Let’s make a perfect gluten-free, fresh strawberry, ricotta dessert. It’s an easy dessert bar, a light and fluffy cheesecake, and a celebration of fresh strawberries all in one sweet bite!
In Louisiana, we’ve been showing off our spring strawberries for months now. We’ve got some nerve, but by the time summer rolls through the south we’ll be wiping our brows and missing strawberry season. As we hustle into May, I hope the beauty of strawberries has reached your neck of the woods.
Strawberry desserts are some of the most popular on my site (see: Strawberry Pie Bars) but they’re all baked. I wanted to throw in a fresh strawberry moment – all the bright, juicy strawberry flavor of eating strawberries straight from the basket.
Is it time? Let’s bake!
Here’s what you’ll need to make these gluten-free fresh strawberry bars:
• almond flour and butter to create a tender cookie crust for our bars. You might recognize this crust from our Almond Flour Lemon Raspberry Bars – it’s easy and versatile!
• whole milk ricotta cheese that we’ll flavor with a hint of lemon juice and zest for our cheesecake-like filling. You’re welcome to substitute the lemon flavoring for a dash of balsamic vinaigrette or a grind of black peppercorns if you prefer. I think both would compliment the strawberries very nicely.
• granulated sugar for the crust, whipped ricotta, and strawberries. We’ll sweeten throughout.
• cornstarch to add a crisp to the almond flour crust and to thicken our strawberry filling.
• butter, salt, and vanilla extract, the pillars of every tasty baked good.
We’ll start by draining some of the water out of the ricotta cheese.
Place ricotta in a fine mesh strainer lined with a few paper towels. Gently press a few paper towels on top and let it sit at room temperature for at least 20 minutes. A bit of moisture will drain from the cheese into the bowl or soak into the paper towel. Don’t stress if moisture just soaks the paper towel and doesn’t drip into the bowl. It’s still working.
While the ricotta drains, assemble the crust.
In a medium bowl whisk together almond flour, granulated sugar, cornstarch and salt.
Add the cold butter cubes and use your fingers to break up the butter and create a mealy, butter-rich crumble crust. The mixture will feel wet – almond flour is, as flours go, very moist. Work the dough until some pea-sized butter pieces remain and the crust dough is just beginning to come together but is still very crumbly.
Transfer the dough crumbles to the bottom of a greased and parchment lined square baking pan and use your fingers to press into an even layer.
Bake the crust for 18 to 20 minutes until golden around the edges and lightly golden across the top.
While the crust bakes, whip the ricotta.
In the bowl of a food processor combine drained ricotta, sugar, vanilla, lemon juice and lemon zest.
Whirl the mixture on low for a good 5 minutes, stopping the mixer every few minutes to scrape down the sides of the bowl. The goal here is to super smooth and aerate the ricotta. It’ll be absolutely delicious on the other side – don’t skimp on the 5 minutes.
Smooth and super spreadable. The mixture will feel light and loose but not soupy.
Refrigerate the ricotta while you bring the strawberry mixture together.
Crush or coarsely chop and smash about 1/2 cup of strawberries and add enough water for a scant cup in total.
In a small pot whisk together granulated sugar and cornstarch. Stir the strawberry water over the sugar and whisk over medium heat until the mixture thickens. Simmer for 2 minutes or so to thicken the mixture and let some of the water evaporate.
Remove from heat and add a pat of butter and a sprinkle of salt. Transfer the strawberry mixture to a small bowl and refrigerate to accelerate its cooling.
Allow everything to cool and assemble just before serving.
Once the strawberry sauce is cool, toss it over the fresh strawberries.
Smooth ricotta across the cooled crust.
Well… smooth the ricotta that you haven’t spooned into your mouth onto the crust.
Top with juicy strawberries and refrigerate until ready to serve.
The slices are juicy and that’s just was hoping for.
The almond crust is tender and chewy, the whipped ricotta is fluffy and sweet, the strawberries fresh, bright and juicy!
Please enjoy this gluten-free spring recipe! It’s a delight!
This recipe is inspired by a fresh strawberry pie in Farmhouse Weekends by Melissa Bahen.
Photographs with Jon Melendez.Print
For the Crust:
- 2 cups (220 grams) almond flour
- 1/3 cup (67 grams) granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup (28 grams) cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup (1 stick, 113 grams) unsalted butter, cold and diced
For the Whipped Ricotta:
- 15 ounce whole milk ricotta cheese
- 1/3 cup (67 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
For Fresh Strawberry Topping:
- 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 1/2 pounds fresh strawberries (about 4 1/2 cups chopped strawberries), divided
- Pinch of salt
- 1 tablespoon of butter
- Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9×9-inch square baking pan. Line with parchment paper so the flaps hang over two sides (making the bars easier to remove) and lightly grease the parchment.
- First, prep the ricotta. Line a fine-meshed strainer with a paper towel and place it over a bowl. Dump the ricotta into the strainer and lightly press the surface with more paper towels to soak up as much water as possible. Let the ricotta drain for about 20 minutes.
- Next, make the crust. In a medium bowl whisk together almond flour, sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Add the cold butter pieces and a tiny splash of almond extract if you’re using it. Use your fingers to work the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is crumbly and the butter bits are about the size of oat flakes.
- Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and Use your fingers to press into as even a layer as possible. Bake for 16-18 minutes until just golden brown around the edges. Remove once taken to golden and set aside to cool completely. (You can speed this process up in the refrigerator.)
- While the crust bakes, make the whipped ricotta. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, blend the drained ricotta, sugar, vanilla, lemon juice and bit of zest until very smooth and aerated, about 5 minutes. Stop the processor once or twice during blending to scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure the whipped ricotta is evenly silken. I know five minutes feels like a long time but you’ll really need this amount of time to smooth the cheese the a whipped consistency. Stop the food processor and transfer ricotta to a bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to assemble.
- To make the strawberries, in a small pan whisk together sugar and cornstarch. Mash 1/2 cup of fresh strawberries and add enough water to make 1 cup of strawberry mash liquid. Cook over medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in salt and a small pat of butter. Set aside to cool to a warm room temperature, about 30 minutes. (You can also refrigerate the syrup and microwave for a few seconds so soften if you’re assembling the next day.
- To assemble, in a medium bowl toss the strawberry pieces with the strawberry glaze. Top the cooled almond crust with whipped ricotta. Spoon the berries on top of the whipped ricotta. Chill before serving, slice and enjoy. I think these bars are best enjoyed the day they are assembled.