1stickbutterunsalted, 8 Tbs or 1/2 C - chilled and cut into cubes
1/2tspalmond extract add up to another 1/2 tsp if you prefer a more almond flavor (may substitute vanilla)
1pinch of salt
Cookie Crumble Topping
3/4cupprepared cookie crust mixture
1cupstrawberries, slicedreserve 1/4 cup
1 cup rhubarb, sliced into roughly 1/2 inch piecesreserve 1/4 cup
2tablespoonscornstarch or Clear Gel
8ouncescream cheese, completely softened
1/4 cupsugar, white
1egg, large or extra large
Preheat the oven & prepare the baking pan
Heat oven to 350F degrees. Line an 8x8 or a 9x9 inch pan with parchment paper, allowing the parchment to come up over the sides of the pan in order to lift it out of the baking pan once the dessert is baked & chilled. Lightly spray the parchment with non-stick baking spray. (tip: cut the parchment paper to fit the length & width of the pan to make the filling easier to spread and create even straight slices.)
Cookie Crust & Crumble
Add the sugar cookie mix to a medium bowl and cut in the butter, adding 1/2 tsp almond extract (or more, depending on your taste), and a pinch of salt. The mixture will be crumbly but should hold together a bit when squeezed.
Reserve 3/4 cup of the crust mixture, set aside.
Press the remaining cookie mixture into your prepared pan, gently compacting evenly. Bake in the center of your preheated oven for 8-10 minutes. The mix will puff slightly while baking but will then sink, which is normal. Don't allow it to brown, it will not look quite done and will finish baking with the filling. Allow to cool 10 minutes before topping with the cheesecake mixture.
Cookie Crumble Topping
The reserved 3/4 cup cookie mixture is the cookie crumble topping. Add the 1/4 cup sliced almonds, stir and set aside.
Fruit Filling - Makes 2 cups
In a small saucepan over medium heat to medium-high heat add 3/4 cup sliced strawberries and 3/4 cup chopped rhubarb. (reserving 1/4 cup of each to add later). If using frozen fruit - see notes.
Add 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup sugar. Stir to combine and slowly bring to barely a simmer where you can see bubbles around the edges of the saucepan. Scrape the bottom of the pan to prevent sticking and burning. You should still be able to see chunks of fruit in the mix.
In a small bowl or glass, mix together the 2 tablespoons cornstarch and water, thoroughly combine, and add this to the fruit mixture. Stir to incorporate. The mixture should thicken to a runny syrup consistency. Turn off the heat. (it will thicken further when chilled).
Add the reserved raw fruit to the saucepan, stir to combine, and set aside. (The raw fruit will bake in the oven but will not be as cooked down as the hot filling. It gives a nice contrast in texture.)Set aside to cool while you prepare the cheesecake filling.
Cream Cheese Filling
In a medium bowl beat the room temp, softened cream cheese with the sugar, vanilla, and egg. Continue beating on medium-high, scraping down the sides until the mix increases a bit in volume and appears light and a bit fluffy. About 3-4 minutes.
Evenly spread the cream cheese mixture over the crust, smoothing into the edges. Spoon in the fruit filling, gently spreading evenly over the entire surface. Sprinkle the crumble topping over the fruit filling, squeezing some of it in your hand to create some bigger lumps and some smaller pieces for a variation in texture.
Bake in the center of a preheated 350F degree oven for about 45 minutes or until the center is no longer jiggly and the topping is a very light golden blond color. Check it at the 30-minute mark to see how things are coming along. Adjust your baking time accordingly (oven temps vary from oven to oven). Remove to a cooling rack and let cool 30 minutes. Then place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours to chill before slicing. When chilled, carefully pull down the edges of the parchment and slice into squares. Serve and refrigerate left-overs.
If using frozen fruit - your mixture may be a bit thinner due to the moisture content. You may need to increase the cornstarch to 3 tablespoons.