I went on an adventure this week.
There was a special fair held at Toronto’s Queen’s Park to build awareness of Ontario growers and producers. They had set up tents on the lawn of the Ontario Legislature to showcase the local foods and to offer free samples.
The local producers included a local dairy that was handing out free ice cream cones and an apple orchard that provided free apple bumbles. There were also mushroom, strawberry and asparagus growers as well as representatives from Ontario Pork and the Ontario Beekeepers Associations. There was even a flower farmer who handed out free blooms to the guests.
We spend too much time in the winter months running from store to store to find the freshest produce. In the summer we are so lucky to have local markets popping up all over the city allowing us to taste the food fresh from the farms. Many of those markets offer organically grown produce.
I enjoyed seeing the fair and chatting with some of the participants. I learned a few things about Ontario farming and discovered a few gems. Did you know that there is a beekeeping operation on the roof of Toronto’s historic Royal York hotel that makes award-winning honey? I didn’t.
No matter where you live it is important to buy local and support your local farmers and food producers. I made this luscious Strawberry Cheesecake recipe to celebrate the local farmers and taste of the season.
For the crust:
1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tbsp. sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 stick (4 tbsp.) unsalted butter, melted
For the cheesecake:
2 pounds (four 8 oz. boxes) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sour cream or heavy cream, or a combination of the two
For the topping:
4 cups fresh strawberries, sliced to 1/8 inch\
To make the crust:
Butter a 9-inch springform pan—choose one that has sides that are 2 3/4 inches high (if the sides are lower, you will have cheesecake batter leftover)—and wrap the bottom of the pan in a double layer of aluminum foil; put the pan on a baking sheet.
Stir the crumbs, sugar and salt together in a medium bowl. Pour over the melted butter and stir until all of the dry ingredients are uniformly moist. (I do this with my fingers.) Turn the ingredients into the buttered springform pan and use your fingers to pat an even layer of crumbs along the bottom of the pan and about halfway up the sides. Don’t worry if the sides are not perfectly even or if the crumbs reach above or below the midway mark on the sides—this doesn’t have to be a precision job. Put the pan in the freezer while you preheat the oven.
Center a rack in the oven, preheat the oven to 350°F and place the springform on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Set the crust aside to cool on a rack while you make the cheesecake.
Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.
To make the cheesecake:
Put a kettle of water on to boil.
Working in a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese at medium speed until it is soft and lives up to the creamy part of its name, about 4 minutes. With the mixer running, add the sugar and salt and continue to beat another 4 minutes or so, until the cream cheese is light. Beat in the vanilla. Add the eggs one by one, beating for a full minute after each addition—you want a well-aerated batter. Reduce the mixer speed to low and stir in the sour cream and/or heavy cream.
Put the foil-wrapped springform pan in the roasting pan.
Give the batter a few stirs with a rubber spatula, just to make sure that nothing has been left unmixed at the bottom of the bowl, and scrape the batter into the springform pan. The batter will reach the brim of the pan. (If you have a pan with lower sides and have leftover batter, you can bake the batter in a buttered ramekin or small soufflé mold.) Put the roasting pan in the oven and pour enough boiling water into the roaster to come halfway up the sides of the spring form pan.
Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 30 minutes, at which point the top will be browned (and perhaps cracked) and may have risen just a little above the rim of the pan. Turn off the oven’s heat and prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon. Allow the cheesecake to luxuriate in its water bath for another hour.
After 1 hour, carefully pull the setup out of the oven, lift the springform pan out of the roaster—be careful, there may be some hot water in the aluminum foil—remove the foil. Let the cheesecake come to room temperature on a cooling rack.
When the cake is cool, top with strawberries and chill the cake for at least 4 hours.
Recipe from Baking by Dorie Greenspan