I wish I could say this post was churned out by way of some magnificent inspiration, by the exciting melding of an idea with eager taste buds, or by the quick glance at a gorgeous recipe in a pretentious food publication… But, alas, Costco is the reason I made it.
Although our home only has two human mouths to feed, we shop at the Co like a bonafide suburban family. At least twice a month we’re in there, stocking our cart full of 5-pound bags of broccoli, cartons of 3 dozen eggs, and case upon case of Topo Chico. Even the clothes are an attraction – the boy only enjoys searching for his classic style of pants and cotton v-necks there.
We buy so much because we can justify it with how much we cook. We don’t go out to eat all that much anymore. Together, we made a bit of a resolution to cook at home as much as possible for several reasons: (1) It saves money; (2) It’s healthier; (3) It forces us to break out of our monotony shell and try new recipes with whatever hodge podge of ingredients are lurking in the kitchen.
And this is one of those hodge podge creations. Although it is quite prettier than the aforementioned name would imply. With a 3-pound block of cream cheese in the refrigerator, a fresh box of strawberries in the crisper, and a plastic tub the size of a keg filled with pretzels in the pantry, this strawberry cheesecake with pretzel crust seemed like the natural next step.
The name might make you think of the dessert “salads” with similar ingredients: pretzel base covered in cream cheese and cool whip, topped with syrupy strawberry jam, cut into squares. This is not that.
Here, we have an addictively salty pretzel crust finely ground with melted high-quality butter, gently pressed into an eagerly awaiting springform pan. On top, a classic, dense, creamy cheesecake, magnificent on its own, yet simple enough to let its friends on either side shine through. At the peak of the pyramid, a heaping of bright, beautiful strawberries, sliced thinly and layered generously, appeasing both the aesthetic and flavor needs of the dessert.
It’s a remarkably simple dessert with standard ingredients, yet I myself was surprised at just how pretty and flavorful it turned out. Without much effort, what I thought was going to be a somewhat standard sweet treat turned into something beautifully impressive.
And it’s all thanks to Costco.
Strawberry Cheesecake with Pretzel Crust
- 2 cups ground pretzels
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) melted butter
- 4 8 oz packages cream cheese softened to room temperature
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 3 eggs
- 1 pint strawberries leaves removed and thinly sliced
- Place the pretzels into a food processor and pulse until very fine, like coarse sand. Combine the ground pretzels with the melted butter and press in the inside of a 9″ springform pan. Press all over the bottom and up to 1″ up the sides of the pan. Use a measuring cup to flatten the crust and really pack it tightly.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the sugar and continue to beat for another minute. With the mixer running on low, add the lemon zest, flour, and vanilla. Then add the eggs one at a time, waiting until each has incorporated into the mixture to add the next. The mixture should be smooth and custard-like.
- Pour the cheesecake batter into the prepared springform pan. Bake in an oven heated at 325 degrees Fahrenheit on the middle rack for about 55 minutes, or until the edges are slightly golden and the center wobbles only a bit. Remove and let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until cool (overnight is great).
- Layer the sliced strawberries in a circular fashion like the photographs, or however you would like. Cover tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate if you’re not using the whole cake after the initial decoration. If the strawberries have plastic wrap on top of them, they’ll retain their moisture and form well for a day or two in the refrigerator.
- Cheesecakes are notorious for cracking, so don’t be disheartened if yours develops one as well. Simply use the sliced strawberries to cover any imperfections.