Why It Works
- Powdery freeze-dried fruit lends flavor, stability, and color to the filling.
- Subtle use of Chinese five-spice powder intensifies the flavor and aroma of strawberry.
- Whipping with the cream will thicken and aerate the filling.
Freeze-dried fruit gives this simple riff on no-bake cheesecake an all-natural burst of color and flavor. It's creamy, tart, and light—a rich but refreshing dessert for spring or summer. The basic recipe calls for freeze-dried strawberries, but feel free to use an equal weight of whatever type of freeze-dried fruit you can find—check out the note below for tips on how to intensify the flavor of other fruits.
Update: Due to variations in formula, not all brands of cream cheese perform equally well in this recipe. For best results, use Philadelphia cream cheese.
- For the Crust:
- 8 3/4 ounces graham cracker or Biscoff crumbs, store bought or homemade (about 2 cups; 250g)
- 2 1/2 ounces unsalted butter, melted but cool (about 5 tablespoons; 70g)
- Kosher salt, to taste
- For the Filling:
- 5 1/4 ounces sugar (about 3/4 cup; 150g)
- 2 1/2 ounces freeze-dried strawberries, such as Mother Earth or Karen’s Naturals; for other fruits, see note (about 3 cups; 70g)
- 16 ounces plain, full-fat cream cheese, such as Philadelphia (two 8-ounce packages; 455g)
- 1 1/2 ounces fresh juice from 1 lemon (3 tablespoons; 45g)
- 1/4 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder; for spicing other fruits, see note
- 1/8 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt, use about half as much by volume
- 14 ounces heavy cream (about 1 3/4 cups; 395g)
- To Serve:
- 12 ounces fresh fruit (about 2 cups; 340g), washed and dried
For the Crust: Combine cookie crumbs and melted butter in a small bowl, then stir in a pinch of salt to taste. Sprinkle into a 9-inch tart pan or pie plate, spread into an even layer, then compress firmly with a flat-bottomed drinking glass or measuring cup; this will naturally push the crumbs up the sides of the pan. Keep pressing until the crumbs are in a compact, even layer across the bottom and sides of the pan. Refrigerate until needed (wrapped in plastic, this can be done a day or two in advance).
For the Filling: In the bowl of a food processor, grind sugar and freeze-dried fruit until powdery and fine, about 1 minute. Combine the cream cheese, strawberry-sugar, lemon juice, five-spice powder, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix at low speed to form a thick paste, then increase to medium speed and beat until soft and smooth. Scrape the bowl and beater with a flexible spatula, then switch to the whisk attachment. Add the cream, mix on low speed to combine, then increase to high and whip until the mixture can hold stiff peaks, 3 to 5 minutes depending on the horsepower of the mixer.
Scrape into the prepared crust and spread into an even layer, using the back of a spoon to sculpt the filling into swoops and swirls. Cover with plastic and refrigerate until the filling is firm and cold, about 6 hours, or to an internal temperature of 40°F.
To Serve: Top with fresh fruit and cut into wedges with a hot chef’s knife (rinse it under hot running water between each slice). Carefully slide a pie server under the crust, making sure it reaches all the way to the tip of the wedge (the first slice will the most difficult and messy to remove). Wrapped in plastic, leftovers can be refrigerated keep up to one week.
This recipe works well with an equal weight of any freeze-dried fruit, but their volume will vary by type, and some fruits (such as raspberry) will benefit from sifting before use. For blueberry cheesecake, replace the five-spice powder with an equal amount of coriander. For cherry cheesecake, replace the five-spice powder with and equal amount of almond extract. For mango cheesecake, replace the five-spice powder with 1/8 teaspoon cardamom. For banana cheesecake, replace the five-spice powder with 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves. For cranberry cheesecake, replace the five-spice powder with 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves and 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and use an equal amount of orange juice in place of lemon. With any version, an equal weight of Oreo wafers, gingersnaps, or other cookies can be used in place of the grahams.