Strawberry Cheesecake

I’m still in St. Thomas where my sister-in-law just got married, and what a gorgeous wedding it was. She certainly made a beautiful bride in her lovely Vera Wang dress, and the scenery at Villa Botanica was perfect. It’s a little ironic I’m writing about her in this post because not only does she have a traumatic cheesecake story, but she’s allergic to strawberries. It’s sad, and I wish she could have enjoyed this. (I’ve briefly mentioned her story before, and it involves a sincere attempt at cheesecake using cheddar cheese.)

This month’s Daring Bakers challenge was a bit easier than the previous ones, and I kept things fairly simple. The strawberry topping was an easy addition to a plain cheesecake, and it made for a classic dessert that Tim certainly enjoyed. He said he loved the creaminess of the cheesecake, but I’d say it was a bit too dense for my taste. I recently had my first taste of Eileen’s Special Cheesecake, and I absolutely loved the light and airy texture of Eileen’s.

I once said that I’m not really a cheesecake fan, but all this exposure to cheesecake is changing that. Perhaps I’ll continue to make them as my inclination towards them grows. Tim, you’d like that now, wouldn’t you?
The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey’s Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.
Strawberry Cheesecake
adapted from Abbey’s Cheesecake

Crust Ingredients:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cheesecake Ingredients:
24 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon Cointreau (optional)

Topping Ingredients:
1 pint strawberries, cleaned and stemmed
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.
2. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into a springform pan. Set crust aside.
3. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla, lemon juice, and Cointreau and blend until smooth and creamy.
4. Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. If cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover bottom securely with foil before adding water.
5. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done – this can be hard to judge, but you’re looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don’t want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won’t crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter.
6. Chop 1/3 pint strawberries in small pieces.
7. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine cut strawberries, sugar, and vanilla. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and puree in a blender to make a sauce.
8. Slice the remaining strawberries, and combine into sauce. Decorate top of cheesecake with strawberries, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill. Once fully chilled, it is ready to serve.

Matcha Cheesecake

For me not really being a cheesecake fan, I suppose it’s a little odd that I made a matcha cheesecake when I’ve never made a regular cheesecake before. I don’t have a scarring cheesecake story like Jenn (imagine eating a sincere attempt at cheesecake using cheddar cheese), I’ve just never had an awesome cheesecake. If you know of one, please mention it.

Check out the name of this recipe from Cook’s IllustratedLight and Airy Cheesecake. “Light and Airy” sounds so innocent right? It makes it seem as if it were good for you, as if it really were just great tasting clouds of nothing. But (I’m not trying to scare you), take a look at the ingredients. A part of me ignores the fat content I use every time I bake because I know it’s not light. However thanks to a couple of butter/cream-loathing friends I have, this other part of me is growing slightly more disgusted with the amount of fat content in my recipes. Throughout this recipe, that side was more prominent.

Regarding flavor, I usually gauge how much matcha to add based on color. With all the creams in this recipe, 1 1/2 tablespoons of matcha was clearly not enough. The color was a pale green and the matcha couldn’t really be tasted. I compensated by covering the top with a matcha and powdered sugar coating.

Last note about this cheesecake is about its texture. The texture indeed is light and airy, and was almost mousse-like. Because of that, I’d recommend freezing the cheesecake instead of refrigerating like the directions say. It’ll make for easier slicing and serving, trust me.

Matcha Cheesecake
adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

1 tablespoon unsalted butter , melted
3 tablespoons graham cracker crumbs
2 pounds cream cheese
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs , separated
1 teaspoon lemon zest from 1 small lemon, minced
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoon matcha, sifted
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sour cream

2 tablespoons matcha
2 tablespoons powdered sugar

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325F degrees. Line bottom of 9-inch springform pan with foil, tuck foil underneath pan bottom, assemble pan, then pull foil around side of pan.
2. Brush bottom and sides with butter. Sprinkle crumbs over bottom. Tilt pan in all directions to coat evenly with crumbs.
3. Meanwhile, beat cream cheese in bowl of electric mixer until smooth. Gradually add sugar and matcha, beat on medium speed until sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes.
4. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating until just incorporated and scraping down after each addition, ensuring ingredients stuck at bottom of bowl are fully incorporated so as to avoid lumps. Add zest and vanilla and beat until just incorporated.
5. Remove bowl from mixer; stir in cream and sour cream.
6. Beat egg whites to soft peaks and fold into batter.
7. Bake until perimeter of cake is set, but center jiggles like Jell-O when pan is tapped, 45 to 50 minutes. Turn off heat and leave oven door ajar, using a long-handled kitchen fork or spoon to hold it open for 1 hour longer.
8. Remove springform pan; cool to room temperature.
9. Sift together 2 Tb matcha and 2Tb powdered sugar on top of cheesecake. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours. (Can be refrigerated up to 4 days.)