We’re in the absolute heat of summer now, where ripe fruit and fresh, vibrant herbs are at their peak. I had a huge craving for cheesecake the other night, but wanted something that shied away from the cloying richness that it usually has.
I had mounds of basil in the garden, and had just picked up some strawberries from the market, so the two naturally fit together. Basil’s lemony aroma paired perfectly with the lemon infused in the cheesecake, and is an interesting twist to the usual strawberry topping that crowns one of my favorite desserts.
Shall we begin??
I started out by creating my own muffin liners, since I was out of the pre-made ones. All you need is a 6×6 square of parchment (for the extra large muffin tins), a glass, and a little patience.
Use the bottom of the glass to press the parchment into the tin, and then smooth down the folds with your hands. Don’t worry if the parchment won’t stay in the pan, it will get pressed down by the crust in a sec.
So crust is typically made with graham crackers, but I had these amazing cinnamon sugar tea cookies lying around, so I pulsed those in a blender for a few seconds, and then whirled in half a stick of melted butter.
Using the back of a spoon, gently press your crust into your muffin liners and make sure it’s smooth and level.
Now, on to the filling! One of the most important things to making a silky smooth cheesecake is making sure your ingredients are all at room temperature. And yes, I have totally cheated before by microwaving my cream cheese for a few seconds.
Toss in your stand mixer two packages of cream cheese, and beat for a minute. Add your eggs one at a time, and then your sugar.
Next up, your sour cream, lemon zest, and vanilla. Be careful to not overmix! No one likes a tough cheesecake.
Using an ice cream scoop, ladle your creamy batter into your tins and pop in the oven for about 25 minutes. They should still be a little wobbly in the center when you take them out, since they’ll cook upon standing.
Now on to the topping. Get a pound of strawberries and wash and hull to get rid of the stems at the top.
Quarter, and set aside for later.
We had buckets of fresh, green basil in the garden, so to a quarter cup each of sugar and water add in a handful of basil. Over medium-low heat let simmer away until the syrup is headily perfumed by the herb.
Take the juice and zest from a lemon, and stir in. Crank the heat up to medium and let bubble away.
The syrup is done when it looks like this. Super thick and with huge bubbles.
Tip your berries into the syrup and toss around until everything is coated.
Now, take a tablespoon of cornstarch and a tablespoon of water and mix together. Pour into your berries and stir around. We use cornstarch to thicken our strawberry sauce.
Let bubble away until the strawberries are soft and starting to break down, then take off the heat to cool.
Top your cheesecakes with that gorgeous compote, place a little basil leaf on top, and stand back and admire your work.
The result: a cheesecake with almost the texture of a souffle, fluffy but still totally decadent at the same time. Now excuse me, I think this will make the perfect Sunday breakfast……..
Cheesecake recipe from here (makes one 8″ cheesecake or about 12 cupcakes)
- 2 cups graham cracker crumbs (30 squares), I used tea cookies I had lying around
- 1 stick of melted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 sticks of cream cheese, softened
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 pint sour cream
- Zest of a lemon
- Splash of vanilla
1.Preheat oven to 325, and line your muffin tins with parchment or liners
2. Mix your cracker crumbs with your butter and cinnamon and press into pan/muffin tins
2. In a stand mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth and free from and lumps.
3. On low speed, gradually beat in the eggs, one at a time.
4. Beat in your sugar until creamy, and then add sour cream, lemon zest, and vanilla.
5. Scoop your batter into muffin tins and bake for about 25 minutes or until the center is still a little wobbly.
6. Leave out to cool while you make your compote.
Strawberry Compote (makes about 2 cups)
- 1 pound of strawberries, hulled and quartered
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- Zest and juice of a lemon
- Handful of basil leaves
- 1 T of cornstarch, mixed with 1 T of water
1.Place your water, sugar, and basil in a saucepan over medium heat, and allow to simmer until the basil flavor becomes infused in the syrup, about 15 minutes.
2. Take out the leaves, and add the lemon juice and zest. Crank the heat up to medium and allow to bubble away until the syrup thickens.
2. When thick and bubbly, add the berries to the syrup and toss to coat.
3. Drizzle in your cornstarch mixture, and cook until strawberries have softened and the sauce is thick
4. Take off from heat to allow to cool, and top the cupcakes with a spoonful of the compote and a basil leaf.