I must say, even though I love cheesecake, I rarely eat it because it is so incredibly rich. Even with a sweet tooth as big as mine, I probably eat cheesecake only a couple of times a year on average. As I have already mentioned, I bake a lot, and I have been wanting to bake a cheesecake for months now. But I felt I needed a real excuse in order to bake such an indulgent dessert. I had planned to bake one for a birthday in my family a few months ago, but I was unable to do so for various reasons. Then, a couple of days ago, my sister A. graduated from high school. I definitely wanted to bake her a cake to celebrate her graduation, and she loves cheesecake. I figured, now was as good a time as any to bake one, and so I did just that:) I wanted something a little more special than just plain cheesecake, so I adapted this recipe for strawberry cheesecake from allrecipes.com: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Strawberry-Cheesecake/Detail.aspx
1 and 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs(just whirl graham crackers through your food processor if you don't have crumbs)
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup melted butter
3 8 oz. packages neufchatel cheese(a reduced-fat cream cheese), softened
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract
20 oz. frozen sweetened strawberries, thawed(if you can't find sweetened ones, add 1/3 cup sugar when you process them)
1.5 tsp cornstarch
1 tbsp. water
Combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar and butter. Press onto the bottom of an ungreased springform pan. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Combine strawberries and cornstarch in a blender or food processor, cover and process until smooth. Strain the puree to get rid of the seeds. Pour one tablespoon of water into a heated saucepan and then add the strawberry puree. Let it boil, and boil and stir the sauce for 2 minutes. Let it cool. Before mixing the batter, wrap the botton and sides of the springform pan in at least 2 layers of heavy duty aluminum foil. In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until light and fluffy.
Then, beat in the sugar until well-incorporated. Gradually beat in the condensed milk. Then add the lemon juice and mix. Then, beat in the eggs, one at a time, on low, until just combined, followed by the vanilla extract.
Be careful not to overmix, but do make sure the cream cheese is free of lumps before adding any of the other ingredients. This will probably take about 4-5 minutes. i did not beat it long enough, and I discovered lumps in the batter after I had added all of the other ingredients. So, I had to beat the whole batter until the lumps were gone. However, beating after adding eggs traps more air in the batter, so I had air bubbles in my batter. Fortunately, it did not crack, but just make sure to get all the lumps out beforehand.
Pour half of the cream cheese mixture over the crust.
Spoon about 1/4 cup of the strawberry syrup over the batter by 1/2 teaspoonfuls. Spoon the remaining batter on top of the syrup. Drop another 1/4 cup of strawberry sauce on top by 1/2 teaspoonfuls. Cut through the top layer with a knife only to swirl the sauce. Refrigerate remaining strawberry sauce and use it for serving the cheesecake. Place the springform pan into a large roasting pan, and fill the roasting pan with boiling or very hot water up to about halfway up the sides of the springform pan. This waterbath helps the cheesecake stay moist and helps to prevent cracks in the surface. Alternately, you can fill a roasting pan with boiling water and place it on the rack directly below the springform pan(Note: I have not tried this, but it should work, especially if you are concerned about water leaking into the springform pan). Bake at 300F for 45-50 minutes, or until center is almost, but not completely set(it should still be slightly wobbly). Turn off the oven and leave it in the oven for an hour to cool. Then, remove the springform pan from the oven and let the cheesecake cool for another hour on the counter.
At this point, chill the cheesecake in the refrigerator overnight to completely set. When ready to serve, dip a knife in warm water, wipe it dry and slice the cheesecake. Dip the knife and wipe it in-between cutting each slice in order to cut smoothly. Serve each slice with some of the remaining strawberry sauce.
Not to boast, but I was quite impressed with myself, especially given that this was the first cheesecake I had ever baked :) It was so creamy and delicious. The strawberry sauce is essential, though, to get the full strawberry flavor, as there is very little strawberry flavor in the cake itself. It was also incredibly rich, even with reduced fat cream cheese. You won't be able to eat more than one slice at a time. But just one bite of this pure indulgence will bring you to heaven :)