This past week, I saw my first strawberry stand open for business. Of course I had to stop and get a few baskets — some to eat and the rest to create with. From the taste of this first batch of berries, I do believe we are in for a treat this year. These strawberries were sweet, juicy and ripe, which made them perfect for homemade parfaits using vanilla yogurt and Udi’s gluten free granola. I also ate plenty of them on their own, but the best way to eat them is on top of a yummy gluten free cheesecake.
May presents a variety of opportunities for celebrations and get-togethers, and what better way to top off a graduation dinner or a Memorial Day picnic than with a slice of vanilla bean cheesecake topped with chocolate and fresh strawberries. Traditionally, cheesecake crusts are made using crushed graham crackers, for which a comparable gluten free substitute is difficult to find. This recipe calls for brown rice cereal and pecans or almonds, which are ground up in a food processor to make a coarse meal. Once mixed with brown sugar, butter and vanilla, this crust’s taste and texture is even better than the traditional graham cracker variety. It also packs a better nutritional punch as it is made using fiber rich whole grain brown rice, as well as nuts which add healthy fats and protein.
The filling portion of this recipe is just as fantastic as the crust. I modified the original recipe in order to lower the fat content of this cake, and although I use reduced fat sour cream and cream cheese, the final product is incredibly delicious and rich. Once the cake is baked, I let it cool before drizzling melted chocolate over the top and covering it with fresh strawberry slices.
Gluten free crust
3 cups crisp brown rice cereal (I like Barbara’s – found in the natural foods section at Raley’s stores)
1 cup unsalted pecans or almonds
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Grind cereal in a food processor until fine crumbs form and transfer to a medium bowl. Process the nuts in the food processor until they begin to stick to the sides, then add to cereal. Add brown sugar to crumbs and blend well. Mix in melted butter and vanilla. Press crust into bottom and up the sides of a spring form pan.
16-ounce reduced fat cream cheese, softened
1 cup light sour cream
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons softened butter
2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoon cornstarch
1 vanilla bean, split and seeded
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix cream cheese, sour cream and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until sugar dissolves. Add butter, vanilla, cornstarch and vanilla bean seeds to mixture. Beat for two minutes or until smooth. Pour filling over crust and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until edges brown.
Once the cake is out of the oven, let it cool to room temperature. Melt 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips in the microwave and drizzle over the cheesecake. Slice up as many fresh strawberries as you want to top the cake, and if you wish, drizzle more chocolate over the berries. Be sure to let the cake chill in the refrigerator for at least two hours prior to serving. I made this cake for a family birthday party, and used strawberries for decoration as well as flavor. Strawberries are easily sliced and trimmed into different shapes and designs, so grab your cutting board and get creative!
Katherine Neeley was raised in Galt and attended Lodi schools. She is a degreed nutritionist specializing in gluten free diets. She is also the preschool program director at Impact Sports Center in Lodi. She is engaged to Josh Terra and enjoys nutrition, fitness, baking and cake decorating.