Tuesday, September 22, 2015

strawberry (and cherry) cheesecake parfaits

Officially the summer months are coming to an end as companies reintroduce pumpkin spiced everything and Halloween d├ęcor to the masses. These transition times usually lend me to a certain shortsighted nostalgia. I think about all of the fun things that I’m going to miss as one season lay rest to a new. As summer ends and fall takes over, a part of me cannot let go of the sun soaked memories and meals that summer brought. If my wimpy frou frou nostalgia shpeal isn’t reason enough for you to try this recipe, let me remind you that you still have a 30 quart Ziploc bag full of strawberries in your freezer that you need to get to before freezer burn does. Let’s celebrate the beginning of autumn with this blast-from-recent past summer treat: Strawberry (and Black Cherry) Cheesecake Parfaits. 


for the Macerated Strawberries (and Cherries)

2 cups of fruit, it could be strawberries, cherries, peaches, anything
3-5 tablespoons of white sugar, depending on how ripe your fruits are

for the Crumbs

1 1/2 cups of flour
3/4 cup of light brown sugar
1/3 cup of white sugar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1 1/2 sticks or 12 tablespoons or 6 oz of cubed chilled unsalted butter

for the Cheesecake Filling

1 cup or 8 oz. of cream cheese
1 cup or 8 oz. of sour cream
2 teaspoons of vanilla
1/3 cup of white sugar
1/2 cup of heavy cream or 1 cup of prepared whipped cream


1. Let’s start with making the macerated strawberries (and black cherries). I’m assuming you have frozen summer fruit in your fridge; if you don’t, just use fresh fruit that you can find at the store. The fruit doesn’t even have to be strawberries (or black cherries). You can choose whatever fruit you desire or want to try in a cheesecake parfait style preparation. In the past I’ve made caramel apple cheesecake parfaits and even orange cinnamon cheesecake parfaits. To make the macerated (just a fancy word for softening fruit in sugar) strawberries (and black cherries), combine the fruits and sugar in a small bowl. You can add lemon juice and other flavorings if you desire. The longer you let them sit, the more liquid is going to draw out. Save those delicious liquids for topping the parfaits, flavoring smoothies. Brook Hurst Stephens has some delicious suggestions for maceration on his site Learn to Preserve. Fruit can macerate for at least 20 minutes and at most a week. As with all things involving time, longer is usually better.

2. Onwards to my favorite part, the crumb topping. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, brown sugar, white sugar, salt, and cinnamon with a whisk to get rid of any lumps. Originally, I was going to make this recipe “no-bake”, but why buy crumbs that take only 20 minutes to make (15 of that time they're baking). Eating healthy doesn’t mean buying expensive healthily marketed meals; eating healthy means eating naturally. How much more natural does food get when it's homemade.

 3. Toss in cold, ice cold, frozen cubed butter, and proceed by working the butter into the flour with your fingertips. The goal is to create a fine sandy mixture that doesn’t clump. Using cold butter doesn’t allow the flour to absorb the butter making the crumbs flaky and crunchy. A side note: this is the reason why we use melted butter for cookies because we want flour to absorb the butter and make the cookies chewy. When you are satisfied with your crumbs, you can either (1) bake them in a 350F oven for 15 minutes or until golden brown, or (2) freeze them for later usage. If you choose the latter route, bake the frozen crumbs for approximately 18 minutes at 350F or until golden brown. 

4. While the crumbs bake, in a medium-sized bowl mix the cream cheese, sour cream, salt, and vanilla extract with a spatula. In a separate bowl, whisk the heavy cream and sugar until doubled in volume and delicious. Be careful not to overbeat the cream or else you’ll have a grainy whipped cream or—even worse—butter (yes, over-whipped cream turns into butter). Once the whipped cream is whipped and the cream cheese mixture creamed, fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese. Fold by dumping the whipped cream into the center of the cream cheese mixture and scraping the bottom of the bowl while coming up and over the sides.

5. Now we have all the components to assemble the parfaits. The patented Chow Creations method is to start with the crumbs, then with the cheesecake filling, and finally the fruit, and repeat. The cheesecake layer is important in separating the fruit juices from the crumbs. You might see in some of the pictures that some of the juices escaped their designated layers and seeped into the crumbs, making the crumbs slightly soggy. Nevertheless, later I learned my mistake and made sure the filling completely sealed each layer.

I hope you guys give this recipe a try. It isn’t nearly as hard you think it is to make. Please, please, please, leave a comment below if you liked this, or share this with your friends if you found this helpful. If you’re down here because there are no more pictures and you want to tell people you achieved your goal of reading one paragraph a day, at least share this with a friend so you aren’t alone. I love you all. Thank you for supporting Chow Creations. And as always,


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