A Summer Indulgence!
If you are anything like me, you understand the anticipation and joy that summer Saturday mornings can bring. I awake each Saturday for a quick run on the Monon Trail and hurriedly shower so that I can be parked and ready, bag in hand, for the Carmel Farmer’s Market. The fresh, local produce, buzz of energy, and delicious breakfast goodies put a song in my step that lasts all day long. There’s something almost therapeutic about running my hands over the vegetables as I make my selections, knowing that the man or woman standing behind the table has put a labor of love into growing the produce before me. This month, I know that soon enough cartons of fresh, red, ripe strawberries will be waiting for me. That’s why when I was thinking about what I wanted to share with you this month, a fresh strawberry chocolate cheesecake just sounded sooooooo right.
Since strawberries haven’t quite emerged at the market, I went to Whole Foods to gather all my supplies. It must have been my lucky day, because Organic Strawberries were on sale! Woot!
Here is what you will need (recipe can be found at the bottom of this post):
To start, make the crust by pulverized one full sleeve of graham crackers either in a plastic baggy or a food processer. Add 1 tablespoon of sugar and 5 tablespoons of melted butter. Toss with a spatula or fork. Next, prepare your round pan by first coating with a thin layer of butter, lining with parchment, and lastly coating the parchment with butter as well.This is done for ease of removal from the pan!
Now you can press the crumb mixture into the bottom of the pan, cautious to keep this layer even so that you don’t have any really thick spots of crust.
Place the crust in the oven at 300 F for 6-8 minutes. Remove and allow to cool while you prepare the batter. Increase oven temperature to 500 F.
Begin by creaming all of the cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer. Trust me when I say the Hulk couldn’t mix this entire batter by hand. (medium speed, 1 minute)
Scrape down the sides and add ¾ cup of sugar and a dash of salt. Mix again (medium speed, 1 minute). Add another ¾ cup of sugar and mix (low speed, 1 minute). Scrape down the sides. Your mixture should gradually be looking fluffier than when we began.
Now let’s add 1/3 cup of plain Greek yogurt, the squeeze of ½ a lemon and 2 teaspoons of quality vanilla. Beat on low until just combined. Once there, add 2 egg yolks, mix, 2 eggs, mix, 2 more eggs, mix and the last 2 eggs, mix, all on low speed and just until combined. Over mixing once the eggs are being added will actually whip the eggs, causing the cheesecake to be more meringue like.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and place in the oven.
After 10 minutes, drop the temperature setting to 200 F. The initial high temperature “sets” the cake so that we do not have to use a water bath (which drives me nuts because I inevitably always get water in or on my cheesecake…..am I the only one with this problem?).
After 1 hour 15 min – 1 ½ hours, the cake should be ready to cool. An easy check if your cake is ready to be pulled from the oven is to use a thermometer placed in the center of the cake. Target center temperature is anywhere from 145 F – 155 F.
Let the cheesecake cool at room temperature until it can be easily carried in the pan. Move the cake to the refrigerator to completely cool and set. Meanwhile, make your topping.
Wash and slice one pint of strawberries. I like to cut them in halves, but you can slice them however you like. Add ¼ cup to ½ cup of sugar to the strawberries and set aside (I let them sit for about an hour). Boil down 1 cup of strawberry jam (this Crofters brand that I purchased is Biodynamic – how cool is that!) on a cooktop set to medium heat. Stir the jam with a wire whisk for 3 minutes while heating just to help thicken the sauce and develop a more cooked flavor. Remove from the heat, squeeze in ½ lemon’s juice and add a dash of salt. Add this mixture to the strawberries and toss.
Once the cheese cake has completely cooled and is firm to touch, remove from the pan, using the paper liner to slide the cake off onto a platter. Top with the strawberry mixture. And, because things aren’t decadent until there’s chocolate involved, melt 1-2 Endangered Species Chocolate smooth dark chocolate bars in the microwave and drizzle generously over the entire cake.
The office really enjoyed this very special afternoon treat. Made with organic and GMO free ingredients, this is one cheesecake that you can feel good about (in moderation of course)!
Happy Summer my friends!
1 sleeve of Organic graham crackers (9 sheets)
1 tbsp sugar
5 tbsp unsalted butter
5, 8 oz packages of Organic cream cheese (40 oz)
1/3 cup Organic plain Greek yogurt
1 ½ cups sugar
Dash of salt
2 egg yolks and 6 whole eggs
Juice of ½ lemon squeezed
2 tsp vanilla
1 pint of strawberries
Sugar to taste
1 cup of organic or biodynamic strawberry jam
Juice of ½ lemon squeezed
1-2 Endangered Species Chocolate 72% cacao Smooth Dark Chocolate bars (3-6 oz)