One thing that brings me a tremendous amount of happiness during these lazy days of summer, is baking. First, I love sweets, so that's easy. But second, unlike cooking, where there's a fair amount of wiggle room, baking has to be precise. To me, baking feels like little science experiments. And there's always a little bit of surprise and satifaction at the end when it all turns out.
And that brings me to the final reason why baking brings me so much happiness. It's because I love to share what I've made. Summer is this awesome time when everyone is outside -- people are walking their dogs, kids are playing, bikers are biking -- and there is nothing that brings me more pleasure than walking out of the house with a plateful of freshly baked treats, and sharing them with our neighbors.
We have so many wonderful neighbors where we live, so it's my way of "spreading the happy," as Nutella says. :) They will be gone in seconds flat!
And that brings me to my most recent recipe... my Strawberry Nutella Cheesecake Squares, which I surprised our neighbors with yesterday, and the looks on their faces were priceless. They loved them... cool, creamy cheesecake on a hot summer's day!!
I made the simple crust out of shortbread cookies and walnuts.
The cheesecake filling was just cream cheese, eggs, and sour cream (to cut some of the sweetness and give it a little tang).
I baked the cheesecake (because I like baked cheesecake) and when I took it out of the oven it had a huge crack up the middle.
I actually didn't mind, no need for a redo, because I knew I was going to top the whole thing with fresh strawberries and it would cover any imperfections.
I cut them into squares, cutting off the edges so they looked uniform.
And then, drizzled them with Nutella to give them a touch of chocolate hazelnut deliciousness. Didn't they turn out pretty, and you'd never know there was that giant crack.
They tasted even better than they looked. They were creamy but light because of the beaten eggs, sweet but not too sweet because of the pinch of salt I added to the crust, and a little tart.
The strawberries gave it a little texture and fruitiness, and the Nutella gave it some smooth chocolate yumminess. All in all, the science experiment worked and I brought a little happiness to some of our favorite neighbors... and definitely to myself!
STRAWBERRY NUTELLA CHEESECAKE SQUARES RECIPE
For the Filling
For the Crust
- 24 ounces cream cheese (three 8oz packages)
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 2 packages of strawberries
- 1/2 cup of Nutella
- 1 box (11-12oz) shortbread cookies
- 1/2 cup walnut halves
- 1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
- 1 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 350F and line a 9"x 13" pan with tin foil, leaving enough overhang that you can lift out the cake once it is cooked.
Melt the butter (about 30 seconds on high in the microwave). Put the cookies, walnuts, and salt into a food processor and pulse until broken down into crumbs. Add the melted butter and pulse until combined. Spray the pan with some non stick spray, and spread the crumb mixture along the bottom, flattening it with your hands.
In a large mixing bowl, add the cream cheese, sugar, sour cream, and vanilla, and mix until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until incorporated. You don;t need to over mix, you just want a smooth consistency.
Pour the mixture into the pan and smooth with a spatula. Put it in the oven for 30 minutes, then turn it down to 300 and cook for another 20 minutes. Turn off the oven, open the door, and let it sit in the oven for another 15 minutes. Let it cool on the counter until you can handle the pan, then put it in the refrigerator for 2 hours to help it set up.
There are a lot of cooking techniques like placing the pan in water while it cooks to try to keep the top from cracking. But since we are going to top the cheesecake with strawberries, you don't have to worry about cracks!
Take the cheesecake out of the refrigerator and use the foil overhangs to lift it out of the pan. Cut the strawberries in vertical slices, and place them on the top of the cake like scales.
Cut the cake into 3"x 2" squares, then pipe some Nutella stripes across the top. I put the Nutella in a Ziplock bag that I cut a tiny corner off of to pipe.
Best served cold, with the first couple days.
Nutella® hazelnut spread is a happy start to every day! Pick up a jar of Nutella in the spreads aisle and enjoy it with whole wheat toast, waffles, pancakes, strawberries, bananas and many other foods. Nutella. Spread the HappyTM.
Disclosure: Compensation was provided by the makers of Nutella via Mode Media. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Nutella.