Classic Strawberry Cheesecake

Cheesecake. Oh, that smooth creamy texture with those luscious strawberries and that sweet crunch from that graham cracker crust….
Jews love cheesecake.
I am surprised there isn’t a song about it. After all, we sing about just anything.
It took me a long time to find that “perfect” recipe. I have tried close to a dozen recipes.
I don’t know if you are with me on this, but I do not like cheesecake that is too sweet, too tart, too runny or too dense. It has to be just right. A balance of sweetness with tartness, smooth and creamy but not too heavy. It also has to be tall. Tall cheesecakes remind me of my childhood and of my Bubby.
I have picked a little here, dabbled a little there, and finally put together from famous different recipes, what I believe to be the best Strawberry Cheesecake recipe. But before we begin, there are some general basics about cheesecake that I have learned that guarantee me a perfect cake every time that I want to share with you.

I added many photos to this post, not because it is difficult to make but because I think there is a certain fear involved when making cheesecake. I want to show you that it really isn’t hard at all as long as you follow the basic rules.

 

Listen up! Basic cheesecake rules:

 

  • All of the ingredients need to be at room temperature. The eggs, the cream and the cream cheese absolutely need to be at this optimal temperature because otherwise the cake will crack when it bakes. No Grand Canyon craters in my cake, thanks very much.
  • Only use full-fat cream cheese. The low fat kind doesn’t work at all. Besides, if you are going to splurge do it right please. Sheesh.
  • You need to cook the cake in a springform pan. If you don’t know what that is, it is a pan with a latch on the side and a removable bottom. Don’t even attempt to make it in another pan, say your bundt pan, because it definitely won’t work. See…. I read your mind. I have many talents.
  • You must cook the cake in a springform pan, lined with heavy-duty aluminum foil in a hot water bath placed in the oven. Don’t fret if what I just said doesn’t make sense to you. Being the great friend I am, I provided a picture below. No, I’m not photo crazy and yes I’m OCD. In my defence, I come from a long line of them, but that’s for a later post…
  • Do not touch the oven when the cheesecake is baking. I mean it. Stand clear of that darn oven. No, don’t just take a peek. In fact, get out of the kitchen all together because curiosity killed the cat. If you open the door during baking, the cold air will cause your cake to collapse. Yes, you read that right. Full out, code blue, and there is nothing – absolutely nothing – I can do to save you.
  • Once the cheesecake is done, you must take it out of the oven, leave it in its pan and put it somewhere you will not touch it for at least 2 hours until it completely cools and sets. So don’t put it where the dog can reach it and eat it before you do. Don’t put it where the kids are playing ball and it will inevitably become the goal post. Got it?
  • This is the most important one of all so listen up. I have learned this the hard way. KEEP FAR AWAY FROM HUNGRY HUSBANDS. They have no shame or fear of reprisals. At least mine doesn’t. He barely lived to tell the tale but has zero regrets. That was nine years ago and I still can’t forget it. You’ve been warned.
  • You need to make this cake, the cheesecake part of it, at least one day ahead of when you are planning to eat it. It needs a good 24 hours in the fridge to develop its flavour and firm up.
  • Also, don’t use the whip attachment to your mixer but rather the paddle attachment. If you don’t know what that it, it’s the other attachment you got when you bought your mixer and had no idea what the heck it was. Go check the box. I’m sure it’s either in there or buried deep in your drawer.  And yes, I have a picture of it below.

 

Ingredients:

 

FOR THE CRUST:

1 1/2 packed cups graham cracker crumbs

1/4 c. sugar

5 tbsp. melted butter

 

FOR THE CREAM CHEESE FILLING:

3 (8oz) packages of cream cheese, at room temperature (use only full fat, okay? I warned you. Now is not the time to have delusions about a healthy cheesecake.)

1 1/3 c. sugar

3 tbsp. cornstarch

1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract

2 extra-large eggs

2/3 c. whipping cream

 

FOR THE STRAWBERRY TOPPING:

3 boxes fresh strawberries

1 c. strawberry jelly

1/2 c. apricot preserves

1 tbsp. light corn syrup

1 tbsp. cornstarch

1 tbsp. cold water

 

Instructions:

FOR THE CRUST:

Preheat oven to bake 350degrees.

Line your springform pan with heavy duty aluminum foil. (This prevents the water from penetrating the pan later.)

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In the bowl of an electric mixer, place graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter. Mix until it becomes a coarse crumble.

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Press this graham cracker mixture into the bottom and little up the sides of the springform pan. I use the bottom of a measuring cup because it comes out smoother.

 

 

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Next, place your pan in the centre middle rack of your preheated oven and bake for 5-7 minutes until crust is golden.

 

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Allow to cool on a wire rack as you begin to make the filling.

 

FOR THE CREAM CHEESE FILLING:

Place your paddle attachment on your electric mixer. If you don’t know what that is, here is a picture. Paddle, meet the reader. Reader, meet the paddle. Glad we are all friends now…

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Begin by putting one package of cream cheese, 1/3 c. of the sugar, and the cornstarch in the bowl of your electric mixer. Turn on low until it becomes creamy and scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure even mixing. This will take about 3 minutes.

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Next, add the rest of the cream cheese, one package at a time, and mix well. Keep scraping the sides of the bowl to ensure even mixture.

 

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Increase mixer to medium speed and add the rest of the sugar (1 cup), then add the vanilla.

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Mix in the eggs, one at a time, and mix well.

 

 

 

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Blend in the cream but just until it gets mixed in. Do not over mix.

 

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Spoon batter over crust.

I told you that was easy.

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Place springform pan in a roasting dish. Fill roasting pan with water until water level reaches half way up springform pan. Place in oven and bake for 1 hour and 25 minutes.

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After 1 hour and 25 minutes, remove pan from oven. Remove springform pan from water bath. Be very careful not to burn yourself with the hot water. Remember that cloth oven gloves are not water proof and if your glove touches the water it is no longer heat proof. I will show you my poor thumb later…

Allow cheesecake to cool on wire rack and DO NOT TOUCH THE CAKE. Just walk away. Allow cake to cool for at least 2 hours in the pan.

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While the cheesecake is cooling, prepare the glaze.

Blend about 7-8 large strawberries in a blender. You will need a 1/2 c. of strawberry puree. This is another reason why I absolutely love my Vitamix. I do not need to strain the strawberry seeds out because they have been completely pulverized. If your blender leaves the seeds behind, you can strain it now or wait until later when the glaze is done.

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Place strawberry jelly and apricot preserves with the corn syrup in a saucepan and begin to melt this mixture. I used a small saucepan but I suggest you use a larger one unless you like scrubbing a sticky mess from your stove top. I learned that the hard way…

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Next, pour in the strawberry puree. In a small bowl, whisk the 1 tbsp. each of cornstarch and cold water and add it to the glaze mixture (not pictured).

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Allow to simmer and bring to a slow boil. The mixture will thicken up and become a little more clear. Glaze is ready when it coats the back of a spoon nicely. This should take about 3-4 minutes.

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You can now strain your glaze. I don’t because, well, frankly, I’m feeling kind of lazy.

Arrange the strawberries nicely around the cake (still in springform pan) and gently spoon the glaze over the strawberries allowing the glaze to ever-so-slightly drip over the sides. You will not use all the glaze. Leftover glaze can be used to make ice cream (post to come) or as a filling for cookies, like linzer cookies (post to come), or as a strawberry sauce on an ice cream sundae.

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I made this classic strawberry cheesecake recently for my annual Chanukah party. My family attacked it before I could take the final photo. Now I know better than to take this cake out and expect people to wait 5 minutes before I get my camera. (Insert swear word here.)

There were no survivors at my Chanukah party. Not a single piece of leftovers.

Happy Chanukah 2013!

 

Adapted from Junior’s Cheesecake and Fine Cooking Cranberry Cointreau Cheesecake
I was at the grocery store and saw this magazine about a place called Junior’s Cheesecake in New York. I never heard of them, let alone eaten there, but the cover intrigued me. I was always in the market for a good cheesecake recipe. When I tried their recipe for strawberry cheesecake, I knew these guys knew what the heck they were talking about. Finally, a really good cheesecake recipe. The only problem was the bottom. They use a sponge cake crust. I tried it and well, I wasn’t impressed.
That’s when I thought, why mess with a classic? Good old-fashioned graham cracker crust will do the trick here. I tried it and that’s when I finally found the right strawberry cheesecake recipe.
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