[Yes, yes, I’m a week late, I know. Job hunting has been excruciating, not to mention the massive amount of house cleaning, preparations for a garage sale, and less-than-stellar internet connection.]
Every mother has a favorite dessert – blueberry pie, lemon cake, walnut brownies, strawberry mousse. My mother’s just happens to be cheesecake.
Even though she is a self-professed chocoholic, one bite of chocolate cake will cause her to sit back in her chair, smack her lips, and proclaim, “Too rich!” Usually, she can’t make it through a whole brownie because it overwhelms her.
But all that is put aside when she is given cheesecake.
Since my childhood, I’ve witnessed my mom crushing graham cracker crumbs, beating sugar and cream cheese, carefully scraping the batter into a fancy pan, and bake for hours. The waiting was always agony and I was usually sentenced to tip-toeing around the house in case I accidentally managed to upset the baking cheesecake. Oftentimes I wouldn’t even get to try the finished product because she’d take it to a get-together with her friends or some grown-up party.
Then again, she usually didn’t get to try it, either.
Being away from my mom all year was difficult, so I wanted to make sure I did something extra special for Mother’s Day. What do you get for the mom who already has everything, whose taste in jewelry is far beyond your price range, whose husband groans whenever she receives another sentimental “knick-knack”, and who insists she wants nothing for Mother’s Day except the presence of you and your father?
I’ll spare you from the boring details and enthusiasm received when this was set on the table. All you need to know is that this recipe is delicious. You make the curd, you make the cheesecake, let it cool and refrigerate. It’s important, though, to refrigerate it overnight!
Don’t be intimidated by the curd, either. It’s basically a thick jam. You could even double the curd recipe if you want your cheesecake extra strawberry-y…which is what I’ll do next time. I tweaked the original recipe a little bit, using fewer graham cracker crumbs because the crust ended up being higher than the actual cheesecake and far too crumbly. Fortunately, my family cares more about taste than presentation and the crumbs were generously sprinkled over the slices.
Best when topped with fresh strawberries.
For the strawberry curd
- 1/2 cup sliced strawberries
- 1-2 tsp sugar (to taste)
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 1/4 tsp corn starch
For the cheesecake
- 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
- 1/2 cup butter, melted
- 3 8 oz. packages of Neufchatel, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp almond extract (optional)
- 1/2 cup strawberry curd
- To make the strawberry curd: Combine strawberries and sugar into a blender or food processor; puree until smooth.
- In a small bowl, whick together lemon juice and corn starch; add to strawberry mixture and puree until as smooth as possible.
- Strain the mixture into a small sauce pan; discard the seeds.
- Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture starts to boil. Cook a few more minutes until the mixture thickens.
- Strain again into a heatproof container. Let cool to room temperature.
- To make the cheesecake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan and set aside.
- In a small bowl, mix together graham cracker crumbs and melted butter. Press into the bottom and sides of the greased pan; place on a cookie sheet and set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.
- Beat in lemon juice and extracts. Make sure there are no lumps left in the batter.
- Pour the batter into the pan. Add spoonfuls of the strawberry curd to the top and swirl with a knife. Bake for 60 minutes or until center is mostly set.
- Cool for ten minutes on a wire rack; run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen it. Let cool completely on the wire rack, then refrigerate overnight. Devour.