Removing the fat would take away everything we love about New York cheesecake. Or would it?
Just about every low-fat cookbook has tried to create some version of a reduced-fat cheesecake. The result is usually a rubbery, gummy mess, chock-full of artificial and off flavors.
We wanted to fashion a light recipe that still delivered the satiny core, velvety exterior, and sweet and tangy richness of the ultimate New York cheesecake.
Cheesecake’s astronomical fat and calorie counts come from the exorbitant amount of cream cheese that makes up the base. We had hoped that we could simply substitute nonfat cream cheese for the full-fat cheese, but this made the cake gummy, dry, and chalky. We switched to low-fat cream cheese but knew we would have to supplement it with another ingredient. We had seen several recipes with cottage cheese, but had dismissed this ingredient because we were concerned it would make the filling grainy. But what if we processed the cottage cheese? Sure enough, equal amounts of processed cottage cheese and light cream cheese was a great combination with only one drawback: it was a little loose. We easily solved this problem by draining some of the cottage cheese’s liquid in a paper towel–lined bowl before adding it to the other ingredients.
With the base determined, we moved on to figuring out what low-fat ingredient would give us that trademark tang that is essential to any great New York cheesecake. Most use sour cream, but our attempts with the no-fat and low-fat versions had a tacky texture and odd aftertaste. We ultimately found the perfect solution: yogurt cheese, also called labne. Essentially plain yogurt drained of its whey, our homemade labne offered a touch of tartness and helped give the cheesecake a smoother, creamier texture without making it too wet.
Another essential cheesecake ingredient is eggs. While some cheesecakes use a combination of whole eggs and yolks, we decided to stick with just whole eggs in order to get the most structure with the least fat.
Perfecting the flavor of the cheesecake was easy. We like the way lemon juice brightens the other flavors in classic New York cheesecake, but found it clashed slightly with our already tangy filling. For us, lemon zest was a better route. It provided a floral note and subtle tang without being too aggressive. Just a bit of salt and vanilla extract rounded out the flavors.
Finally, we approached the all-important graham cracker crust. After a few trial runs, it became obvious that butter was a necessary ingredient. We settled on an amount that wasn’t excessive and still managed to give the crust a rich, toasty flavor and crisp texture.
When it came to baking the cheesecake we preferred the standard New York method—a blast of heat followed by a long period at a low temperature. This method yielded a soft and creamy center and the nut-brown surface that is a distinguishing mark of an exemplary New York cheesecake.
Traditional New York cheesecake has 580 calories, 265 milligrams of cholesterol, 43 grams of fat, and 26 grams of saturated fat per serving. Our Light New York Cheesecake contains 340 calories, 85 milligrams of cholesterol, 13 grams of fat, and 8 grams of saturated fat per serving.list of recipes