Happy Easter, y’all! I hope everyone had a restful, meaningful (if a tad sweltering) week.
The season for locally-grown strawberries here in the Philippines runs from November to May, so little plastic trays of these beautiful scarlet gems can be found in both supermarkets and in the flat baskets of sidewalk hawkers in many parts of the metropolis. Due to the somewhat acidic nature of the soil in the northern provinces where the fruit is grown, Filipino strawberries tend to err on the tart side but make for good eating when sprinkled with a bit of sugar – just enough to balance the acidity.
For the most part, however, local strawberries are cooked and sold as jam or preserves. Recently, though, home cooks and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have been toying with recipes featuring these berries: strawberry biscuit bars, taho (doufu hua – soft, silken tofu in syrup) in strawberry syrup with whole berries, shortcakes, and ice creams. For me, though, the best way to work with these seasonal treats is to use them in various ways for a single dish.
DIY strawberry coulis
I actually got the idea from my mother who said that I needed to use up the cream cheese I had left over from two previous cheesecakes, so why not make another one for Easter? Plus, the biscuit bins in the dining room needed clearing up, so a cheesecake would give me the opportunity to put the leftover Rich Tea fingers and a lonesome pack of fruit creme sandwiches to good use. Add a tray of berries from the supermarket and I was good to go.
This particular cheesecake recipe is definitely for strawberry addicts as it features the fruit in several forms in all of its parts: there are strawberry cream sandwich cookies in the crust, the filling is partly flavored with strawberry extract and features Hacienda Macalauan‘s low-fat strawberry yogurt in lieu of sour cream, and the top is drenched and marbled with a fresh strawberry coulis. If that isn’t strawberry-filled enough for you, I don’t know what is.
The end result was a mildly sweet, pleasantly tart and fruity cheesecake with a scrumptious, come-hither fragrance. The crust was beautifully buttery, malty, and just the right balance of crisp yet crumbly at the same time. The cream cheese filling was deliciously rich and creamy – so much, in fact, that no one would believe it only had half the fat of my regular recipe due to the fact that the yogurt I used was 98% fat free.
Cheesecake for breakfast?! Yes; yes, PLEASE!
Not only does this make a lovely dessert after a good dinner, but it also doubles as a lovely summer’s morning breakfast when paired with an iced cappucino. ;) (Though a cup of English Breakfast, Earl Gray, or even black tea with jasmine would also be lovely.)
Summer Strawberry Cheesecake
- 500 grams cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 cup strawberry yogurt (best if you use one with fruit mixed into the yogurt)
- 1 cup sugar
- 100 grams Rich Tea biscuits
- approximately 30 grams strawberry creme sandwich cookies (I used Dewberry Strawberries and Cream here)
- 1/4 cup butter, melted + more for greasing the tin
- 300 grams fresh strawberries, hulled
- additional 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon strawberry flavoring
- 2 eggs
Preheat oven to 325 degrees / Gas Mark 3. Grease a standard-sized cake tin or pie dish; line the bottom with waxed paper.
In a food processor or pulse-matic blender, crush the biscuits and sandwich cookies into fine crumbs. Mix in the butter until well-incorporated and press the mixture evenly onto the bottom of the prepared tin. Chill in the refrigerator for 15 – 30 minutes.
Clean out your processor or blender and puree the berries together with 1/4 cup sugar; set aside.
Cream together the cream cheese and 1 cup sugar until fluffy. Add the vanilla and strawberry flavoring; mix well. Mix in the strawberry yogurt and eggs until smooth and well-incorporated. Pour mixture onto the chilled crust, spreading it evenly. Drizzle over the strawberry puree and run a wooden skewer or butter knife through to give the top a marbled appearance.
Bake for 1 hour. Turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake inside for an additional 30 – 45 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely at room temperature. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or, better yet, overnight.