2 cups graham cracker or chocolate cookie crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
6 tbsp butter or margarine melted
3-8 ounce packages good quality cream cheese (room temp)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
3 eggs lightly beaten (room temp)
1 tbsp real vanilla (NOT imitation)
1/4 cup all purpose flour
Chocolate Ganache topping:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 cups good quality chocolate chips (You can use milk chocolate or semi sweet, whatever you prefer)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp instant espresso powder or instant coffee (this ingredient is optional)
1/4 tsp salt
1 lb. fresh or frozen strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Place a small pan with a couple of inches of hot water in the bottom rack of your oven. (I use a round cake pan). Preheat oven to 325 F.
In an 8 inch spring form pan, add the graham cracker or chocolate cookie crumbs, salt and sugar. Mix thoroughly. Add the melted butter or margarine mix until crumbs are completely coated with the butter. Spread the crumbs out evenly in the pan and press firmly on the bottom and a little up the sides of the pan. Make sure all the crumbs are firmly pressed all around the pan evenly.
I use a stand mixer but you can use an electric mixer or food processor (Cuisinart of course!). Take the eggs and cream cheese out of the refrigerator 3 hours before starting. Take the heavy cream out of the refrigerator about 30 to 40 minutes before starting. This is so there are no lumps in your cheese cake.
In a large mixing bowl, add the cream cheese and sugar. Mix on low for 1 minute. Scrape the sides with rubber spatula. Add the whipping cream. Mix on low for 1 minute. Scrape sides of bowl again. Mix again for about 30 seconds. Keep mixer on low and add lightly beaten eggs a little at a time. Now add vanilla. Turn off mixer and scrape sides again. Turn mixer back on low, add flour a little at a time. Scrape sides again. Now mix on medium speed until everything is mixed well. About 2 minutes. Scrape down sides one more time and mix on low for 1 more minute. Stir with a rubber spatula one more time just to make sure everything is mixed well. Pour filling over the crust. I bang the pan 10-15 times on the counter to bring any air bubbles to the top (supposed to help to keep cake from cracking). Wrap the bottom and outside of the pan with foil. Put cake in oven. Set timer for one hour. Turn off oven open oven door a little and leave the cake in for 30 more minutes. Remove cake from oven.
While the cake is baking here is the recipe for the ganache and strawberry sauce.
In a medium size sauce pan add the heavy cream. Bring to a low boil. Remove from heat add the chocolate chips. Stir with a whisk until chocolate is melted. Add remaining ingredients. Stir until thoroughly combined.
If using fresh strawberries cut them in quarters and put in a blender or food processor. If using frozen, make sure they are thawed before putting in blender. Add sugar and vanilla. Blend until no lumps remain. Take a taste. You may need to add a little more sugar depending on how sweet your berries are.
When cake comes out of the oven, let it cool for about an hour. To remove it from the pan, run a sharp knife around the edges carefully. Make sure you get all the way down to the bottom. Carefully open the latch on the outside of the pan and remove. Leave the cake on the bottom part of the pan. Put the cake on a plate or platter and pour the ganache over the top letting it flow down the sides (if ganache has cooled down, reheat it on a low temp, just until warm). Refrigerate for at least two hours. Cut yourself a piece and spoon as much strawberry sauce over the top as you like.
When I served this in our restaurant I would put the strawberry sauce in a squeeze bottle and zigzag the sauce back and forth across the piece of cake. Then I would add some homemade whipped cream. This is optional of course.