Strawberry cheesecake. Usually you imagine a pale custard colored cheesecake, smothered with a chunky strawberry glaze, lacquered and flowing down the sides.
But this strawberry cheesecake is the real deal. Strawberries are cooked down to a puree, intensifying their flavor. A little pomegranate juice and strawberry jam helps to ensure their sweet-n-slightly sour taste is balanced perfectly, giving you the taste you remember and always hope for with strawberries, and a little cornstarch helps to thicken the puree.
And it needs to be thick… because it gets poured right into the cheesecake filling. That’s right—right into the cheesecake. Don’t get me wrong; I’ll take a cheesecake any way that I can get it, and I love a good, creamy cheesecake draped in a shining strawberry sauce. It’s a classic—a bit kitschy now, but still—and for a good reason. The sweet, fruity, and slightly tart sauce contrasting the soft, luxurious cheesecake is bliss. I think that staring at a painting of a classic strawberry cheesecake would have the same calming, therapeutic affect as gazing onto a beach scene or Spanish still life. But this cheesecake takes it a step further.
Combining the two—the strawberries and cheesecake base—softens their flavor in their own way. The luxury of the cheesecake remains, but is almost lightened up a bit to mirror the spryness of the berries. The cream cheese filling lends some of its luxury to the strawberries, softening the sourness a bit so their natural sweetness and juicy berry flavor shines—think of it as berries and cream, almost. What you end up with is a cheesecake that tastes like strawberries, the way that you imagine they should and nostalgically remember they do.
And I can’t forget to mention that the crust—the crust!—is not a strictly graham gamut. Little Italian amaretti cookies are ground, cut with some graham cracker crumbs for solidarity; they taste like caramelized sugar, and the floral potency of almond oil without the nuttiness of them. You could of course use graham crackers exclusively, but the taste that these bring, not to mention the texture, is something so unique. It’s somehow not the same as using ground almonds/almond meal, because it doesn’t really give it an almondy flavor, but rather this ethereal sweetness and crunch that no amount of sugar or other cookie or cracker could bring.
I have made a lot of cheesecakes over the years—I should have bought stock in the cream cheese company in all honesty—but this one is easily in the top 5. With strawberries being in season, you can make a killing at local farmers markets or grocery stores and come away with a bushel of gorgeous red jewels. What’s even better though is that you don’t need fresh berries for this; frozen work just as well. The beauty is that you can make and enjoy this whenever the mood strikes for a seemingly endless summer no matter what time of year.
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