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Real Strawberry Cheesecake – I ate the WHOLE thing…

Real Strawberry Cheesecake

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Strawberry cheesecake. Usually you imagine a pale custard colored cheesecake, smothered with a chunky strawberry glaze, lacquered and flowing down the sides.

 

Usually.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Real Strawberry Cheesecake
Yum
Print Recipe
If you need to use up your summer farmers’ market bounty of high-gloss red strawberries, this cheesecake has you covered. Strawberry puree is mixed into the cheesecake rather than just pour on top, giving you the taste of an endless summer no matter the time of year.
Servings Prep Time
10 approx. 30 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
1 hour, 45 minutes 6 - 8 hours
Servings Prep Time
10 approx. 30 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
1 hour, 45 minutes 6 - 8 hours
Real Strawberry Cheesecake
Yum
Print Recipe
If you need to use up your summer farmers’ market bounty of high-gloss red strawberries, this cheesecake has you covered. Strawberry puree is mixed into the cheesecake rather than just pour on top, giving you the taste of an endless summer no matter the time of year.
Servings Prep Time
10 approx. 30 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
1 hour, 45 minutes 6 - 8 hours
Servings Prep Time
10 approx. 30 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
1 hour, 45 minutes 6 - 8 hours
Ingredients
For the crust:
For the strawberry puree:
For the filling:
Servings: approx.
Instructions
  1. Start by making the strawberry puree: add the strawberries to a saucepan that fit them comfortably, place over medium-low heat, cover, and cook for about 5 – 7 minutes, or until the strawberries are very soft. If you’re using fresh strawberries you may want to roughly chop some of them so that there’s enough moisture for everything to not stick to the pan.
  2. Blend the berries until they’re smooth and strain through a fine mesh sieve back into the cooking pot—you should have 2 cups, more or less a spoonful or two.
  3. Place the pan back over medium-low heat, stirring in the sugar, 1 tablespoon of Pomegranate juice, and the jam. Bring this to a simmer and keep it there for 10 minutes, reducing it down to 1 cup.
  4. Once the puree is reduced by half, add the cornstarch to a small dish and whisk in the remaining 2 t-spoon pomegranate juice until you have a smooth slurry. Bring the puree to a quick boil, which should take hardly any time at all, and then whisk in the pom-slurry. Let it bubble for just another few seconds before reducing the heat again, simmering just 2 – 3 minutes longer until it’s thickened. Set this aside and let it cool completely to room temperature.
  5. In a food processor, blitz the ingredients for the crust until well combined and resembles wet sand. Press into a 10” spring form pan, its underside double wrapped in oversized, heavy-duty aluminum foil. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until it begins to brown and firm slightly. Remove and cool completely.
  6. Lower oven to 325°
  7. For the cheesecake filling, in a stand-up mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese slightly to combine before adding the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Beat on medium until it’s light and fluffy—about 60 – 90 seconds.
  8. Add in the eggs, one at a time, allowing them each to become well incorporated before adding the next. After three eggs are in, shut off the mixer and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula to make sure all is combining well.
  9. Splash in the vanilla and pour in the cooled strawberry puree, continuing to beat just until combined—another 30 seconds or so.
  10. Tap the mixing bowl against the counter and along the sides with a wooden spoon and let any air bubbles come to the surface and pop.
  11. Pour the batter into the spring form and place into a roasting tray, open the oven door, pull the wrack out and set the roasting pan on it. Pour in warm water—enough to come halfway up the spring form (my roasting tray is 16” x 13” and it takes about 4 quarts/1 gallon to reach halfway up the spring form). Its easiest to use a tea kettle or large liquid measuring cup with a good spout for this to help prevent water from splashing into the cheesecake – you sooo do not want that!
  12. Bake the cheesecake for about 1hour 15 minutes, or until the cheesecake is firm but the center still has a slight wiggle to it.
  13. Turn the oven off and crack the door slightly. Allow the oven to cool completely before opening the door all the way and pulling out the oven wrack and allow to cool one additional hour. Remove from the water bath and keep on the counter until it’s perfectly cooled before retiring it to the fridge, where it will chill for at least 8 hours before serving.
Recipe Notes
  • Your cream cheese and eggs MUST be room temperature, otherwise you'll never get the right texture. The best method is to just leave the cream cheese out on the counter (out of the box, but still in the foil package) for 4 - 6 hours. You can do the same with the eggs, or put them in a bowl of warm water for about an hour (just change the water out halfway through). And don't even think about microwaving the cream cheese!
  • Make sure you use extra large, heavy-duty aluminum foil (two layers) so no water from the water bath gets in.
  • You can decorate the cake with halved fresh strawberries, as minimally or opulently as you’d like, or a strawberry glaze poured over the whole thing (boil a pound of chopped strawberries with ¼ cup of sugar, and 6 tablespoons water until they’re soft and falling apart. Strain out the solids, the liquid going back into the pot, and place over medium-low to reduce for a few minutes before bringing to a quick boil. Whisk in a slurry of 1 ½ t-spoons plus 1 tablespoon of either water, lemon juice, or pomegranate juice and whisk continuously for about 2 minutes. Cool completely before adorning the cheesecake with it)
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