Strawberry Cheesecake in Macaroon Crust

Strawberry Cheesecake in Macaroon Crust

3 pints strawberries, hulled, halved
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Bring all ingredients to boil in heavy large saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until mixture has thick syrup consistency, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour. Cool. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

1/4 cup packed dried apricots (about 1 1/2 ounces)
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg whites
2 1/4 cups shredded unsweetened coconut, toasted, (about 5 ounces)

Bring apricots and water to boil in heavy small saucepan. Cover, remove from heat and let stand until fruit is soft, about 30 minutes. Drain apricots and pat dry. Place in processor, add sugar and egg whites, process until mixture has thick fluffy consistency, and apricots are minced, scraping down sides of work bowl occasionally. Add 1/2 cup coconut and process until minced. Transfer mixture to medium bowl, stir in remaining coconut. Freeze until firm, about 20 minutes.

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Wrap heavy-duty foil around outside of 9-inch springform pan with 2 3/4-inch sides. Spoon coconut mixture into prepared pan. Wrap plastic wrap around fingertips and press mixture evenly over bottom and 2 inches up sides of pan to form crust. Bake until light brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven; maintain oven temperature.

1 1/2 pounds cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon dark rum
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 1/2 pint baskets strawberries, hulled, halved
lengthwise, stems intact fresh mint sprigs, optional

Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese, sugar and salt in large bowl until smooth. Add sour cream, rum, lemon juice and vanilla extract; beat until well blended. Add eggs and beat just until blended. Transfer to crust.

Bake cheesecake until brown, puffed and firm in center, about 1 hour. Cool cake in pan on rack 10 minutes. Cut around pan sides to loosen crust. Cool. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

To serve, cut around pan sides to loosen cake. Release pan sides. Arrange berry halves and mint leaves over top of cake. Serve with strawberry sauce.

Makes 10 to 12 servings.

NOTE: Unsweetened coconut is available in natural foods stores and some supermarkets.

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