How in the world could something that appears so ugly on the outside contain pure outrageous deliciousness inside?
The aroma alone, when you split open the homely, wrinkled vanilla bean is extremely intoxicating. Vanilla extract is delightful but vanilla bean takes just about any recipe up to a whole new level - like this wonderful cheesecake that I've been making for over twenty five years. It's always been delicious, but with the addition of the tiny flecks of real vanilla bean ................ let's just say, it's .................. absolutely heavenly!
There's a funny story that goes along with this cheesecake; it happened many years ago ......... My husband and I were keeping our neighbor, Dulce's, three girls while she and her husband went out on a date. They were delightful, sweet children and we never mind having them at our house. When she dropped the girls off for the night, she also delivered a beautiful homemade cheesecake as a token of her gratitude. While this was totally unnecessary, we didn't refuse this kind gift :)! I didn't tell her but up until this point, I hadn't been a huge cheesecake fan. I always thought it was a bit too heavy and dense, so after the children were settled, I cut small slices for both my husband and myself.
The first bite of that amazing cheesecake was when my so-so attitude towards cheesecake came to a sudden halt! This cheese cake was not only delicious, it was a light, (sorry, not in calories), smooth and.............. well, let's just say it was a bit embarrassing when my friend returned for her children and most of the cheesecake had disappeared. We just kept going back for one little tiny sliver after another after another ........... No heaviness or denseness here! I begged her for the recipe and have been serving it with rave reviews ever since!
I have served this yummy dessert with a zillion different toppings. This time I decided on fresh strawberries which have been beautiful and so reasonable the last few weeks at my local markets. A glistening glaze of strawberry jam combined with my Citrus-Ginger Honey is the crowning glory. If you love cheesecake, or even if you're not super fond of it (like I thought I wasn't), put this yummy recipe on your "must make" list - you won't' be disappointed!
P.S. Do you ever feel like a vanilla bean? I do - some mornings when I wake up and look in the mirror, I scare myself a bit. I see drab, dull, plain-jane looking back, not unlike the vanilla bean. I am so blessed to have a husband that sees beauty and loves me despite the outer covering. I thank God daily for giving this dear man rose-colored glasses when it comes to me! But do you know that? We're all like that in God's eyes. He see's our inner beauty and loves us despite our selves. In fact, he gave EVERYTHING to prove it!
For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world (that's you & me!) that He [even] gave up His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life.
John 3:16 ~ Amplified Bible
Vanilla Bean Cheesecake w/ Citrus-Ginger Honey Glazed Strawberries
Ingredients for the graham cracker crust:
⅓ c. sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 ½ c. graham crackers – around 9-10 crackers, crushed (or you can use cinnamon graham crackers and omit the additional cinnamon, chocolate graham crackers are delicious as well!)
6 tablespoons butter, melted
Ingredients for the batter:
3-8 ounce packages cream cheese, softened
½ cup sugar
1 14 or 15 ounce can condensed milk, sweetened not evaporated
4 large eggs, beaten
½ cup sour cream
1 vanilla bean
Ingredients for the topping:
1 pound basket of strawberries
1/4 cup strawberry jam, any large pieces of strawberry chopped fine
1/4 cup Citrus-Ginger Honey
2 teaspoons corn starch
Directions for the crust:
1. Combine sugar, cinnamon and crushed graham crackers. Add butter and stir with a fork unil well combined. Pour crumbs into a 9 inch spring form pan and using the back of a spoon, press your mix half way up the sides and across the bottom of the pan.
Directions for the batter:
1. Beat cream cheese and sugar with an electric mixer until very fluffy. Add condensed milk and sour cream and beat again. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
2. Carefully split vanilla bean lengthwise down one side to open up like a book. Scrape the vanilla beans from the open pod and add to batter. Here is a great picture tutorial on using vanilla beans. Mix one more time to incorporate the beans throughout the batter.
3. Pour batter into prepared graham cracker crust and bake at 350˚F for 50 minutes. Allow to cool in pan. When cool, run a sharp knife around the edges of the cheesecake and then remove the outer ring of the spring form pan. Arrange fresh strawberries decoratively on top of cheesecake and drizzle with strawberry glaze. Refrigerate for several hours to set glaze. Remove cheesecake from refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving for maximum flavor. Garnish with lightly sweetened whipped cream if desired.*
Directions for glaze:
Combine cornstarch, strawberry jam and Citrus-Ginger Honey in a small sauce pan. Stir until cornstarch is completely incorporated. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer and cook for one minute. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 15-20 minutes before drizzling over strawberries.
*In order to pipe whipped cream or to have it hold it's form for any length of time, you have to stabilize it. I use this method except I place the water and gelatin in microwave-safe measuring cup and instead of cooking it on the stovetop, I microwave it for 30 seconds.
Recipe from my dear friend, Dulce