If you want to squeeze in just one more strawberry dessert before the summer ends, this is the one to make! Or if you want to save a bit of summer for when the winter blues hit, then this one will be your creamy, sweet sunshine as cheesecakes freeze and defrost easily without harm to taste or texture. Even the strawberry basil sauce will freeze perfectly.
Pretty much everything I make starts with an inspiration, a desire, a dream (yes, I dream about food, don’t you?) or, as in this case, someone dropping by with 2 quarts of strawberries. I’ve already made strawberry biscotti and starting thinking about all of you canners out there, but I’m just not there yet, except for small batches that I can use up during the week.
So with that thought in mind and a big basil plant outside my front door, making a strawberry basil sauce to top a fresh strawberry cheesecake seemed like a good idea! Thinking of a way to incorporate basil into the cheesecake without flecks of green running through it, I decided to add some fresh basil into the graham cracker crust. Honestly, the basil swirling away in the food processor released the most amazing fragrance.
This cheesecake had a very light, creamy texture, perfect for the brunch I served it at. I used 24 oz of cream cheese, while some of the heavier cheesecakes I’ve made used 2 lbs of cream cheese. The basil adds a subtle flavor complimenting the sweet strawberries and refreshing taste from the lime juice.
To freeze a cheesecake, it is best done without a topping. After the cheesecake is completely cooled, removed the sides, leaving the bottom of the pan. Freeze the cheesecake for about an hour. Take it out of the freezer and remove the bottom of the cheesecake pan. Wrap the cheesecake first in plastic wrap and then tightly in foil. If you’re like me that makes several ahead of time, remember to label the cheesecake! Cheesecakes can be frozen up to 2 months (I’ve had them frozen up to 3 without a problem). Sliced cheesecake can be frozen and removed for individual servings. To defrost, remove the wrapping, place on a cake plate and allow to thaw in the refrigerate about 10 hours.
Strawberry Basil Cheesecake
For the crust:
1 1/2 sleeves of graham crackers
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup lightly packed fresh basil
1/4 cup butter, melted
For the filling:
24 ounces cream cheese, room temperature (I use full fat or will mix it up between low fat and full, never fat free!)
3/4 cup sugar
5 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup Bacardi Razz raspberry rum or white
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 cup fresh strawberries, sliced
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place a pan of water on the lower rack (this will produce a moist environment to prevent cracking).
For the crust: In a food processor, combine the graham crackers, sugar and basil. Process into a fine crumb. Add in the melted butter until combined. Press the crumb mixture into the bottom and sides of a 9 inch springform pan. Set aside.
For the filling: In a large stand up mixer, combine the cream cheese, sugar and cornstarch. Beat until smooth. Add in the eggs and yolk, one at a time, beating well. Beat in the rum and lime juice. Gently stir in the sliced strawberries. Pour the filling into the crust.
Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Lower to 225 degrees and continue to bake for about 1 hour and 10 minutes or until the center is no longer looks wet but will still have a slight jiggly. (Cheesecakes will firm up as it cools.) Remove from the oven to a cooling rack and immediately run a knife around the sides. This will loosen the cake so that as it cools and shrinks it will not crack. Though it is normal for cheesecakes to crack, mine did not and I do believe it’s due to the pan of water on the bottom rack.
Release the sides of the pan and chill uncovered overnight. Serve with strawberry basil sauce, recipe below.
For the strawberry basil sauce: In a medium saucepan, combine 2 cups of hulled strawberries, 3/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice and 2 tablespoons Bacardi Razz raspberry rum. Bring to a boil stirring and gently crushing the strawberries. Continue to cook over medium heat until desired consistency, about 15-20 minutes, stirring often. Turn off the heat and stir in about 2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil. Cool and refrigerate or freeze.