Besides more daylight hours, spring is also a time when the fare at the table gets lighter (relatively speaking). Spring vegetables like artichokes, spinach, fava beans, and asparagus have recurring roles on many dinner tables. With swimsuit season a mere few months away, many of us are trying to incorporate more vegetables and fruits into our diets. That doesn’t mean the food can’t be tasty or that we must forgo all things sweet.
Spring fruits like pineapples and apricots, add a nice bit of sweetness to any dessert or on their own, but as wonderful as these fruits are, they still stand in the shadow of strawberries. This heart-shaped berry is packed with vitamins, fiber, and has a high level of antioxidants. They don’t contain sodium, are fat and cholesterol-free. According to WebMD, strawberries are a good source of manganese and potassium. They’re also quite versatile. Add them to your favorite yogurt, plain with a little unsweetened whipped cream, or add them to a salad for a pop of color and taste.
Nevertheless, the most popular way to enjoy strawberries is as a dessert. Strawberry shortcake, tarts, pies, and trifles are delicious. Then there’s strawberry cheesecake. I’ve found that like carrot cake, cheesecake tends to be a dessert people either love or loathe, with very little middle-ground, that is until you add strawberries.
There is something about a strawberry cheesecake that seems to defy convention. Usually made with cream cheese or even mascarpone cheese, it has a silky, fluffy, cloud-like texture. You barely chew it, and if you are like me, I can justify calories I don’t chew. How else can I order a caramel macchiato and still call it just coffee.
Although I don’t need an excuse to make a strawberry cheesecake, I made one in time for Easter, but this is a recipe you can use all summer, it’s a no-bake and doesn’t require much hands-on time making it. I love to be sure everyone who would like to make this can. So, there are adaptations in the recipes for different dietary needs, including gluten-free, low-sugar, and no sugar versions.
1 Graham cracker ready-made pie shell (Oreo ready-made pie shell, Gluten-free graham cracker ready-made pie shell
1 lb strawberries* cored and sliced
¼ cup white sugar (Swerve sweetener, Splenda granulated, coconut, raw cane, or turbinado sugar, pulsed finely)
1 package gelatin* (2 ½ teaspoons agar-agar powder)
1 ¼ cups whipping cream (full-fat coconut milk)
24 oz cream cheese* full-fat, brick-style (for lighter cheesecake, you can use 2 ½ packages of light cream cheese and ½ package or 4 ounces of full-fat cream cheese) (non-dairy 2 ½ packages of Violife Cream Cheese, or Miyoko’s vegan cream cheese plus 4 ounces of full-fat coconut cream, you will need the vegan cream cheese to be softened. Once the coconut cream has separated from the full-fat coconut milk, beat it into the vegan cream cheese until light)
¾ cup powdered sugar (organic confectioner’s sugar or Swerve confectioner’s sugar substitute)
To Serve (Optional)
Puree the strawberries in a food processor or blender.
Push the puree through a sieve to remove the seeds. (Optional, but recommended).
Add the puree to a medium saucepan with the white sugar and bring to a gentle boil while stirring. You will need to continue stirring. It will begin to thicken and it will reduce to about ½ of the original volume (about ¾ cup when it’s finished boiling).
Sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the boiling strawberry mixture. Remove from the heat and give the mixture a stir to ensure it’s dissolved. If you are using agar-agar powder, mix the powder into ¼ cup of water. Let it stand for ten minutes. When the strawberry mixture begins to boil, add the agar-agar to the mixture, stir well and remove from the heat. Stir until agar-agar is dissolved and let cool to about room temperature, don’t put it in the fridge.
In a large bowl beat the whipping cream until stiff peaks form.
In a separate bowl beat together the cream cheese and powdered sugar until softened.
Carefully, beat in the cooled strawberry mixture into the cream cheese a little at a time. You can do this through a sieve as well to make the strawberry mixture is smooth. Ensure it is fully cooled first.
Gently fold in the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture until it’s even.
Spoon the mixture on top of the crust, smooth the top, and place in the fridge to set for 6 hours.
When ready to serve, remove the cheesecake from the fridge.
Optionally, decorate the cheesecake with whipped cream and strawberries.
Slice with a very thin, sharp knife ensuring to cut all the way through the crust.
Frozen berries work too. You’ll need approximately 4 cups sliced strawberries.
One envelope of gelatin is about 2 ¼ teaspoons. It should be enough to set 2 cups (500 mL) of liquid.
Cream cheese should be softened to room temperature before getting started.
Store leftovers covered in the fridge for up to 3 days.