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Cheesecake is a rich, decadent dessert that walks the line between sweet and savory. The silky-smooth cake isn’t exactly a stroll in the park in terms of calories, though—one slice of the Original Cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory, for example, comes in at a whopping 620 calories.
We knew this dessert needn’t be so caloric, so we set about figuring out how to revamp it to be a healthier, but just as tasty, version of itself. We found that cutting the amount of butter in the graham cracker crust harmed neither texture nor taste. Making the filling lighter proved to be easy as pie (cake?), because we could cut fat by replacing the full-fat cheeses with low-fat ones. Finally, running the mixture through the food processor ensured that it was ultra-smooth. The result? A rich, creamy cake with its calorie content cut nearly in half, at 360 per slice.
MAKEOVER SPOTLIGHT: New York-Style Cheesecake
1. Make a Graham Cracker Crust with Less Butter: Graham cracker crusts have a surprising amount of fat, but we found we could easily lower it by simply axing some of the butter. This move worked well with our cheesecake because the crust was only on the bottom of the pan (not the sides), and the weight of the cheesecake kept it firmly in place. To ensure it stayed crisp, we parbaked the crust before adding the filling. Be sure to press the crust firmly into the pan using the bottom of a measuring cup so it doesn’t crumble apart when served.
2. Switch to Reduced-Fat Cream Cheese and Add in Low-Fat Cottage Cheese and Yogurt Cheese: Not surprisingly, cream cheese is an ultra-fatty ingredient. Swapping in reduced-fat cream cheese was an obvious move, but we wanted to bring down the fat and calories further. So we substituted some low-fat cottage cheese and yogurt cheese for a portion of the cream cheese; the cottage cheese provided a neutral-tasting base, while the yogurt cheese offered serious tanginess. Be sure to drain the cottage cheese for 30 minutes before using or the filling will be too loose.
3. Process the Filling for an Ultra-Smooth Texture: To ensure our low-fat filling was perfectly smooth and had a rich and creamy texture, we ran it through the food processor. Not only did the food processor make quick work of de-lumping the cottage cheese, but it also guaranteed the three cheeses were thoroughly combined with the eggs and other flavorings.
4. Check the Temperature for a Moist Cheesecake with Nicely Browned Edges: Not surprisingly, our low-fat cheesecake turned dry and mealy if overbaked. We found that the only way to accurately test its doneness was to use an instant-read thermometer. Also, to achieve that picture-perfect, well-browned top, we found two oven temperatures worked better than one. We started the cake in a hot 500-degree oven to jump-start the browning, then reduced the oven temperature to 200 degrees (without opening the oven door) and baked the cake until it registered 150 degrees in the center.