Be it plain, or swirled, topped or naked, Cheesecake is the number one dessert in my books. It is silky and creamy and rich. I love it in all of its cheesecake-y glory.
But did you know that cheesecake has a history. A very long one indeed. Marcus Porcius Cato of 234 to 149 B.C wrote a treatise on agriculture depicting the first known (written) recipe for cheesecake. It was called Libum, and was a cheesecake offered as tribute in temples. Libum was also fed to athletes at the first recorded olympic games in 776 B.C.
Much much later, in 1872 a cheese maker by the name of William Lawrence in New York, invented a creamy, spreadable cheese. It was packaged and sold as Philidelphia Cream Cheese, which was later purchased by Kraft. Cream cheese is now the cheese of choice when making cheesecake.
Preheat your grill to medium, 350°. If you have 3 burners, turn on the outside two, leaving the one in the middle off. If two burners, turn on one only.
Leave your cream cheese out to get to room–ish temperature.
Crush the wafers until they are a fine crumb. Add the butter mixture to the crunbs a little at a time, using a fork to combine them until all of the crumbs are wet. Keep in mind that the drier the mixture, the less likely it is to stay together when served. If it is too wet, the crust may not bake properly.
Spray your springform pan well with nonstick spray, then press the crumb mixture into the bottom of a springform pan, and up the sides as far as you can go. Use a metal measuring cup with a flat bottom or your hands work too. The crumb mixture should evenly cover the bottom with no gaps, and should stick to the sides of the pan. Set aside.
Wash and hull the berries. Toss most of them in a saucepan with the sugar and lemon juice. Reserve a few berries for garnish later.
Over medium heat cook the berries, sugar and juice. Bring the mixture to a simmer and allow it to reduce to a thick sauce. Use a fork to crush and break up the berries as they cook. If you think the mixture is not thick enough, add more sugar, one tbsp. at a time. This can take anywhere between 10 and 30 minutes.
Remove from heat when you are satisfied and allow to cool to at least room temperature before adding it to your cheesecake recipe.
Cut up the cream cheese into smaller cubes and put them into a large bowl with the sugar, flour and vanilla. Blend with a hand mixer until well combined.
Add the eggs and sour cream, beating at low speed until smooth.
This is where you have a choice. You can either add the strawberries to the cheesecake batter now, or after you pour it into the cake pan. It all depends on the amount of swirl you wish to have. You can swirl the batter and berries together, or you can blend them completely and have a pink-berry-cheesecake. Or you can go somewhere in between. OR you can pour the plain batter into the cake pan, then pour the berries over top in a swirling pattern and carefully fold the berries into the batter.
Pour the filling into your crust lined pan. Cover top with tin foil. This will keep out smoke from your previous meals if you were grilling prior to baking the cheesecake. However you can add a nice smokiness by using the charcoal tray and some cherry wood chips. Just leave a little room or gap in your tin foil.
Bake at 350° for approximately 45 minutes. You can test the doneness of your cheesecake by carefully jiggling it. If the center‐inch still moves like jello, then it is done.
Cool in the pan for about 15 minutes, then remove the sides of the pan and cool another 15 minutes. Chill for at least an hour, this will further solidify your berry sauce if it has not already set. Do not put it in the freezer.
This cheesecake is fantastic. You can use cherries instead of strawberries if you like, but I prefer strawberry with my cheesecake. Awe inspiring when shared, but great to keep all to yourself too. Enjoy.