Creamy Strawberry Cheesecake

"I only have eyes for you..."

“I only have eyes for you…”

It seems that most recipes for strawberry cheesecake consist of a plain New York style cheesecake with sliced strawberries sitting prettily on top. I wanted to make a strawberry cheesecake that contained strawberries in the batter itself, not just as window dressing. Such recipes are few and far between, while recipes for strawberry-topped plain cheesecake abound. I decided to cobble together my own recipe for strawberry cheesecake, using as my base recipe the New York style cheesecake from Cook’s Illustrated.

The texture of this cheesecake is just heavenly!

The texture of this cheesecake is just heavenly!

Some recipes for strawberry cheesecake leave the strawberry pulp in the batter, but in my opinion, a silky smooth texture is one of the reasons why cheesecake is worth eating! I incorporated strawberry coulis (pureed strawberries with the pulp strained out) into the batter to get strawberry flavour without compromising the cheesecake’s silky texture. The batter turned pink, but the pink colour was washed out with the addition of the eggs and egg yolks. I debated adding food colouring, but decided not to. If you wish, you can add a few drops of red food colouring to the batter after you’ve added the eggs.

A side view illustrating the crust - which does not reach up the side - and the outer texture, which is just a shade less soft than the inner texture.

A side view illustrating the crust – which does not reach up the side – and the outer texture, which is just a shade less soft than the inner texture.

I baked this cheesecake in a water bath to get the silkiest, creamiest texture. It worked! I thought I had made cheesecakes prior to this one that had an unbelievably creamy texture, but this one so far is the smoothest, creamiest one yet. I used to think a water bath was a persnickety pain in the rear, and not worth doing. It is a pain, but it is worth it when you take the first bite of that silky cheesecake. The texture of this cheesecake blew me away.

Creamy, dreamy! And not pink. I explain why in the post!

Creamy, dreamy! And not pink. I explain why in the post!

I would make changes the next time I make this. The strawberry flavour ended up being much more subtle than I wished. I would double the amount of strawberry coulis (the amount shown in the recipe is doubled). The resulting coulis should be cooked on medium heat until slightly reduced; this will concentrate the strawberry flavour. I added 1 tsp. of raspberry extract to the recipe, but I think this muddied the strawberry flavour. Next time I won’t use raspberry extract at all. Finally, I used orange juice in place of lemon juice to add acidity to the strawberries and boost their flavour. I think there is a reason why lemon juice is traditionally used for this purpose. 😉

I couldn't resist including another close-up. :)

I couldn’t resist including another close-up. 🙂

When unmoulding the cheesecake, I accidentally peeled off some of the gorgeous golden brown top. Be careful when unmoulding your cheesecake! 🙂

Creamy Strawberry Cheesecake

Yield: One 9″ cheesecake

INGREDIENTS
For the crust:
12 whole graham cracker rectangles
1 tsp. sugar
1 stick butter, melted, plus extra for greasing the pan (or you can use nonstick cooking spray to grease the pan)

For the cheesecake:
2 pints strawberries, rinsed and hulled
scant 1 TBS lemon juice
scant 1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
5 8-oz. pkgs. cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups + 2 TBS sugar (I used regular spoons rather than tablespoons)
6 eggs + 3 yolks, at room temperature
a few drops of red food colouring, optional
several cups boiling hot water, for the bain marie
fresh strawberries and whipped cream, for serving

METHOD
For the crust:
Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease a 9″ springform pan with melted butter or nonstick cooking spray. Line bottom of pan with a circle of parchment paper and grease the paper.

Place crackers and sugar in a food processor until fine crumbs form. Alternately, you can crush the crackers in a bowl or Ziploc bag using a potato masher or rolling pin, respectively. If using either of these latter methods, stir in the sugar after the crackers have been crushed.

Transfer crushed cracker / sugar mixture to a medium bowl and mix in the melted butter until thoroughly blended. The texture should be moist but not wet; mixture should hold together if pinched together. If necessary, add more melted butter, 1 TBS at a time, until the correct texture is achieved.

Dump the cracker / butter mixture into the springform pan and spread evenly along the bottom of the pan and about 1″ up the sides. (If you wish, you can omit pushing the crumbs up the sides and just have a flat crust.) Use a glass measuring cup to press the crust evenly along the bottom and sides of the pan.

Place springform pan on a lipped cookie sheet and bake on center rack for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely on a wire rack. Leave the oven on at 325°F.

For the cheesecake:
Process the hulled strawberries in the clean food processor until completely pulpy, with no chunks of strawberry left intact. Strain into a medium bowl, pressing the pulp against the strainer with a wooden spoon so as to get out as much liquid as possible. Cook in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan until slightly reduced; remove from heat and add the lemon juice and mix until thoroughly combined. Cool. Add the sour cream and whisk until thoroughly combined. Set aside.

Beat the cream cheese at low speed to soften and break up. Scrape sides of bowl and add sugar; beat for one minute on low speed until thoroughly combined. Scrape bowl and beater. Add strawberry / sour cream mixture and raspberry extract and beat at low speed for one minute; scrape bowl. Add eggs one at a time, beating each egg for one minute on low speed and scraping the bowl and beater after each addition. Add the yolks one at a time, beating each yolk for one minute on low speed and scraping the bowl and beater after each addition. If using food colouring, add after you’ve incorporated the eggs and beat on low spead for one minute until thoroughly incorporated. Add more a drop at a time, beating on low speed for a minute after each addition and scraping bowl as needed, if you wish for the batter to be a deeper pink.

Tap mixer bowl firmly on counter several times to remove any air bubbles. Wrap cooled springform pan in several layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil to prevent water seeping in. Pour cheesecake batter into pan, smoothing top.

Place the cheesecake into a 12″ round pan or deep baking dish large enough to accommodate the 9″ springform pan with at least 1″ free between the side of the springform pan and the side of the larger pan. (This would require an 11″ minimum diameter dish.) Fill the large pan with boiling hot water to two-thirds up the side of the springform pan. Carefully transfer the cheesecake in its bain marie to the oven and place on center rack.

Bake for 65 minutes; do not open oven door during this time. Check cheesecake through the oven door window, without opening oven door, every 10 minutes thereafter. If checking through an oven door window is not an option, bake cheesecake for 75 minutes and then check cheesecake every 10 minutes thereafter, opening oven door as little as possible. The visual cue for the cheesecake’s being finished is thus: The sides of the cheesecake should just be starting to peel away from the sides of the springform pan, and the center will look wobbly. Remove the water bath from the oven, taking care not to slosh any boiling hot water on yourself. Allow cheesecake to continue to sit in its water bath for 10 minutes; then remove cheesecake and run a sharp knife around the edge of the cheesecake, pressing the knife against the side of the pan rather than the cheesecake, to separate the cheesecake from the springform pan. Cool on wire rack completely.

When cheesecake is completely cooled, cover the surface with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 12 hours.

Unmoulding:
Take plastic wrap from top of cheesecake and set aside upside-down, so that the side that was touching the cheesecake is facing up. Release pan sides. Lay the plastic wrap back onto the top of the cheesecake, and place a large, flat plate over the top of the cheesecake. Carefully flip cheesecake upside down so that the top of the cheesecake is against the plate. Using an extremely sharp knife, loosen crust from springform bottom. (You may have to flip cheesecake back and heat the bottom of the pan on high heat for 10 – 15 seconds to loosen a stubborn crust.) Flip cheesecake onto serving platter so that the crust is on the bottom, as it should be. Remove plastic wrap from top of cheesecake.

To serve, let cheesecake stand at room temperature for 30 minutes, then cut using a hot, dry, sharp knife, wiping knife clean between slices. Serve with fresh strawberries and whipped cream.

Source: Based on Cook’s Illustrated New York Style cheesecake; strawberry flavouring is a Kitchenchantress Original

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