Fresh strawberries are in season just a few weeks each year (forget about those hard-hearted pretenders available in cold weather), but you can give red-ripe flavor to desserts anytime if you’ve frozen some of the harvest from a pick-your-own operation or backyard patch. Juicy, thawed berries are ideal for this torte, which in turn is perfect for a potluck or large family gathering.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Make crust: Combine ground chocolate cookies and melted butter in a bowl. Press the mixture into an 8 1/2-by-12 1/2-inch disposable foil pan (or similarly sized baking pan).
Cream the cream cheese with electric beaters in a large bowl. Add sugar, eggs, and extracts. Beat on high speed 2-3 minutes, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl with a rubber spatula. Spread cream cheese mixture over crust. Bake until set, 25-30 minutes. Cool.
Meanwhile, make topping: Drain the thawed berries over a saucepan to collect the juices. Whisk in sugar and cornstarch until smooth. Place over medium flame and heat, stirring often, until mixture bubbles and thickens. Use a rubber spatula to scrape thickened juice over the berries; mix gently. Cool completely.
Chill torte and topping. To serve, cut torte into square or rectangular pieces and ladle each serving with strawberry topping.
Copyright by Terese Allen