For those of you who know me, you know I don’t bake. It’s stressful. It’s unforgiving. And it seems to take forever. I don’t like it. I do it maybe twice a year. But for you, my dear readers, for you, I baked this weekend.
Let me paint you a picture real quick.
It’s Sunday morning and last night I was up far too late having far too many beers and scotches at an annual event my roommates invited me to called, “all-day-barbecue.” Everything the name implies, you can bet happened. Great food, interesting people, fun conversations, and lots and lots of boozing. Needless to say, I’m not looking or feeling my best.
But I wrote a cheesecake recipe this week and dammit, it’s MY recipe. I went to four different grocery stores for all the ingredients and so I’m going to bake this thing. So here I am, a handful of Excedrin and a serious cup of black coffee later, setting up in my makeshift outdoor kitchen to work on my cheesecake.
Roasted Strawberry and Shiro Cheesecake
16 graham crackers, finely crushed
1 stick of salted butter, melted
1 ½ pounds strawberries, roasted
¼ cup honey; plus 2 tbsp. for roasting
3/4 cup sugar
12 oz. ricotta, room temp
16 oz. cream cheese, room temp
1 ½ tbsp. Shiro miso (you can find it at your local Asian market)
½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped out
3 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
1. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper, cut your strawberries in half and place them, cut-side-down, on the sheet. Brush them with honey and bake at about 350°F for 45 minutes, or until they’ve become soft, dark, and juicy.
2. Meanwhile, make your crust. Wrap a 9-inch springform pan in two layers of foil, then combine the gram cracker crumbs and melted butter in a bowl. Stir until well combined, then press into the bottom of your pan. Bake at 350°F for 10 minutes, then remove from oven and let cool. Once your strawberries have finished roasting, decrease oven temperature to 300 degrees.
Now, at this point, I’ve been doing most of my prep outside and I’ve hit my head on the low doorframe for our makeshift outdoor kitchen more times than I can count. It’s hot. I’m sweating. My roommates’ cat keeps trying to climb up on my prep table, ants are trying to steal my honey, and my hands are shaking from trying to drown out my hangover with caffeine. It’s almost noon, so at this point, I crack open a cold one. And if you’re anything like me, and baking simply is not enjoyable and stresses you out, you should crack open a cold one, too. Treat yourself.
3. Now, to make your strawberry puree, once the strawberries are cool enough to handle, remove the stems and add them to a blender with ¼ cup of honey. Blend until smooth and set aside.
4. To make the cheesecake, using an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium-low speed, beat ricotta, cream cheese, miso, and vanilla on medium-low speed, scraping down sides of bowl halfway through, until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Next, add the sugar and mix until smooth. On low speed, add eggs ⅓ at a time until fully mixed. Turn off the mixer and fold in the strawberry purée to get a nice, marbled look, and pour the batter into your graham cracker crust.
At this point, it’s sort of up to fate. You need to put to use every little trick and tip you’ve ever heard that keeps a cheesecake from cracking. Use a water bath. Cast a voodoo spell. Call your mom and ask how she always did it. Do whatever you have to do, but bake your cheesecake at 300°F for 75 minutes. Then, turn your oven off and walk away. Seriously. Let it finish baking in there with the residual heat.
So go to the pool. Open another beer. Watch some TV. Do laundry. Just don’t open that oven door for at least an hour, if not two or three. Even after this, let your cheesecake stand on the counter for a few hours before you unmold the ring and store it in the fridge. Seriously.
If you’ve been smiled upon by the cheesecake gods, these steps will have yielded a crackless, pristine, and delicious cheesecake. Garnish with honey and more strawberries, and go show someone you love them.
Smile, it’s summer, and you just made a cheesecake.