This week marks the start of school around here, and with it pumpkin spice, a harvest palette and Halloween decor came marching in to local stores with a vengeance. Whether we like it or not, retail is ready for Fall. The days are still long, the humidity lingering into the evenings, and stone fruit and tomatoes still abound in the market, but I’m ready for the next season too.
This Summer has felt so fractured – maybe the up and down weather patterns are to blame, the heat getting such a slow start, or maybe it was the Honey being here then there then back again for work so often over the past few months – but beyond the delicious seasonal bounty of local produce at my fingertips, I just couldn’t get completely into the swing of things.
We don’t have anything grand planned for the Labor Day holiday – a night out in Raleigh, sans the pup, will be the extent of our celebrations for the long weekend – and that sounds perfect to me. Dinner and cocktails in a great restaurant, yes please. Oh, and I did make a cake. I’ve always called this recipe a tart, although I suppose it’s really more of a whipped cheesecake, nonetheless a sinfully creamy concoction topped with a big pile of late-Summer nectarine slices and blueberries; a sort of last hoorah for the season.
This simple tart is one of the first desserts that I developed from scratch a few years ago when I first began experimenting with recipes in earnest. It has seen many incarnations; a myriad of fresh fruit toppings, festive holiday patterns (hello, Fourth of July red, white and blue stripes…), and various sizes and presentations, but the core recipe remains essentially unchanged.
We received some lovely raw Oregon hazelnuts from gourmet food purveyor Oh Nuts! (those really are the best mail days ever…), and they form the basis of the tart crust, adding a crunchy texture and sweet, nutty flavor. You could use other varieties of nuts – almonds or walnuts would be good too – with the underlying theme of this recipe being flexibility.
The cheesecake filling is whipped to high-heaven, topped with fruit and then briefly frozen, creating a texture in keeping with a fluffy semifreddo. Freezing is not absolutely necessary, but it does give the tart enough body to hold its shape, and allows for easier slicing (really only required if you feel like sharing…).
Graham Cracker Hazelnut Crust
- 8–10 graham crackers
- 1 cup raw hazelnuts
- 1 tbsp cinnamon sugar
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
- 1 (8oz) package fat-free cream cheese, at room-temperature
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream, cold
- 1 nectarine, cut into thin slices
- 1 pint fresh blueberries
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
Make the Crust
- In a food processor, pulse the graham crackers into a fine crumb. Add the hazelnuts, and pulse until the nuts are fully incorporated but still have a bit of texture to them. Pour the mixture into a large mixing bowl, and stir in the cinnamon sugar and salt, followed by the melted butter, until fully combined. The crust mixture should be crumbly, and should stick together when pressed between two fingers.
- Press the crust into the bottom of a non-stick, lightly-greased or parchment paper-lined 9-inch spring form pan to form an even layer. Set aside in the refrigerator to chill.
Make the Filling
- Using a hand-held or stand-up mixer, cream together the cream cheese and half of the powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and stir to combine. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, whip together the cream and the remaining powdered sugar. Gently fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture and stir to combine.
- Pour the filling into the pan, and gently spread into an even layer.
- Toss the nectarine slices and blueberries with the lemon juice, and arrange in a layer on top of the cream filling. Freeze for an hour or two until the filling has firmed up. Remove the sides of the spring-form pan, slice into wedges and serve chilled.
If making the tart in advance, add the fruit an hour before serving, or allow the whole tart to thaw slightly in the refrigerator.
Can be stored covered for 3-4 days in the refrigerator. Freeze briefly before slicing.
For tips on whipped cream, see our tutorial here.
A special thanks to Oh Nuts! for graciously providing the lovely hazelnut samples used in this recipe.