ready to top and serve the cheesecake.
Assemble the cheesecake:
- Leave the base of the cheesecake in the baking pan and pour over the cheesecake mixture. Use an offset spatula or a rubber spatula to smooth the top over the base evenly.
- Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate (minimum 4 hours) until you are ready to top and serve.
Top and serve the cheesecake:
- Remove the chilled cheesecake from the baking pan, using the parchment overhang as “handles” to help. Place it on a wire rack or directly on a cutting board.
- Remove the parchment from the bottom of the base, gently pulling it from underneath.
- Spread the cooled blueberry topping evenly over the cheesecake, working slowly and gently as the cheesecake is not as firm as some. Spread the blueberries nearly to the edge.
- You can serve this now or refrigerate until ready to serve.
You can make all components the day before you are serving this, topping the base with the cheesecake and refrigerating overnight. A few hours before you want to serve this, top the cheesecake with the blueberry topping and refrigerate until you are ready to serve.
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The best thing about this recipe is that you can make all components (the day) before you are planning to serve it. Make the base, make the cheesecake and make the compote. Once the base is cool enough, top the base with the cheesecake and refrigerate overnight. A few hours before you want to serve this, top the cheesecake with the blueberry topping and refrigerate until you are ready to serve
What about you – what’s your favourite way to use fresh berries?
For more information about Ontario Berries, visit www.ontarioberries.com
Disclosure: I received financial compensation for developing this recipe and video for The Berry Growers of Ontario and other social media posts. This post was not reviewed prior to publication and all opinions are 100% my own.
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