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Friends raise glasses of wine to summer by making strawberry cheesecake

This strawberry cheesecake is different because it mixes fresh berries into the cheese filling rather than just spooning them onto the top in a syrup. 

ILEANA MORALES | Special to the Times

This strawberry cheesecake is different because it mixes fresh berries into the cheese filling rather than just spooning them onto the top in a syrup. 

By the time I watched New York Times food writer Melissa Clark put the finishing touches on the prettiest cheesecake I'd ever seen, I knew Double Strawberry Cheesecake had to be part of my weekend plans.

I messaged my friend Leanna and said: "I'm making cheesecake this weekend. Help me eat it."

Turns out she'd just been reading the recipe for the very same video I was watching. I invited myself over to her house to make the strawberry cheesecake together.

The plan

1. I'd make the dough for the homemade cookie crust on Friday night, giving it time to rest and saving us some time on Saturday.

2. We would bike to the farmers market Saturday morning and pick up fruit and goat cheese.

3. We would make the cheesecake.

4. And then we'd let it set up in the fridge for at least six hours. Meanwhile, kill time.

Reality

1. We had a Friday the 13th birthday party so the dough was not put together until Saturday morning before our drive down to St. Pete.

2. We found no strawberries at the market because Florida's season is done so early. Ate a mango-pineapple popsicle. Biked to Publix instead.

3. Made the cheesecake.

4. Figured out how to make six hours fly by. Here are our suggestions for how to spend that resting time the cheesecake has to spend in the refrigerator before eating:

• This recipe calls for a small amount of red wine. Work on the rest of that bottle. Waste not.

• Get lunch! You've been biking and have worked up a serious appetite. Tacos are an excellent choice.

• Visit your favorite local brewery. Play some pingpong and giant Jenga.

• Start (or continue) the new season of Orange Is the New Black.

At hour four or five, we checked on the cheesecake. How long can a girl wait for dessert? Slice. Serve. Pour more wine. Dig in just as that familiar summer storm rolls in.

"Today felt like the first day of summer," Leanna said.

And it was.

Ileana Morales is a writer who cooks in a small apartment kitchen in Tampa with fiance Danny Valentine, an education reporter for the Tampa Bay Times. For more of their kitchen adventures, visit Ileana's blog, alittlesaffron.com. Contact her at alittlesaffron@gmail.com.

>>Moderate

Double Strawberry Cheesecake

For the crust:

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons honey

1 cup all-purpose flour

¼ cup whole wheat flour

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

¾ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the filling:

½ cup dry, fruity red wine (we used a California pinot noir)

1 envelope unflavored powdered (Knox) gelatin

2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, cut into small pieces, at room temperature

⅔ cup granulated sugar

1 cup (8 ounces) fresh goat cheese, broken into small pieces, at room temperature

1 pound fresh strawberries, hulled and coarsely chopped, plus several pretty whole or sliced strawberries for serving

To prepare the crust, cream together butter and brown sugar until smooth in an electric mixer or food processor, about 1 minute. Beat in honey.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flours, cocoa, salt and cinnamon. With mixer running on low speed or using the pulse button on the food processor, add dry ingredients to butter mixture in two batches. Scrape dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and cover loosely. Flatten into a disc and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Place dough round between two sheets of parchment or wax paper. Roll out dough to a thickness of ⅛ inch. If dough becomes sticky, chill in refrigerator until firm. Transfer dough to an 8- or 9-inch springform pan. Press into bottom of pan and ⅔ up the sides (don't worry if the sides aren't even). If some pieces of dough break off in the transfer, just push them back in with the rest of the dough where needed. Prick bottom with a fork. Refrigerate 20 minutes.

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Place pan on a baking sheet and transfer it to oven; bake until crust is golden and dry to touch, about 25 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling: Pour red wine into a small saucepan and sprinkle gelatin on top. Let rest for 5 minutes, until absorbed. Put pan over low heat and stir until gelatin dissolves. Don't let gelatin boil, which impedes its gelling power. Let cool.

Combine cream cheese, granulated sugar and goat cheese in an electric mixer or food processor; blend until smooth. Stop once or twice to scrape down sides of the bowl and blend again. Add chopped berries and gelatin mixture and blend until incorporated. Pour mixture into cooled crust; cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate until set, at least 6 hours or overnight. Top with sliced or whole strawberries before serving.

Note: You'll need a springform pan for this recipe. Cheesecake can be made up to 3 days ahead and kept stored in the fridge. It is best served cold.

Serves about 10.

Source: Melissa Clark via the New York Times

Friends raise glasses of wine to summer by making strawberry cheesecake 06/30/14 [Last modified: Monday, June 30, 2014 4:07pm]
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