Sunday, 19 January 2014

Cheese-free cheesecake

I know I might have made some lofty promises about a lighter life, but there's no way that's going to mean a cake-free existence! But there are ways to make those too just a little bit healthier...

Even though I got into baking last year, I still keep telling myself I'm really not that into sweet stuff (as if!). I love the tanginess of yogurt, especially in ice creams. Inspired by that gorgeous dessert at Juuri I thought of using Greek yogurt in a cheesecake. Which, as a result, is totally cheese-free. 

In case the rubbery texture of gelatinous cheesecakes is not your thing either, a baker has two choices: either make the filling mostly of cream cheese and let it take its time setting in the fridge or use eggs to set it and bake it in the oven. 

And since pomegranates are still in season which means they're affordable even in the Northern hemisphere, the Middle Eastern vibe continued to the pomegranate syrup I made to accompany the cake. You can either squeeze the juice yourself (do NOT wear white while doing it!) but pomegranate juice is also available at ethnic shops specialized in Middle Eastern fare. If you can't get your hands on it though, you could substitute with cranberry juice.

I used pine nuts in the crust, but they can be substituted with just about any nuts. For a gluten-free cake, use gluten-free biscuits such as Digestives. I sweetened the filling with icing sugar. Oh, and because I was out of the regular kind. You can use either. Or Stevia or some other calorie-conscious alternative.


200 g graham crackers (or Digestives, gingerbead, Dutch spice cookies...)
3/4 dl pine nuts
50 g butter, melted

Crush the biscuits and nuts either in a food processor or by placing them in a plastic bag and smacking the living hell out of them with a rolling pin. Pour in melted butter and mix so you're left with a consistency of wet sand. Press tightly onto the bottom of a loose-bottom pie dish (mine measured 22 cm across) and let set in cold for at least an hour. Or until the next day.

Bake at 175º for 10-15 minutes until it's solid and dry. Let cool and then pour in the filling.


750 g Greek yogurt
the zest of 1/2 - 1 lemon
2 tsp vanilla extract (or vanilla sugar)
4 eggs
6 tbsp icing sugar
1 tbsp corn starch

Mix the ingredients using either food processor or a electric hand mixer until everything has combined and the mixture is smooth. Pour onto the cooled crust and continue baking at 175º (in fan oven 150 is probably enough). I wanted the cake to maintain the milky whiteness, so halfway through I covered it with foil to keep it from browning. 

Bake for 50 minutes and if needed, continue for a little while longer, checking every 5 minutes or so. The cake should be fairly firm and start separating from the tin around the edges yet maintain a little wobbliness in the center. Let cool in the room temperature and then set in the fridge for at least 4 hours, preferably until the next day. Serve with pomegranate syrup and seeds.

Pomegranate syrup:

4 dl pomegranate juice
1 dl sugar
the seeds from 1 pomegranate

Measure the juice and sugar into a heavy-based pan. bring to simmer and continue cooking (stirring occasionally) for about 15-20 minutes until the sauce starts reducing. Remove from heat (it's best to do this a little bit too early than too late as it will thicken further as it cools) and let cool. Stir in the pomegranate seeds and pour over the cake.




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