"I've made all kinds of fancy cheesecakes in my time, but nothing really beats the classic combination of strawberries and almonds with a boost from vanilla bean," says Stone. "I could just pile macerated strawberries on top, but why not give your tastebuds a proper party by folding grilled strawberries into the cheesecake batter too? Cheesecakes are elegant and my go-to for celebrations because they taste best when whipped up a day in advance."
- 800 gm strawberries, hulled
- 285 gm caster sugar
- 75 gm melted unsalted butter, plus extra, softened, for greasing
- 190 gm digestive biscuits
- 900 gm cream cheese, softened
- 1 tsp almond extract
- 4 eggs, at room temperature
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1Preheat a grill to high. Thinly slice 300gm strawberries, toss in a bowl with 55gm sugar, then spread in a single layer in a roasting pan and grill until softened and juices are bubbling (8-10 minutes).
- 2Preheat oven to 155C and lightly butter a 23cm-diameter springform cake tin. Process biscuits in a food processor to very fine crumbs, add butter, 2 tbsp sugar and a pinch of salt, and pulse until crumbs are moistened. Press crumb mixture evenly onto base and up sides of tin and bake until crust is a shade darker (7-8 minutes). Cool on a rack, then wrap 3 layers of foil around the outside of the pan (to prevent water seeping in during baking). Crust can be baked up to a day ahead, wrapped tightly with plastic wrap and stored at room temperature.
- 3Pulse vanilla seeds and 165gm sugar in a food processor to combine, add cream cheese and almond extract, and blend until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl occasionally. Add eggs and pulse until smooth, then transfer to a large bowl and fold in grilled strawberries. Pour mixture into crust, place pan in a large roasting pan and pour in enough hot water to come halfway up sides of tin. Bake until filling sets around edges and centre has a slight wobble when jiggled (50-55 minutes). Remove pan from water and cool on a rack for 2 hours. Run a sharp knife around edge of cheesecake to loosen from tin, cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled (at least 8 hours). Cheesecake can be baked up to 2 days ahead and kept covered and refrigerated.
- 4Cut remaining strawberries in half, toss in a large bowl with lemon juice and remaining sugar then stand, tossing occasionally, until berries release their juices (25-30 minutes). Pile onto cheesecake and serve.