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It is traditional for Jews to eat dairy foods on the holiday of Shavuot (The Feast of Weeks). This Jewish holiday commemorates the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai and occurs seven weeks after Passover. It also celebrates the Summer grain harvest and is one of three “Pilgrimage” holidays observed in Judaism. There a number of theories as to how the dairy tradition started, but cheesecake and blintzes are very popular at this time of year. However, you don’t have to be Jewish to make (and love) this Roasted Strawberry Cheesecake which is liberally flecked and perfumed with orange zest.
While I did not make my cheesecake in time to post ahead of the holiday, you can (and should) make this delicious, creamy, berry intense cheesecake anytime. And there is always next year to celebrate the holiday! So keep this Roasted Strawberry Cheesecake at the ready!
In 1973/1974 I lived and worked on Kibbutz Kissufim in the Negev. Yep, that’s me in the photos below. I was in charge of the calves.
When it came time to celebrate the Festival of Shavuot, everyone on the kibbutz went out to the field where children with flower wreaths on their heads, danced among the rows of golden wheat ready to be harvested. It really brought home this holiday to me in a way that was impossible to see living in a city.
Growing up in New York, wonderful cheesecakes were ubiquitous. My mother made a fabulous mocha cheesecake. But the problem with most of these is that they generally are geared to feeding at least 12 people! And while I LOVE a good cheesecake, it is just for me and my husband these days. So this recipe uses a 6-inch springform pan and makes 6 generous portions – enough for us or a small group of family or friends to enjoy without more left-overs than we want.
The recipe may seem long, but it is actually quite simple to make. And as for the Roasted Strawberry topping, I make a big batch of this ahead of time and store the unused portion in my fridge for weeks. It will turn any simple cake or ice cream into a special dessert. It can even be spread on toast in place of jam.
A note about the photos this time. They simply don’t do justice to the finished cheesecake. I was rushing, doing several other things at once, and as a consequence made a couple of esthetic mistakes. The taste was fabulous but my cake looked a little raggedy. If you follow the instructions, yours should turn out beautifully.
For other cheesecake options, I have created three additional variations on this recipe and they are all wonderful. You can’t go wrong with any one of these. And as an extra bonus, these cheesecakes do not require any eggs! Given the price of eggs these days, that’s a plus.
Yield: About 6 servings
Crust (This is the amount in the original recipe which makes a delicious but fairly thick crust)
200 g of crushed biscuits (Digestive, Oreos, Biscoff or graham crackers)
5 Tablespoons melted butter (salted or unsalted) (You might need 1 Tablespoon more if using a plain biscuit rather than an Oreo cookie.)
8 oz. (225 g) full-fat cream cheese in a block, softened
1/2 cup (120 g) heavy or double cream
1/4 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup (10g) freeze-dried strawberries, pulverized into a powder
Zest of one large orange
14 oz. can (396 g) of Sweetened Condensed Milk
NOTE: If you want to serve the cake completely off of the springform pan, lightly oil the bottom of the pan and line it with parchment paper. Once the cake has cooled and you break the suction with the bottom of the springform, the cake should release easily. This time, I was rushing and chose to serve it directly on the bottom section of the pan.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F or 160 C.
Blitz the biscuits in a food processor or with a rolling pin until you have fine crumbs. Pour the melted butter over the crumbs and mix through so that all of the crumbs are moistened. If you use a plain biscuit, the crumbs should resemble wet sand. If you are using Oreos, which have a cream filling, the mixture will be wetter than if you use a plain biscuit. I liked that it made for a lighter, less compacted base, but a traditional Graham Cracker or Digestive Biscuit are also great. Press the mixture into the bottom and slightly up the sides of the 6-inch springform pan. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.
Using a hand beater or the food processor beat the cream cheese and salt until light and fluffy.
In a smallish bowl or measuring glass, whisk the heavy cream and corn starch until smooth. Add this to the cream cheese. Add the vanilla, sweetened condensed milk, freeze-dried strawberry powder and citrus zest. Blitz until the batter is completely smooth and a lovely pale shade of pink. Pour the batter into the pan over the crumb base.
Wrap the bottom of the pan in two layers of aluminum foil to prevent any leakage. Set the pan in a baking dish large enough to hold it. I used a 9-inch square pan. Carefully add hot tap water to the pan until it comes up about half-way up the sides of the springform mold.
Place in the oven and bake for about 1 hour or until the center just slightly jiggles. Turn off the oven and leave the door ajar with the cheesecake inside. Keep the pan in there until your oven fan turns off or the cheesecake cools down. This prevents the cheesecake from cracking and will finish off the baking. If it does crack, don’t worry. The topping will cover it and it will taste just as great!
Completely cool the cheesecake on a wire rack. Then add the cooled slow-roasted strawberry mixture to the top of the cheesecake while still in the mold. Allow the cake to be refrigerated for at least 4 to 6 hours. but longer is even better if you have the time.
When you are ready to serve, run a thin sharp knife around the inner rim of the mold. Carefully unlock the springform and remove the ring. I leave the cake on the bottom and place the whole thing on a serving platter. Now enjoy!
Michelle Polzine’s Slow-Roasted Strawberries
Yield: About 1.5 cups (450 gr.)
2 pounds (900 gr.) of fresh, ripe strawberries (I double the recipe because it is THAT good)
1/2 cup (100 gr.) of granulated sugar (You can add 2 additional Tablespoons if the strawberries are not especially sweet on their own.)
- Heat the oven to 250 degrees F. Rinse and hull the berries. Leave any tiny ones whole and either quarter or halve the rest so the pieces are all about the same size.
- In a non-reactive pan (I used a stoneware baking dish) that will hold all of the berries closely packed in a single layer, gently toss the strawberries with the sugar.
- Roast slowly in the oven, uncovered for 3 to 6 hours, gently moving them around occasionally with a wide spatula. Mine took 5 hours. They are done when the juices have reduced to a syrup but not darkened into caramel and the berries are jammy. They can be stored in the fridge in an airtight jar or container for at least two weeks.