Recipes

Vanilla bean cheesecake: A decadent dessert lightens up

This would be an ideal dessert for a dinner party or family gathering, because you can get away with small slices. Unless you’re like us and believe that when it comes to cheesecake, bigger is always better.

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Cheesecake is on my “rarely tackle” list. For one, it can’t be made and consumed immediately: It requires mixing, baking, and hours of chilling. And two, one piece typically provides an entire day’s worth of fat and calories. But on a special occasion, both are very (very) worth it. So to celebrate chef in training’s homecoming, mini sous chef and I rolled up our sleeves and tackled Chatelaine’s Vanilla bean cheesecake with blueberry compote.

Before I get to the “how”, I want to talk about what’s in this recipe…ingredients like 1% cottage cheese, applesauce (instead of butter), and light cream cheese. This cheesecake is doing its best to reduce consumption guilt. So while it still tastes incredibly decadent, the waistline gets a (tiny) bit of a reprieve.

I opted for graham crackers we could crumb ourselves, versus the pre-boxed variety. So step one involved the mini breaking up the crackers into pieces, and me whirring them at high speed in the blender. Many crackers later (we lost a few to mini’s tummy), we had our required two cups for the base. This recipe cleverly uses applesauce to bind the graham crumbs for the base rather than the traditional butter. But I did have to add one more tbsp of applesauce to achieve a moist enough mix. A few minutes in the oven to get the base browned, and we were ready for the cheese mixture.

The food processor was a dream. I’d forgotten how useful this appliance could be! In fewer than 10 minutes we had the cottage cheese, cream cheese, vanilla (I used pure extract, not the beans), sugar, and eggs blended smoothly and ready for the pan.

Once the cheese mixture is poured over the base, you put the foil-wrapped springform pan in a roasting pan and then make a water bath for baking. The water bath is simply warm tap water poured around the cheesecake pan prior to baking, which helps it bake evenly. An hour and a half later our cheesecake came out perfectly smooth, nary a crack in sight, but I had forgotten one critical thing: the mini’s patience. To her anything fresh out of the oven is fair game, and a mega meltdown ensued as I tried to explain the cheesecake needed to “sleep” in the fridge overnight.

The blueberry compote was made just before the next night’s dinner, and was ready to go by dessert time. The compote’s colour and flavour really complimented the cheesecake, which was creamy without feeling heavy. And the graham crumb crust didn’t miss the butter one bit.

This would be an ideal dessert for a dinner party or family gathering, because you can get away with small slices. Unless you’re like us and believe that when it comes to cheesecake, bigger is always better.

Try this recipe: Vanilla bean cheesecake with blueberry compote