It’s official – strawberry season has arrived. Every time I go to the store, I am immediately confronted with the giant display of gorgeous ruby red strawberries. At the current prices, it’s pretty much impossible to resist, not to mention how much Andrew adores “brrries”. I find myself continually inspired by these lovely berries and I have thought of hundreds of things I’d like to do with them. First on my list was this strawberry cheesecake. This recipe calls for frozen strawberries but I’m fairly confident you could use fresh. After all, it seems silly not to when they are in season!
The cheesecake filling has just the right amount of strawberry flavor and a very light, airy texture which seems fitting for such a fresh spring dessert. The ganache topping is of course delicious because, duh, it’s ganache. The only thing I wasn’t nuts about (haha) was the almond crust. There are a few reasons for this – 1. I still don’t really like nuts, 2. I believe there is a leak in my springform pan (grrrr) and 3. I should have pulsed the almonds more finely but I didn’t want to wake the sleeping child. Despite these factors, I still think I would prefer this with a classic graham cracker crust and will definitely go that route next time. However, everyone else who ate this really enjoyed the crust so I think it’s just me, the nut-hater, that is the problem. This was just the perfect dessert to end our first cookout of the season.
For the strawberry puree:
10 oz. frozen organic strawberries, thawed
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
For the almond crust:
2 cups whole raw almonds
3 tbsp. sugar
¼ tsp. salt
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
For the cheesecake filling:
16 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1½ tsp. vanilla extract
¼ tsp. salt
12 oz. sour cream, at room temperature
2/3 cup strawberry puree
For the ganache:
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
4½ oz. heavy cream
½ of 1 large egg, beaten
To prepare the strawberry puree, set the thawed strawberries in a fine strainer set over a bowl to collect the excess juices. Press down on the berries to extract as much juice as possible. You should have about 4-6 oz. of juice. Transfer the juice to a small sauce pan over medium-high heat and simmer to reduce to about 2 oz. Mix in the sugar and stir to dissolve. Blend in the lemon juice and the reserved solids. Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. *(To use fresh strawberries, hull and slice the berries. Toss the berries with the 2 tablespoons of sugar and set in the strainer placed over a bowl. Let sit for 1-2 hours to extract the juices. Press down on the berries to extract as much juice as possible. Transfer the juice to a small sauce pan over medium-high heat and simmer to reduce to about 2 oz. Blend in the lemon juice and the reserved solids. Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.)
To prepare the almond crust, preheat the oven to 400˚F. Place the almonds, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Add in the butter and pulse until the mixture is evenly combined. Transfer the mixture to a 9-inch springform pan and press into a uniform layer over the bottom and 2 inches up the sides of the pan. Bake for 15 minutes, or until deep golden brown. Set aside to cool.
Reduce the oven temperature to 350˚ F. To make the cheesecake filling, combine the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Blend in the vanilla and salt. Mix in the sour cream until well incorporated. Blend in the strawberry puree.
Wrap the outside of the springform pan tightly in a double layer of aluminum foil. Pour the batter into the crust. Place the springform in a larger pan with a water bath. Bake for 55 minutes.
Remove the cheesecake from the oven but maintain the oven temperature. To make the ganache, place the chocolate in a small bowl. Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan. Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate and let stand 1-2 minutes. Whisk until smooth. Whisk in the egg. Spread the ganache mixture over the still hot cheesecake, being careful not to pour it all in one place (the cheesecake is still delicate). Smooth the top with an offset spatula if necessary. Bake 12-15 minutes, until the ganache is set around the edges.
Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire cooling rack. Cover with a large bowl inverted over the top to help cool slowly. When it comes to room temperature, transfer to the refrigerator. Chill at least 8 hours before unmolding from the springform (and be sure the ganache is completely set before covering with plastic wrap). Transfer to a serving platter. Slice with a thin knife run under hot water and wiped dry between slices. Serve.
Source: adapted from Tartlette, originally from Jael and Dan Rattigan