Cheating with Cheesecake
by Steven Raichlen
Cheesecake. The very word loosens my belt and makes my mouth water. Is there anything more luscious, more lasciviously delicious than a thick wedge of cheesecake, its texture soft and silky, its flavor rich and cheesy and piquant? It's the ultimate sensual experience even down to the way it sticks to the roof of your mouth.
That's the good news. The bad news, of course, is that for a nutrition-minded eater, cheesecake can be hazardous to your health. Consider the main ingredients: eggs, cream cheese, and sour cream. Hardly the stuff of a heart healthy diet!
I love a challenge. A few years ago, I set out to create a cheesecake that had the dense, creamy consistency and rich, cheesy flavor of this New York deli classic without the artery clogging fat. I'm pleased to report that with a little ingenuity, you can make a low fat cheesecake that tastes like the real McCoy.
EASE THE CHEESE
The first step is the cut back on the fat and cholesterol. To do so, I replace some of the cream cheese with low fat cottage cheese. I puree the cottage cheese in a food processor to make it smooth and creamy, like cream cheese. A generous blast of lemon juice gives it the sourish tang of real cream cheese.
BAG THE EGGS
Egg whites have the same jelling properties as whole eggs or egg yolks, but with virtually no fat. In the following recipes, I replace most of the eggs with egg whites or egg substitute. (Egg substitutes are 99 percent egg white.)
THINK FLAVOR, NOT FAT
Much of the flavor and richness in traditional cheesecake comes from fat. When you reduce the fat, as I have in the recipes below, you need to put something back, or the cheesecake will taste bland. In the New York-style cheesecake, for example, the richness is provided by intense flavorings, like extra lemon juice and vanilla. The Italian ricotta cheesecake owes its fragrance and pizzazz to a perfumed Arab flavoring called orange flower water.
THINK LOW FAT, NOT NO FAT (IF POSSIBLE)
The following recipes call for low fat dairy products. The small amount of fat in them goes a long way to making the cheesecakes rich and satisfying, so use them if your fat budget allows it. The recipes can also be made with no fat dairy products, but the cheesecakes won't be as rich.
Try Steven Raichlen's Recipes:
New-York Style Cheesecake
Steven Raichlen is the author of 20 books, including the IACP/ Julia Child Award-winning Barbecue Bible and the new Barbecue Bible Sauces, Rubs, and Marinades (both published by Workman) and the High-Flavor, Low-Fat Cooking series, which won two James Beard Awards. He recently created a Barbecue University at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia. You can reach him at his web site: www.barbecuebible.com.
He has appeared numerous times on national television, including The Today Show and Good Morning America as well as CNN and The Discovery Channel. Raichlen lives in Coconut Grove, Florida, with his wife Barbara.