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Fluffy Cheesecake with Fresh Strawberries and Cream

Cheesecake is one of my favorite desserts to make and, of course, eat. I love all varieties, from a dense New York style to an Italian ricotta cake to an amber-hued Basque cheesecake. This time I decided to make an American style cheesecake with a fluffy texture – not quite as airy as Japanese cheesecake, but fluffier than the American classic. To do this, I cut down on the amount of cream cheese and sour cream that I typically use, and separated the eggs, whipping the whites to stiff peaks and folding the meringue into the batter just before baking. I topped the cake with sweetened whipped cream and fresh strawberries, and was very happy with the result: a light-textured cheesecake with a perfect balance of sweet cheese and fresh strawberries-and-cream flavor. You might notice that I recommend baking the cake in a turkey-size oven bag – I do this because I find that it’s the only method that ensures that you won’t get any water seeping into your pan (and making your crust soggy). If you prefer not to do this, simply wrap the pan in aluminum foil: cut two pieces of foil, each about 16 inches in length, and place them on a work surface so that they form a cross. Place the pan in the center of the foil and wrap it around the sides of the pan.

Makes one 9-inch cake, serving 10-12

Ingredients


Graham Cracker Crust:

  • 1 ½ cups (180 grams or 11 ½ whole crackers) graham cracker crumbs
  • ¼ cup firmly packed (54 grams) light brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, melted

Fluffy Cheesecake:

  • 1 pound (454 grams) cream cheese (Philadelphia brand), at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar, divided
  • 3 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla paste or extract
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ¾ cup (174 grams) heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon (15 grams) lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Turkey-size oven bag, for baking the cake

Strawberries:

  • 1 pint (240 grams) fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and halved (or quartered, if large)
  • 2 tablespoons (14 grams) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Whipped Cream Topping:

  • 1 cup (232 grams) heavy cream
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla paste
  • 3 tablespoons (21 grams) confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Instructions


Make the crust:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Cut two 16-inch long strips of parchment paper that are the height of your springform pan (usually 3 inches) and press each one against the inside edge of the pan so they line the sides of the pan (this is optional, but it will make the cake much easier to unmold). Set the pan aside.
  1. Place the crumbs in a medium bowl, add the sugar and stir until well blended, breaking up any sugar lumps. Add the melted butter and stir until blended. Pat the mixture evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake the crust for 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned and fragrant. Set the pan on a wire rack and cool the crust completely. Reduce the oven temperature to 325˚F.

Make the filling:

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese at medium speed until very creamy, about 1 minute. Gradually add ¼ cup (50 grams) of the sugar and continue to beat until light and creamy, about 2 minutes more. Reduce the speed to medium-low and add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides with a rubber spatula once or twice. Stop the machine and sift in the cornstarch, then add the vanilla and salt and mix until blended. Add the heavy cream, sour cream and lemon juice and mix until blended, scraping down the bowl again to make sure the mixture is evenly blended. Transfer the batter to a large bowl and thoroughly wash and dry the mixer bowl so that it is perfectly clean and grease-free.
  1. Put the egg whites and cream of tartar in the clean mixer bowl and place it on the mixer stand. Using the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites at low speed for 30 seconds. Increase the speed to medium-low and whip for another 30 seconds, then increase the speed to medium-high and whip until soft peaks just begin to form. At this point, gradually add the sugar and whip until stiff peaks form.
  1. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the whipped whites into the cheesecake batter one-third at a time. Scrape the batter into the cooled crust.

Bake and chill the cake:

  1. Carefully place the cake pan into the turkey-size oven bag, with the opening at the top, then place the whole thing in a roasting pan. Leave the bag open, bunching it up around the top of the pan like a short collar. Fill the roasting pan with hot water so that it comes about a third of the way up the side of the cake pan. Place the roasting pan in the oven, making sure that the turkey bag is not touching the top element of the oven, and bake the cake for 1 hour, until the cake is set and the top is lightly browned. Turn the oven off, prop the door open with a wooden spoon, and let the cake stay in the oven for another hour.
  1. Remove the cake from the water bath and the roasting bag and let it cool completely on a wire rack.
  1. Refrigerate the cake for at least 6 hours before adding the topping and serving.

Prepare the strawberries:

  1. When you’re ready to assemble the cake, in a medium bowl, toss the strawberries with the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Make the whipped cream topping:

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream and vanilla at medium-high speed until soft peaks just start to form. Reduce the speed to medium and gradually add the sugar, then whip at medium speed until medium peaks form. Scrape the whipped cream into a pastry bag fitted with a medium, plain tip (such as Ateco #6).

Finish the cake:

  1. Starting around the top edge of the cake, pipe shells of whipped cream towards the center of the cake (see photo) all around the edge. Using a small, offset metal spatula, draw the spatula through the center of each shell towards the center of the cake to form an indentation in each shell, and wiping off the spatula after each motion. Pipe another ring of shells inside the first ring, overlapping them slightly so that there are no gaps. Draw the spatula through these shells, as you did with the first ones. Arrange the strawberries in the center of the cake, overlapping the shells slightly so that there are no bare spots. Serve the cake immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve. For clean slices, run your knife under hot water and wipe dry before making each cut.

Recommended Equipment


Springform Pan 9 Inch, TOPTIER Non-Stick

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Tish Boylehttps://pastryathome.com
Tish Boyle is the Managing Editor of Pastry Arts Magazine, a food writer and cookbook author with expertise in baking, desserts and chocolate. A graduate of Smith College and La Varenne Ecole de Cuisine, Tish has written several dessert and baking books including Chocolate Passion, Diner Desserts, The Good Cookie, The Cake Book and Flavorful. Co-writing credits include Payard Desserts and the Grand Finales series of books.

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