Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Strawberry Cheesecake with Cookie Crumb Crust . . . Thinkin' Pink!

"I found I could say things with color . . . that I couldn't say any other way--things I had no words for." 
-- Georgia O'Keefe

My three favorite colors are pink, red, and pale green. I would go so far as to say that I crave them. I suspect I may even feel cheerier when wearing one of them. My mood is calmer in a tranquil room that's been painted a cool shade of celery. It's no surprise my kitchen is that very shade, as it has been for several years and I haven't tired of it yet. Place a stem or two of pink flowers in a little jar of water on the kitchen table, and I'll delight in them until they fade away.

Just as we're influenced by the hues we see around us everyday--in our houses, in our cities, and in nature--I assume that the colors we're faced with when we sit down to a meal must impact us in similar ways. I know that I'm a pushover for pretty food. And color accounts for a huge part of the "pretty factor," don't you think?

I do appreciate the sight of  pink food--frosted cupcakes, strawberry ice cream, raspberry yogurt. Heck, I can even muster up a yen for cotton candy or Bazooka bubble gum now and again, though it's questionable whether those items qualify as real food. And vibrant red food gets my seal of approval, too; perfect garnet cherries, the blazing sunset stripes of a ripe mango's skin, even ketchup-red tomatoes, still warm from the vine.

Culinarians assert that we "eat with our eyes," and there is plenty of proof to back up that statement. In cake decorating classes, they make a point of teaching the principles of the color wheel since this kind of visual harmony is integral to a well-designed cake. A poorly executed use of color on a cake is immediately apparent, have you noticed? It does its utmost to turn you off. Think of those garish frosted cakes that you stroll past in the grocery store each week. They virtually scream out, "Hey, you! Look at me! Yeah, you! I'm bright and hideous and I clash!"

Color is important when you're baking. Don't think it's not . . .

I had pink on my mind when I decided to make this particular cheesecake. I expected, when I began preparing it, that it was going to be nicely pink throughout. The cheesecake photo in the cookbook was distinctly pinkish, positively blushing, in fact. And my finished batter was charmingly girlish.

But, alas, the oven changed all that. Ultimately, I ended up with kind of an ivory filling overlaid with just the slightest hint of pink, and dotted throughout with bits of rosy strawberry here and there. Not the glorious pink cheesecake of my dreams, but still good. I guess even a smidgen of pink is better than none.

About this recipe . . . 

Hailing from the book, Diner: The Best of Casual American Cooking, by Diane Rossen Worthington, this recipe includes both a small amount of fresh, ripe strawberries, along with strawberry jam, to give it its signature flavor. I stuck pretty closely to the original formula for the filling, but instead of using the called-for graham crackers in the crust, I used vanilla wafers. I also omitted lemon zest, because the recipe already includes a significant amount of lemon juice, and I just didn't want to overdo it.

I baked the cake on Saturday afternoon, put it in the fridge as soon as it was completely cool, and served it on Sunday evening. The cake turned out well, but I thought it actually tasted considerably better the day after it was first sliced. Some cheesecakes are just like that; I know this always seems to be true with pound cakes, and I assume it has to do with the incredibly rich ingredients taking a while to sort of mingle, get comfortable, and settle down. The texture seemed much nicer to me after a couple of days in the fridge.

The recipe didn't indicate that you should use a water bath for baking, so I threw caution to the wind and didn't bother with that. Consequently, my cheesecake did crack on top, about an hour after it was out of the oven. I wasn't terribly concerned about this, however, because I'd planned from the get-go to cover the top with a modest layer of whipped cream.

Were I to make this cake again, I probably would choose to employ a few more of the typical cheesecake precautions to help prevent the cracking (for eg., tips like being super careful not to over-beat the batter and incorporate too much air;  baking the cake in a foil-wrapped pan that's placed in a water bath; running a knife around the cake sides right before it goes into the oven and shortly after it's out of the oven). Anyway, I'll be more careful next time.

I'd never made a strawberry flavored cheesecake before, but it's a nice variation on plain vanilla or chocolate. Next time, though, I'm makin' it more pink. I think.

(Please note that in the photos below it looks like quite a lot of batter. That's because, when I made it, I doubled the recipe and made two cakes. But the recipe as printed for you below makes just one cake.) 

Strawberry Cheesecake with Cookie Crumb Crust

(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom and sides of one 9.5" springform pan. Place a circle of parchment over the buttered bottom, and butter the parchment.

For the crust:
2 cups crushed vanilla wafer (or plain shortbread) cookie crumbs
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

For the filling: 
24 oz. cream cheese, softened and at room temperature
1 and 1/4 cups granulated sugar
6 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups sour cream, at room temperature
1/3 cup All Purpose flour
2 tsp. vanilla extract
fresh juice of one whole lemon, strained
1/2 cup strawberry jam (with any large fruit chunks broken up)
1/2 cup of finely chopped, hulled, ripe strawberries

To make the crust:
In a small bowl, mix together the cookie crumbs and sugar. Add in the melted butter and stir to combine until all the crumbs appear moistened. Press the mixture firmly into the bottom of the prepared pan, and up the sides of the pan about two inches. Set aside.

To make the filling:

Break the softened cream cheese into chunks and place in a large mixer bowl. With the mixer on medium speed, beat the cream cheese for about 3 minutes, until very soft and creamy.

Add in the sugar and continue to mix on medium speed, for 1 to 2 minutes, until the batter is smooth.

Add in the eggs, preferably one at a time, and beat well after each addition. (Do as I say, not as I did, in the photo below, with too many eggs going in at once!)

Reduce the speed to low, and add in the sour cream, flour, vanilla extract, and lemon juice. Beat just until thoroughly blended. Remove the large bowl from the mixer.

Remove one cup of the batter and place it in a small bowl.

To this small bowl of batter, add the strawberry jam. Stir it in completely.

Add in the 1/2 cup of chopped strawberry pieces, stirring very gently, just until combined.

Pour this mixture back into the large bowl of batter and, stirring by hand, just blend it in.

Pour all of the batter in the pan that's already been lined with the crust. Jiggle the pan gingerly until the top of the batter appears settled and smooth.

Place the cake pan on top of a baking sheet on the middle rack in the oven.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for one hour. Turn off the heat and let the cheesecake rest undisturbed in the oven, with the door closed, for 30 minutes. Place the pan on a cooling rack and let the cake cool completely. (Hopefully, yours won't look like it's been in an earthquake, like mind did below!)

Once the cake is cooled, cover it lightly and refrigerate it, still in the pan, for at least eight hours before slicing. The cake's texture improves after one full day, or even two days, in the fridge. Before attempting to remove the sides of the pan, run a thin knife carefully around the cake's sides. It's easier to slice, and best tasting, if served quite cold. Try it topped with real whipped cream and fresh strawberries.

(If you'd like to comment on this post, or to read any existing comments, please just click on the purple COMMENTS below!)


Jennifurla said...

Looks great, love that *modest* layer of frosting

Susi said...

Even though the cake did not the desired color you had in mind it looks scrumptious. I would have no problems eating it :o) I love how it incorporates the strawberries into the batter rather than a topping. I'm bookmarking this. If I can find strawberries on sale for father's day I might be making this!

Hanaâ said...

What a great choice, Jane. I love homemade strawberry cheesecake (I've been using a Bon Appetit recipe for for years). The one thing I like about your recipe, is the chopped fresh strawberries. I'll have to incorporate that into my cheesecake next time. I always use a waterbath though. Another trick I learned long ago from www.baking911.com is to add a Tbsp of flour to the cheesecake batter. Another cheesecake tip I have for you is something I came up with a while back: butter the inside of your spring form pan and line it with a strip of parchment paper. This solves 2 problems: no need to run a knife on the edges after it's baked, and also, easy removal of cheesecake from pan (and you have no marred edges because the parchment comes right off without peeling off any of the cheesecake or crust :o)

Jane said...

Hi Jennifurla,
Well, I guess it's not really modest, is it? :) I'd better reword that!

Hi Susi,
I know what you mean. There are lots of cheesecake recipes that use strawberries on the top, but this was one of relatively few I found that include some berry pieces right in with the batter. Many thanks for your nice comments!
Jane :)

Hey there, Hanaa,
I like your idea of lining the sides of the pan with parchment, too. I buttered the whole pan, but just lined the bottom with parchment for this recipe. It actually does include flour in the batter, so I think that was probably not my problem. Really, though, I should have done the water bath. I don't know what made me think I could get away with not doing that. Hubris, I guess! As always, live and learn.
Jane :)

Snooky doodle said...

this looks decadent. I won t mind the crack that s more space for extra whipped cream :)

Stella said...

Hey Jane! I think this looks pretty pinkish. I know it looks delicious, so that's more than half the battle right there (smile). I bet you could make foods you want more pink with some ruby red beet juice. It's natural too. I think I've seen this type of colorant at the health food store.
Hope all is well with school and such...

Taylor said...

This looks so good! I have also found it hard to get that desired pink color in strawberry desserts without adding artificial coloring...I guess natural is just better :)

Juliana said...

Yummie, your strawberry cheesecake looks fabulous....love the pictures with the orchids...gorgeous :-)

Allison said...

That is interesting that the heat from the oven toned down the pinkness of the batter. I would have expected the opposite. I like the incorporation of strawberry into the batter itself, though. Usually when you see strawberry cheesecake, its just plain cheesecake with some strawberry sauce on top. That's not strawberry cheesecake...your recipe is! :)

ajcabuang04 said...

This looks great!! I just made cheesecake today too!! What a coincidence!! I topped mine with strawberries instead of mixing them in. What a great idea to mix it!

Memória said...

Great minds think alike apparently. So many bloggers have been making strawberry cheesecake! I blogged about my cheesecake today.

I love how you placed your strawberries. It looks lovely! I'm not a fan of pink, but I am fan of strawberry cheesecake. YUM!

Jane said...

Hi Snooky,
Good thinking! I like your practical view point.
:) Jane

Dear Stella,
Ruby red beet juice? That's a great idea! I've never tried it as a colorant but I imagine a little goes a very long way. I'm going to be on the lookout for it next time I'm in a health food store. And, yes, everything is great with school. Finished my most recent class last week. Will be nice to have the summer off!
Thanks so much,
Jane :)

Hi Taylor,
I know what you mean. I considered, for a moment, adding in some food coloring when the batter was still in the mixing bowl. I thought maybe it looked kind of pale, but ended up leaving it as is. If were to make this recipe again, I would probably try to enhance the color somehow.

Hi Juliana,
Thanks for such nice comments! You know those little pink flowers? They are not orchids (though I do agree that they bear a resemblance when viewed up close), but just common sweetpeas! They grow in a big tangled bushy profusion in one spot in our backyard and they're in bloom right now. I just love them.
:) Jane

Hi Allison,
Yes, I was surprised that the oven seemed to be the factor that turned the batter a lighter color. Hmmm. . . I agree that the berries in the batter is a nice touch. I tried to be careful to remove as much hull as possible, and made sure I didn't use berries that were overly ripe and, thus, too juicy.
Thanks for visiting!

Hello Ajcabuang04,
It seems to be a good week for baking cheesecake! A case of great baking minds thinking alike? ;)
Many thanks,
Jane :)

Dear Memoria,
You did?? Wow, it's something in the air lately! We're all craving cheesecake! I'm going to hop on over to your blog in just a second--can't wait to see your cheesecake, too. Thanks for visiting!

My Casa Bella said...

Oh, I;m going to have to make this, but in order to make it Gluten free and wheat free I'll have to use GF shortbread cookies and GF flour, especially since there is so little of it in there, can't wait, I'll have to let you know when I do. MMMMM,

Mags said...

Bazooka bubble gum is the perfect shade of pink.

This looks like a fantastic dessert!

Cherine said...

I feel like diving into this cake!! Looks wonderful :)

cheesecake said...

Nevertheless, your cheesecake still looks amazing! May be you need more strawberries to make it pink? I tried a similar cheesecake recipe before and mine did turn out pink. Maybe because I added strawberry jam in it? (I didn't have enough fresh strawberries that day, so I make use of my 3-week old strawberry jam, lol!) Anyway,you did a great job at pulling this off, besides, some strawberry cheesecake isn't always pink, lol!

Katrina said...

I think this is going to be my new favorite cheesecake! It looks so delicious, but most importantly, the ingredients you used are divine. Yum!

Helen said...

I love the idea of a pink cheesecake, and I like how the strawberries give it an extra dimension. Homemade cheesecake is delicious.

Nicisme said...

That looks wonderful, I love colour in my food!

Chef Dennis said...


your pictures are incredible!!! I can only imagine how good that cheesecake is...it looks perfect in every way!

faithy, the baker said...

Gorgeous Gorgeous cheesecake! I have to try this..i've tried all sorts of cheesecake except strawberry cheesecake. Gotta bookmark this! Thanks for sharing!

Chele said...

Looks amazing! Such a pretty looking cheesecale - I bet it tasted even better than it looked!

Danielle said...

incredible! love cheesecake (my favorite cake ever) and I love strawberries. I giving this one a try for usre

Cook with Madin said...

I think the color looks great to me, and the cheesecake looks scrumptious. I know what you're saying about wanting to have the color that you are imagining for your food. You have wonderful photos.

Diana's Cocina said...

Your photos are awesome! Your cheesecake looks perfect and wish I had a slice.

grace said...

this looks really pretty and utterly scrumptious. as far as i'm concerned, the color is perfect!

Mary said...

Oh! That looks PERFECT! So great for summer!

Delightful Bitefuls

mike said...

I have tried this recipe and I must say that this is one of the best cheesecakes I have made. The recipe is precise and my family loved it. It went really well with a hot cup of coffee made from my manual drip coffee maker at home. Thanks for sharing!

kaykay said...

As a donation for a fundraiser, a co-worker and I donated 6 cheesecakes...one a month for 6 months. The person that won could pick what ever flavor they wanted. Today, the winner called for her last cheesecake and wanted strawberry. I thought about the usual ones, but decided to search for something a little different and I am so glad to find your blog for the recipe!

Anonymous said...

Just a little suggestion, to prevent cracks, I've tried putting a bowl of water in the oven together with the cheesecake to bake. The bowl of water will help in keeping the oven humid, preventing the surface of the cheese cake to dry up and crack. I was thinking of strawberry cheese cake and found your blog, it was very inspiring. Thank you.

Hannah :) said...

Looks divine!!
I love making cheese cakes! Want to know the secret to a crack-less cheese cake?
Bake the cake in water.

Bake in a casserole dish/pan and fill with water until it's about half way up the spring form pan. Make sure to cover the bottom/sides of pan with foil so water doesn't leak in.
After baking timer has gone off, take out the whole thing, let it sit about 10-15 minutes and then remove from water and store or use as usual! :)

Always works like a charm for me!
I asked Junior's New York Cheesecake shop, and that's what they said they do to get their picturesque beauties!


Jane said...

Hi Hannah,
Thanks so much for visiting! I appreciate all of your comments. You know, I knew at the time I made that cheesecake that I should do the usual water bath thing, but something held me back from bothering with it--a little devil on my shoulder I guess! Maybe I was just in the mood to tempt fate that day. Anyway, live and learn, right? ;)


Anonymous said...

I baked this cheesecake and it was delicious. I ended up making a chocolate crust with oreo cookies. The strawberry cheesecake was awesome. Thanks for the recipe. :)

Anonymous said...

I used this recipe last summer for a strawberry bake off and won 2nd place...tons of positive feedback! people loved it. I have one in the oven right now, in fact...for a fourth of July dessert. Wonderful recipe, thank you for sharing it :)