Of all the desserts that people long for in a low-fat form, cheesecake is probably the most popular. But it’s also the most difficult to lighten, since just one modest slice has more fat than most people should consume in a day, never mind in one dessert. Cheesecake requires a serious makeover.
The big culprit behind cheesecake’s exorbitant fat and calorie count is the fatty cream-cheese base. But the best substitute isn’t simply swapping out all the good stuff for the low-fat version. Instead, a combination of three ingredients—cottage cheese, light cream cheese, and yogurt cheese—works together to mimic the rich, fatty original. Cottage cheese provides a low-fat, neutral-flavored base for the cheesecake, while light cream cheese provides the requisite rich silkiness. And the yogurt cheese—also called labne—provides the tanginess and serves as the final key to cheesecake heaven.
HOW TO MAKE LIGHT NEW YORK CHEESECAKE
1. Make a graham cracker crust with butter: Make a graham cracker crust in a springform pan, then parbake it and let it cool completely before adding the filling. We tried lots of low-fat crusts here, but they all turned soggy. Although this cake is low-fat, it is necessary to use some butter in the crust.
2. Drain the cottage cheese: To prevent the cottage cheese from adding too much liquid to the filling, we found it necessary to drain it. To drain the cottage cheese, line a medium bowl with a clean dish towel or several layers of paper towels, then spoon the cottage cheese into the bowl and let drain for 30 minutes.
3. Use three cheeses: For a smooth, creamy filling, use cottage cheese, cream cheese, and yogurt cheese and process them until very smooth. You can either buy yogurt cheese or make your own. To make yogurt cheese, set a fine-mesh strainer over a deep container and line it with 3 paper coffee filters or a double layer of cheesecloth. Spoon 16 ounces plain low-fat yogurt into the lined strainer, cover, and refrigerate for 10 to 12 hours (about 1 cup of liquid will have drained out of the yogurt to yield 1 cup of yogurt cheese). Then just transfer the yogurt cheese to a covered container and refrigerate.
4. Cool the crust and add the filling: Before adding the filling to the pan, make sure the crust is completely cool and spray the sides of the pan again with vegetable oil spray. If the crust isn’t cooled completely, it will quickly turn soggy underneath the filling.
5. Start on high heat and finish on low heat: Bake the cake for 10 minutes at 500 degrees, then without opening the oven door, reduce the oven temperature to 200 degrees and continue to bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the cheesecake reads 150 degrees, about 1 hour and 30 minutes. This method yields a nut-brown surface and a soft and creamy center.
6. Unmold with a towel: After the cake is baked, it is cooled at room temperature then refrigerated until chilled and firm, about 3 hours. For easy unmolding, we find it best to wrap a hot, wet towel around the cake and let it stand for 1 minute before removing the pan sides.
Find this and other great recipes in The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book.