Cheesecakes, besides being decadent and delicious, I believe are one of the most popular dessert items found on restaurant menus. Whenever I’m making a cheesecake, I think about the three things, first, the crust, then the filling, and finally the topping. Of course, the traditional is only comprised of two of these, the crust and the cheese filling. Let’s face it, cheesecake lovers are always trying to invent new ways of sprucing up the traditional with fruit, chocolate, and even making savory ones.
I really want to take a minute to talk about the batter, the body of the cheesecake. My two main objectives are to prevent the cheesecake from cracking or the eggs from curdling. I like using a water bath, a gentle heat, for the baking process which prevents the cheesecake from cracking.
When using both corn starch and flour in the batter, the cornstarch will prevent the eggs from curdling. I’ve also have found, after the cheesecake has baked for an hour, leaving the cheesecake in the water bath, in the oven with the heat off, and the oven door slightly ajar for an additional hour, will ensure you won’t have cheesecake with those little annoying cracks in the top. The residual heat, in the walls and left in the water bath, will radiate enough heat to complete the baking process.
It’s a personal preference that I choose to use a little flour in the batter. I like the creamy, silky yet firm texture to my finished cheesecake. Now, if I were making a savory version, then I’d incorporate flour and cornstarch in the batter because I’d want a slightly firmer texture. No matter savory or sweet, the gentle heat of a water bath is always the method I use.
This is my Strawberry Cheesecake Swirl Topped With A White Chocolate Drizzle.
Note: Reserve the vanilla pod(s) for your granulated sugar. You’ll have vanilla-flavored sugar for future recipes.
Prep Time: 1 hour
Active Baking Time: 50 to 60 minutes
Inactive Baking Time: 60 minutes
Inactive Prep Time For Crust: 30 minutes
Inactive Prep Time For Strawberry Sauce: 30 minutes
Refrigerate Cheesecake: overnight
Freeze Cheesecake: 2 hours
Total Time: 3 hours
Yields: 8 to 10 slices
Equipment: 1 (9-inch) springform pan, 1 (3-quart) saucepan a roasting pan, 1 (10-cup) food processor, an electric mixer, aluminum foil, long wooden skewer, Stand mixer or electric hand-held mixer
Note: Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature
Ingredients For The Graham Cracker Crust:
1 1/2 cups of tightly packed cracker crumbs (1 sleeve each, honey graham crackers and cinnamon graham crackers, processed)
1/4 cup of granulated sugar
3/4 stick of butter, unsalted and melted
Ingredients For The Strawberry Filling:
2 pints fresh strawberries, hauled and cut
2 heaping tablespoons of cornstarch
1/4 cup of strawberry preserves
1/4 cup of granulated sugar
1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
Ingredients For The Cheesecake Filling;
3 (8-ounce) bars of cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup Mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup of sour cream, room temperature
1 (14-ounce) can of sweetened condensed milk
3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
1 lemon, zested
1 tablespoon of pure vanilla extract
1 seeded vanilla bean (reserve the vanilla bean pod(s))
3 large eggs, room temperature
Hot water for “water bath”
Ingredients For White Chocolate:
2 (11-ounce) packages of Ghirardelli White chocolate chips, melted
Directions For Strawberry Sauce:
Start with fresh strawberries that have been hulled and halved into a food processor. Add in the cornstarch and pulse until the strawberries are completely puréed. Next, pour the puréed strawberry mixture into a small saucepan. Over medium-high heat, add fresh lemon juice, granulated sugar, and strawberry preserves, stir to combine. Bring up to a boil, constantly stirring, Cook the strawberry sauce until shiny and thick. This takes about 5 minutes. You’ll see that the sauce has thickened when you run your finger down the back of a spoon and it stays separated. Remove the sauce from the heat, place it into a bowl, and transfer to the frig to chill for 30 minutes.
Directions For Graham Cracker Crust:
prepare the springform pan (as seen in the picture above) by tightly wrapping the aluminum foil around the bottom exterior of the pan. In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, process the two varieties of graham crackers. Transfer the graham cracker crumbs to a mixing bowl add sugar, stir to combine. Add in the melted butter, mix to combine. The crumbs should look like wet sand. Dump the cracker crumbs into the springform pan. Spread the crumbs around with your fingers to fill the bottom of the pan. Then using the bottom of a small shot glass, firmly press the crumbs evenly into the bottom and around the interior edges of the pan. Prepare the outside of the springform pan (as seen in the picture above) by tightly wrapping the aluminum foil around the bottom exterior of the pan. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Directions For Cheesecake Filling:
In an electric hand-held or stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, add in the softened cream cheese, Mascarpone cheese, and flour beat until light and fluffy. Next, add the lemon zest, sour cream, vanilla extract, and the caviar of the vanilla bean. With the mixer on low speed gradually add in the sweetened condensed milk. Finally, add the room temperature eggs one at a time until just combined. Turn the mixer off.
Preheat oven to 300-degrees F.
Remove the crust and strawberry filling out of the frig. Pour half the cream cheese mixture over the crust. Spoon 1/2 teaspoon dollops of strawberry sauce onto the batter. Then pour the other half of the cream cheese mixture carefully on top, not to disturb the strawberry dollops. Then repeat adding spoonfuls of strawberry filling on the top. Using the pointy end of a skewer, make swirly designs making sure not to go through to the bottom layer. Just draw the swirls really lightly on the top.
Set the filled (unbaked cheesecake) and foil-wrapped springform pan into a large roasting pan. Have a tea kettle of hot water ready. Add the hot water into the roasting pan so it comes about a 1/4 of the way up the sides of the springform pan. Tip: Set the roasting pan with the cheesecake in the pan, and in the oven first, before adding in the hot water.
Bake for 50 to 60 minutes until center is almost set. Turn the oven off leaving the pan in the oven with the door slightly ajar for another hour. Remove the cheesecake from the roasting pan and let cool on a wire rack until room temperature, around 20 minutes.
Remove the foil from around the pan and refrigerate overnight. The next day, microwave the white chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl for 15-seconds; remove the bowl from the microwave and stir. Repeat the process until most of the chocolate has melted. The white chocolate will continue to melt from its own heat upon being stirred. Remove the springform pan from around the cheesecake. Take a fork, dip it into the melted chocolate, drizzle the melted white chocolate all over the top and down the sides. The cold cheesecake will harden the chocolate pretty fast.
I like to place my cheesecake in the freezer for around 2 hours then return the cake to the refrigerator before cutting. This helps to make the cheesecake nice and firm allowing you to have smooth even slices.
Tip For Slicing Cheesecake:
Take a sharp knife, dip it into very hot water, before slicing each piece.