A few months ago I’d picked up an issue of Cooks Illustrated that focused on making lighter versions of great recipes. I’ve already tried the chicken parm and loved it and this weekend I gave the cheesecake a shot. I’m not a huge fan of cheesecake but I do occasionally enjoy it so I thought it would be nice to find a lighter version of this dessert I could go to when a craving struck!

The first step in making this cheesecake is to make the yogurt cheese. To do that, line a colander/mesh strainer with several paper coffee filters or a double layer of cheesecloths. Set the strainer over a deep container (enough room for 1 cup of liquid to drain without touching the strainer). Spoon the yogurt into the strainer, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the yogurt has release about 1 cup of liquid and has a creamy, cream cheese-like texture, 10 to 12 hours (it can stay in the strainer for up to 2 days). Transfer the yogurt cheese to a clean container (discard the liquid). The cheese will keep for up to 1 week in an airtight container. (instructions courtesy of Cooks Illustrated)

Once you have made the yogurt cheese, the rest of the recipe comes together fairly quickly (I confess that I cheated and used a premade crust because I was lazy). I was definitely skeptical that yogurt cheese, cottage cheese (which I really don’t like) and cream cheese would combine to make a tasty cheesecake. I guess I should have had some faith in the folks at Cooks Illustrated because this was really delicious! I cut some strawberries up and stuck them on top with a small slice and really enjoyed it! I gave the rest of the cheesecake to my mom to bring to work and it was well received there too! I will absolutely make this again – perhaps trying to incorporate some additional flavors to jazz things up!

Light New York Cheesecake
from Cooks Illustrated

Crust

9 whole graham crackers (5 oz), broken into rough pieces and processed in a food processor to fine even crumbs (about 1 1/4 cups)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick), melted
1 tablespoon sugar

Filling

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 pound 1% cottage cheese
1 pound light cream cheese
8 oz yogurt cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar (10.5 oz)
1/2 – 1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs, at room temperature
vegetable cooking spray

For the crust: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Mix the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, and sugar together in a medium bowl. Transfer the mixture to a 9-inch springform pan and press evenly into the pan bottom. Bake the crust until fragrant and beginning to brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack while preparing the filling.

For the filling: Increase the oven temperature to 500 degrees. Line a medium bowl with a clean dish towel or several layers of paper towels. Spoon the cottage cheese into the bowl and let drain for 30 minutes.

Process the drained cottage cheese in a food processor until smooth and no visible lumps remain, about 1 minute, scraping down the work bowl once or twice. Add the cream cheese and yogurt cheese and process until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes, scraping down the work bowl once or twice. Add the salt, sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla and continue to process until smooth, about 1 minute, scraping down the work bowl once or twice. With the processor running, add the eggs, one at a time and process until smooth.

Being careful to not disturb the baked crust, spray the sides of the springform pan with vegetable oil spray. Set the springform pan on a rimmed baking sheet. Pour the filling into the cooled crust and bake 10 minutes. 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, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Transfer the cake to a wire rack, and run a paring knife around the edge of the cake. Let cool until barely warm, 2 1/2 to 3 hours, running a paring knife around the edge of the cake every hour or so. Wrap the pan tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until cold, at least 3 hours.

To unmold the cheesecake, wrap a hot kitchen towel around the springform pan and let stand for 10 minutes. Remove the sides of the pan and blot any excess moisture from the top of the cheesecake with paper towels. Let the cheesecake stand at room temperature about 30 minutes, then cut into wedges.