My search for a new and interesting way to use strawberry and rhubarb led me to make this cheesecake. I half-heartedly looked for a strawberry-rhubarb cheesecake recipe, but didn't really see much out there, however, reading a few of the blogs about cheesecakes made me realize that what I wanted was actually pretty easy to create.
I used the basic cheesecake recipe from the Dorie Greenspan book. While the crust was hanging out in the freezer, I chopped up 1 cup of rhubarb and a cup and a half of strawberries, then cooked them with 4 tablespoons of sugar and 2 teaspoons of cornstarch -- basically the same technique I used for the Strawberry Rhubarb Oat Bars I made earlier this week. After those cooked down and thickened some (maybe 10 minutes on medium heat) I pulled them off the heat and put the fruit in a strainer sitting over a bowl since I didn't want excess liquid to make my crust soggy.
Next I pulled the crust from the freezer and baked it for 10 minutes while I started assembling the filling. After the filling was mixed, everything was ready to go, so I spread the fruit in a thin layer (more on that in a minute) on the crust, poured the filling over top of it, put the whole thing into a water bath and baked it for an hour and a half. I also followed the instructions to leave it in the oven for another hour after it was finished, and to put it in the fridge overnight before cutting. The cheesecake was beautiful, and worked exactly like I hoped it would.
The only problem I had was that I didn't have enough fruit on the bottom. Next time I do this I will double the fruit, although I might try blackberries or blueberries next time, just so I'm not repeating the exact some flavor combination -- although Chris and I are considering ways to make it more interesting too -- White Chocolate Cheesecake Filling over Raspberries, Coconut Cheesecake Filling over Lime Curd, or maybe Maple Cheesecake Filling over Apples... just a few things to consider.
I also screwed up a little because I threw out the syrup that dripped off of the strawberries and rhubarb -- I have no idea what I was thinking. In retrospect I could have swirled that through the cheesecake to bump up the fruit flavor, or I could have served it as a sauce on the side -- either way would have been very good. *shrug* live and learn.
The good news is that like most Dorie recipes, the basic cheesecake recipe is very, very good all on its own, so while you may have wanted a bit more fruit while you were eating it, in the end you don't really mind because the recipe by itself is so damn good.
For the crust:
1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
For the cheesecake:
2 pounds (four 8-ounce boxes) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sour cream or heavy cream, or a combination of the two
3 cups fresh fruit (strawberries, rhubarb, blueberries, blackberries, whatever)
1/4 cup sugar -- or to taste
2 tsps corn starch
To make the crust:
1. Butter a 9-inch springform pan—choose one that has sides that are 2 3/4 inches high (if the sides are lower, you will have cheesecake batter leftover)—and wrap the bottom of the pan in a double layer of aluminum foil; put the pan on a baking sheet.
2. Stir the crumbs, sugar and salt together in a medium bowl. Pour over the melted butter and stir until all of the dry ingredients are uniformly moist. (I do this with my fingers.) Turn the ingredients into the buttered springform pan and use your fingers to pat an even layer of crumbs along the bottom of the pan and about halfway up the sides. Don't worry if the sides are not perfectly even or if the crumbs reach above or below the midway mark on the sides—this doesn't have to be a precision job. Put the pan in the freezer while you preheat the oven.
3. Center a rack in the oven, preheat the oven to 350°F and place the springform on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Set the crust aside to cool on a rack while you make the cheesecake.
4. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.
To make the fruit filling:
Put the fruit, sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally until the fruit starts to break down and the sauce thickens, 10-15 minutes.
Set a strainer over a bowl and pour the fruit mixture into the strainer. Leave it to strain while you make the cheesecake filling.To make the cheesecake:
1. Put a kettle of water on to boil.
2. Working in a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese at medium speed until it is soft and lives up to the creamy part of its name, about 4 minutes. With the mixer running, add the sugar and salt and continue to beat another 4 minutes or so, until the cream cheese is light. Beat in the vanilla. Add the eggs one by one, beating for a full minute after each addition—you want a well-aerated batter. Reduce the mixer speed to low and stir in the sour cream and/or heavy cream.
3. Put the foil-wrapped springform pan in the roaster pan.
4. Spread the fruit mixture on the bottom of the crust.
5. Give the batter a few stirs with a rubber spatula, just to make sure that nothing has been left unmixed at the bottom of the bowl, and scrape the batter into the springform pan. The batter will reach the brim of the pan. (If you have a pan with lower sides and have leftover batter, you can bake the batter in a buttered ramekin or small soufflé mold.) Put the roasting pan in the oven and pour enough boiling water into the roaster to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.
6. Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 30 minutes, at which point the top will be browned (and perhaps cracked) and may have risen just a little above the rim of the pan. Turn off the oven's heat and prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon. Allow the cheesecake to luxuriate in its water bath for another hour.
7. After 1 hour, carefully pull the setup out of the oven, lift the springform pan out of the roaster—be careful, there may be some hot water in the aluminum foil—remove the foil. Let the cheesecake come to room temperature on a cooling rack.
8. When the cake is cool, cover the top lightly and chill the cake for at least 4 hours, although overnight would be better.
Serving: Remove the sides of the springform pan—I use a hairdryer to do this (use the dryer to warm the sides of the pan and ever so slightly melt the edges of the cake)—and set the cake, still on the pan's base, on a serving platter. The easiest way to cut cheesecake is to use a long, thin knife that has been run under hot water and lightly wiped. Keep warming the knife as you cut slices of the cake.
Storing: Wrapped well, the cake will keep for up to 1 week in the refrigerator or for up to 2 months in the freezer. It's best to defrost the still-wrapped cheesecake overnight in the refrigerator.