When you hear the term “strawberry cheesecake”, what comes to mind is a cheesecake topped with a jam-like mixture that is added after the cheesecake has been baked and allowed to cool. Something like the blueberry cheesecake I made a couple of months ago.
It’s great but I’ve been obsessing over this technique called feathering and I’ve long wondered if it can be done to the top of a cheesecake BEFORE baking. Feathering? Yes, it’s something that’s usually done with icing or frosting — like this. I tried to do it once not too long ago using chocolate on cheesecake, the chocolate was not thin enough and I made a mess too ugly to mention nor take a photo of. But I don’t give up easily. Melted chocolate too hard to work with? I thought about fruit jam thinned with just enough water to make it pourable and workable.
And there’s the result. Yes, the same technique can be applied to cheesecakes and thinned fruit jam can be used. The procedure might appear long but once you see the step-by-step version, you’ll realize that there’s really nothing complicated about this recipe. In fact, once you get familiar with the right textures and consistencies in baking a cheesecake, you’ll discover that it’s one of the simplest cakes that an amateur baker can make.
Strawberry feathered cheese tart
For the crust:
- 1/3 cup butter melted
- 1 to 1 and 1/4 cups crushed Graham crackers
For the topping:
- 1/2 cup thick strawberry jam
- 1 tablespoon hot water
- Preheat the oven at 350F.
- Pour the graham cracker crumbs into the tart dish. Pour the melted butter onto the graham crackers. Mix well so that there are no large lumps. You can do this in a bowl then dump the mixture into the baking dish. I do the short cut. Why use another utensil that will need to be washed when the same result can be achieved by mixing the butter and graham cracker crumbs directly in the baking pan?
- Press the mixture into the bottom and sides of the pan making sure that, as much as possible, the thickness is uniform all over. Then, while you prepare the filling, place the pan in the freezer to firm up the crust.
- I was in such a hurry to freeze my crust that I forgot to take a photo of how the crust looked after all the pressing.
- Place the SOFTENED cream cheese in a mixing bowl. With a wire whisk (or an electric mixer), whip the cream cheese until light in texture and no lumps are perceptible.
- Add the sugar and whip some more. You want the mixture to have a consistent texture.
- Start adding the eggs. ONE AT A TIME. Add the first egg then mix. Don’t add the next egg until the mixture is smooth. If you still see visible traces of egg white or yolk, mix some more until everything is smooth and evenly colored. Then, add the next egg, mix, add another egg and mix, and so on.
- By the time the last egg has been added and mixed in, the mixture will be pale yellow and of pourable consistency.
- Pour in the cream. Mix gently until well incorporated. The mixture will look a bit paler after the addition of the cream.
- Pour the filling into the crust-lined pan. It’s okay to fill the pan almost to the brim. The filling won’t rise significantly during baking and, if it does, it’ll be firm by that time so there’s little chance that the filling will run down the sides of the pan.
- Add a tablespoonful of hot water to the jam, stir well then pour into the blender or food processor. Process until smooth and NO LUMPS remain.
- Pour the syrup in a spiral over the filling. Use a container with a spout or a pastry bag for better control.
- Using a thin knife, run the tip vertically across the middle of the tart. Turn the pan a few degrees (clockwise or counter-clockwise) then run the tip of the knife again in the OPPOSITE direction. Do this several times, until the entire surface has been feathered, running the tip of the knife in alternate directions.
- IMPORTANT NOTE: Don’t plow through the crust. You’re just feathering the top and not creating a marbled effect.
- Bake the tart in a preheated 350F oven for 40 to 50 minutes or until the edges are firm but the center still jiggly. No, I didn’t use a water bath.
- As it tart comes out of the oven, the edges will be raised. They will deflate as the tart cools and everything will level off uniformly. If you will notice, the strawberry covered portions are a bit indented creating an interesting texture all over.
- Now comes the hard part. The tart has to be cooled to room temperature then chilled for several hours before slicing and serving. You really have too to allow the tart, or cake — if that’s what you prefer to call it — to achieve the perfect rich creaminess that is so desirable in cream cheesed based pastries. So, cool the tart then chill. Get busy so you’re not tempted to slice it before it’s ready.
UPDATE @ 8.47 p.m.
There — we’ve sliced the tart and had it for dessert. It was delicious!