Before you make this rich and creamy cheesecake, go on a shopping trip to the farmers’ market. Ask the farmers if you can sample their strawberries so you can buy the best-tasting ones. Note that the cheesecake must be chilled overnight before serving.
For the crust:
- 9 whole graham crackers
- 8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
- 3 Tbs. sugar
For the filling:
- 4 packages cream cheese, each 8 oz., at room temperature
- 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1 Tbs. vanilla extract
- 3 eggs
For the topping:
- 4 cups strawberries, hulled and cut in half lengthwise
To make the crust, put the graham crackers into a sealable plastic bag. Press out all the air and seal the bag. Using a rolling pin, gently but firmly crush the crackers to make tiny crumbs. You should have 1 1/2 cups crumbs.
Put the butter in a small saucepan and melt over medium-low heat. Using a pot holder, move the pan to a heatproof surface. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the graham cracker crumbs and sugar. Scrape the crumbs into a 9-inch springform pan.
Lay a piece of plastic wrap loosely over the crumbs. Place your hand on the plastic wrap and spread the crumbs evenly over the bottom and 2 inches up the sides of the pan. Press down firmly to make a solid, even layer. Throw away the plastic wrap when you are finished. Refrigerate the crust while you make the filling.
To make the filling, preheat an oven to 300°F.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, flour and salt on medium speed until fluffy and smooth, about 3 minutes. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
Add the sugar, sour cream and vanilla and beat on medium-high speed until smooth. Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well on medium-high speed after each one is added.
Remove the crust from the refrigerator and pour the filling into it. Put the pan in the oven and bake for 65 to 70 minutes. To test for doneness, using oven mitts, nudge the pan; the center of the cake should jiggle slightly.
Using oven mitts, remove the pan from the oven, set it on a wire rack and let cool completely. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold (overnight is best).
Loosen the clasp on the pan sides and remove the sides. Slip the metal spatula between the crust and the pan bottom and slide the cake onto a serving plate.
Arrange the strawberry halves on top of the cheesecake. Serve immediately. Serves 16.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Kids Baking, by Abigail Johnson Dodge (Oxmoor House, 2003).