One major food holiday down, one to go!
And as I plan the food for the parties and potlucks that are so much a part of the Christmas season here on Pender, I can guarantee you there’s one ingredient won’t make it into any dish of mine. Pumpkin. I’m done with it for 2010.
Pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin soup…gratins, granola, pasta, pancakes, stir-fries, smoothies, souffles, ravioli, muffins…I’ve seen it all this year — and much of it I wish I hadn’t. So while the 3 remaining Tupperware containers full of pumpkin puree enjoy some much-deserved R&R buried in the depths of my deep freeze, I’m going to take the Christmas dessert road a little less traveled.
Cheesecake — and not a winter squash in site.
My cheesecakes take time, and this one is no exception. Start this one 48 hours before you plan to serve it. “Aaagh!” you say — but most of that time is for draining the yogurt and making the dulce de leche in the slow cooker (see the Tips below the recipe) — there’s not a lot of active cooking time.
It’s also always best to refrigerate a completely cooled cheesecake overnight before slicing it. The extra chill-time allows the cake to set completely and makes for mess-less slicing.
Plus, with the dessert out of the way and ready in the fridge, you have the whole day of your gathering to focus on the rest of the meal!
As I explained in my Tiramisu Cheesecake recipe, I adopted this low and slow method for baking cheesecakes from my culinary instructor, Chef P. He spent the weekend and summer days of his boyhood in one of his dad’s 3 Parisian bakeries, where he worked for, and learned from, generational bakers and pastry chefs with hundreds of years of knowledge.
After culinary school, he worked in some of Europe’s most celebrated establishments, including Maxim’s in Paris and The Savoy in London. The man knows food. So when Chef P. tells me that he bakes his cheesecakes at 200° F for 3 to 4 hours, let’s just say I listen.
(And I haven’t had a cracked top since.)
Even people who don’t like cheesecake like this one — the yogurt cheese makes it lighter and tangier than one made with cream cheese, and the thick layer of sweet dulce de leche along the crust balances the tang perfectly. The light dusting of cocoa tops the whole thing off with just a hint of chocolate.
For a truly festive look, serve each slice in a small puddle of strawberry or raspberry coulis for colour.
Dulce de Leche Yogurt Cheesecake
9” Cheesecake – serves 12-16
|Plain Full-Fat Yogurt*||1.75 kg||4 lb|
|Digestive Biscuits*, broken up||
|scant 2 C|
|Sugar||15 ml||1 T|
|Melted Butter||60 ml||
|Dulce de Leche, 1 can*||300 ml||10 oz|
|Sugar||240 ml||1 C|
|Cornstarch||30 ml||2 T|
|Vanilla||10 ml||2 t|
|Eggs, at room temp||4|
|Cocoa, for dusting|
Lbs=pounds kg=kilograms oz=ounces g=grams
T=tablespoon t=teaspoon C=Cup ml=millilitres
Line a colander or sieve with a clean lightweight dishtowel, and empty the yogurt into it. Place the sieve in a bowl, cover the yogurt with the ends of the dishtowel and refrigerate. The yogurt will take about 24 hours to release most of its water. Stir and turn the yogurt over in the towel 3 or 4 times to help the process along. Once drained, the yogurt cheese will weigh approx 900 g (2 lbs.
Preheat the oven to 350 F, and set the rack in the centre. Brush the sides of a 9” springform pan with melted butter.
Process the digestive biscuits in a food processor until the crumbs are very fine. Combine the cookie crumbs, 1 tablespoon sugar and melted butter in a bowl and stir well. Press the crumbs firmly into a 9” springform pan, covering the bottom and halfway up the sides. Bake 5-7 min. Remove from the oven and cool.
Reduce the oven temp to 200 F. Leave the oven door open for a few moments to dissipate the heat.
Spread the dulce de leche in an even layer across the bottom of the crust. To make it easier, dip your knife or spatula in hot water occasionally.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the yogurt cheese and 1 cup sugar on low speed until well mixed. Add the cornstarch, vanilla and salt and beat on low speed to combine. Switch to the whisk attachment. With the motor on medium speed, add the eggs, one at a time, and continue to whisk until smooth and creamy.
Pour the batter into the pan, burst any surface bubbles with a toothpick, and bake in the oven for 3 to 4 hours, until set in the centre. Cool on a rack completely, cover, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.
Release the side spring, dust with sifted cocoa, slice and serve. Keep leftovers covered in the fridge for up to 4 days.
- Low-fat and no-fat yogurts WILL NOT WORK. They contain fillers that prevent the yogurt from draining and releasing its water.
- Homemade yogurt makes this cheesecake even more special. You won`t believe how easy it is to make yogurt at home in a slow cooker – just give yourself an extra day if you decide to go all out.
- Dulce de Leche can apparently be found in Latin markets, but I`ve never bothered to look — it`s easy to make at home in a slow cooker. Sense a theme here?
- Graham crackers, arrowroot biscuits or lady fingers also make an excellent crust. I’m not big on graham crackers myself, so I’m always looking for an altenative…
- The filling can also be assembled using a wooden spoon, a wire whisk and some muscle. Ensure the ingredients are at room temperature to make the job easier.
- My cake took 3½ hours to cook. Try this method with any cheesecake — just once — the texture is the light, the crust is crisp, and you’ll never hassle with a water bath again.