There is a Finnish proverb which goes like this ” Other land Blueberry, own land Strawberry”. I really don’ t get what the Finns are trying to say, whatever their reasons to prefer strawberries over blueberries, mine is a little simpler. I love the look of strawberries, red, luscious, shiny, sometimes mishapen, their green caps contrasting against the Christmassy red. That’s what beckoned me from my fridge shelf, begging me to turn them into cheesecake. They were fed up being bottled as jam !
My love hate relationship with cheesecakes goes back some years. One attempt at baking a beautiful Chocolate Cheesecake fell flat and turned out to be a tasteless lumpy misadventure. I chucked it in the bin and swore on its dead body never would I bake a cheesecake again. For years, I hid behind frozen cheesecakes , lemon, blueberry, mango, strawberry………strictly avoiding baked cheesecake recipes, telling myself its not my piece of cake. Recently, a small voice in my head has been calling me a “cheesecake coward”, it’s also been saying “you chickened out of a cheesecake?”. Provoked and emboldened, I decided to lay these voices to rest and boldly snatched up the strawberries, put on my armour, picked up my weapons and got down to war! I have finally slain the baked cheesecake demon with this easy yet “to die” for recipe.
I had been on the look out for a recipe that incorporated the fruit into the cheesecake and not as a topping. That’s what I found in “Crumbs” a book by Ruby Tandoh. She has used blueberries and the crust is digestive biscuits and butter. I decided to head down the chocolate crust path and chose to make an Oreo cookie crust, a perfect accompaniment to the strawberries, though a tad richer than expected. You can use half digestive and half Oreo to cut down on the richness. The cheese used is ricotta which is grainier and less dense than cream cheese. Cream cheese will also do well, in case you don’t have access to ricotta. In any case, I will be posting my home-made Ricotta recipe soon. The cheesecake turned out to be that pale sunshine colour with beautiful swirls of strawberry jamminess dancing in its rich paleness. The sharpness of the strawberries is welcome contrast to the rich, puddingish, cakiness it floats. This cheesecake is a piece of art and contrasts….the almost unsweetened chocolate base and the fruitiness of the berries and the rich custard flavour of the filling….I could go on and on, but I will leave you to judge it !
STRAWBERRY SWIRL CHEESECAKE (BAKED)
Serves 8-10 (generous portions)
You will need- 20 cm. round loose-bottomed or spring-form cake tin
For the base:
150 gms. Oreo Cookies
60 gms. unsalted butter
For the strawberry swirl:
150 gms. strawberries
2-3 tablespoons caster sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
For the filling:
500 gms. Ricotta Cheese
2 tablespoons cornflour
150 ml double cream *
125 gms. caster sugar
2 large eggs + 1 yolk
Zest of one lemon
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 C
- Give the cookies a whizz in the food processor turning it to a coarse powder. Melt the butter over low heat and add to the cookie powder. Mix together. The crumbs should be moist enough to hold in clumps if squeezed together. If the mixture appears dry add a little extra melted butter.
- Spread the cookie mixture on the base of the tin and press down firmly. Ensure that the mixture is evenly spread out. Bake in the pre heated oven for 10 minutes. Remove and leave aside to cool slightly. Lower oven temperature to 120 C.
- Chop up the strawberries. Heat the strawberries , sugar and lemon juice over low heat till the strawberries soften. Crush any large pieces of fruit but do leave a few tiny pieces of strawberries.
- In a large bowl beat the ricotta and cornflour together until smooth, add in the cream and stir until combined, Add the sugar, stir until incorporated. Add the egg one at a time followed by the lemon zest and vanilla extract. Pour the filling onto the baked cookie base.
- Take spoonfuls of the strawberry mixture and drop it over the filling. Gently swirl the jammy mixture using a butter knife. Don’t over mix. Bake it at 120 C for 1 hour 15 mins. to 1 1/2 hour. The cooked cheesecake must feel firm all over and slightly wobbly in the centre.
- Let the cheesecake cool completely before trying to unmould. Preferably refrigerate before unmoulding.
* If you want a lighter cheesecake feel free to use single cream or half and half.