Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Raspberry ricotta cheesecake

Eating well is not synonymous with deprivation nor restriction. I've said it many times to many people. If you want to improve your health, to lose weight or to simply be nicer to your body, feeding it lettuce and chicken breast is not gonna cut it. It just won't. You need to have a wide range of nutrients coming from different sources. Besides, if you are too restrictive you will give up pretty soon. With moderation, anything can be enjoyed without doing much damage, or deterring you from your goals. Yes, even desserts can be eaten with moderation.

I've never been that much into sweets but since I moved to the States, I've gone through waves of craving sweets once in a while. Since I normally don't eat dessert, I don't have much experience making them. Last week I mentioned my struggles while baking a pie and then a cake (Bacon and Blue Cheese Burger with Grilled Sweet Potato Wedges). Still, I was not discouraged, and I wanted to make a dessert to celebrate Labor Day. I thought it would be a great idea because, 1) we would have a dessert to enjoy during the holiday, and 2) because this week I'm summoned for jury duty, so I wanted something I could eat quickly before leaving the house early in the morning (leaving behind just the minimal mess). Some desserts just don't do well sitting around for a couple of days, but I knew the one that would: a cheesecake. 

I really like cheesecakes, and apparently other Puerto Ricans do too. Last week I was horrified to see the how the Puerto Rican media was following much more closely the opening of a Cheesecake Factory restaurant in Puerto Rico, than they were covering our possible involvement in the Syrian Civil War. "People were cutting in lines" and "Cheesecake Factory employee cries from the stress" were making the headlines. Madness, people, madness. 

So I wanted to make a rich, delicious cheesecake. I also wanted to make it light and low calorie. It may seem like way too much to ask, but I also wanted to be able to enjoy it, away from the cameras, from line cutting people, and from crying and sobbing employees. I had my work cut out for me. I picked up Ellie Krieger's book: "The food you crave" and found exactly what I needed.
The recipe turned out to be very, very simple, ideal for the baking challenged (a.k.a. Me). This cheesecake is made mostly of part skim ricotta cheese, but I used low-fat ricotta instead (even less calories from fat by serendipity). I placed the ricotta in the food processor and processed it until it was smooth. I used it on medium-high speed, and after 3-5 minutes it was done. I actually tried processing a touch longer, but it did nothing to get rid of the few chunks that were still there. The baking itself took care of them, so I won't worry about it in the future. Then, I added all the rest of the ingredients at the same time (reduced-fat sour cream, Neufchatel cheese, eggs, sugar, flour, vanilla extract, orange zest and salt) and processed again until I had a smooth mixture (again, 3-5 minutes). The mix was much more runny than what I expected, but I'm glad to say that it turned out OK after baking. 


I transferred the mix to a springform coated with cooking spray. Additionally, I wrapped the outer part of the springform with foil, in case there were any leaks. That was it. It was as simple as that. I was worried about how simple everything was, but everything worked out well! The recipe calls for baking at 325 F for 55 minutes, or until the center is set. But after 55 minutes, my center wasn't set yet. An additional 10 minutes did the trick. At this point the recipe required a bit of patience, because it calls for cooling on a wire rack, and then chilling the baked cheesecake in the fridge for at least 3 hours before dressing it. I decided that instead of 3 hours, overnight would better suit my needs.


The next day, I made the sauce. It was so simple! The recipe calls for raspberry jam, which I neither had, nor was interested in getting. I used mixed berry preserves (which were mostly raspberries), and added it to a small saucepan, along with orange liqueur and brought them to a boil over low heat. After a few minutes it was ready. Since I used preserves instead of jam, I had chunks of fruits still present in the sauce, so  I strained the fruit, and kept the sauce. 




I brushed the cheesecake with the sauce, starting with the top of the cheesecake and then eventually the sides, adding beautiful color with every stroke. As a final touch, I covered the cheesecake with fresh raspberries, putting their flat part down. 






When I finally got to try the cheesecake I realized it was worth the wait. It was indeed rich, yet light. The texture itself was light and somewhat fluffy, and the flavor was deep. It was delicious and beautiful. I loved how the sauce bridged the flavors of the cheesecake itself, and the fresh fruit's. Those raspberries tasted great, and added beauty to the dessert. Making this cheesecake really was the perfect use for those raspberries I bought on sale (3 quart containers for $2.99!). The baking took care of most of the grittiness of the ricotta that I was worried about, but to me, it actually made it more interesting, and it kind of compensated for not having a crust. Keep in mind that this is not trying to be a light version of a New York style cheesecake. These are two different dishes. This recipe really is supposed to be a ricotta cheesecake, so is not meant to be dense like a cream cheese cheesecake. It's fluffy, and it's delicious. I loved it.

Another great thing about this cheesecake, is that it had 295 calories, and 10 g of protein per generous serving. That includes the sauce and raspberries. Cheesecakes can differ a lot in terms of calories based in the ingredients, the quantities, and the size. This cheesecake was good, filling, and generous. More importantly,The next day the cheesecake was even better. I may not be in the army, but I needed to do a good job serving the country as a juror. Having a slice of this cheesecake before heading to the courthouse was a good start to my service.

On the road shortcut
(In Ellie's words, since I can't say it any better.)
Cooking spray
1 (15-ounce) container part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream
4 ounces Neufchatel cheese, or reduced fat cream cheese, softened
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup all-fruit seedless raspberry jam
1 tablespoon orange liqueur or water
2 (6-ounce) containers fresh raspberries

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Coat a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray. Place ricotta in a food processor and process until smooth and creamy. Add sour cream, Neufchatel, eggs, sugar, flour, vanilla, orange zest and salt. Process until well blended. Pour into the prepared pan and bake until the center is just set, 50 to 55 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool and then cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours.

In a small saucepan, bring the jam and liqueur or water to a boil, stirring constantly until smooth. Remove sides of pan. Brush the tart with the jam mixture and top with raspberries, flat-side down.
 
Nutrition info:
295 calories, 10g protein, 36g carbs, 3g fiber, 13g fat

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