Berry Cheesecake

The Assignment: cook from a cookbook.

Last week, Green Media took a casual field trip to Gleeson Library, where we browsed the shelves of the food/cooking section. It seems that in this age of the 2-second Google search, it’s rare to find a new media class piled in the corner of a library, excitedly flipping through any kind of print material.  But who’s to say that blogging can’t incorporate the use of classic cookbooks?

So, on our mission to cook the “old-fashioned way”, I began grabbing books that caught my eye. And between the timeless Julia Child cookbooks, and some more contemporary photo-filled pieces, I found a culinary gem – Top Chef: The Cookbook  (a collection of some of the most mouthwatering dishes from the show’s first few seasons).

At first I was attracted to the book because of my slight fascination with Top Chef.  Unlike most cookbooks, this one is chalk full of contestant biographies, casting insight, celebrity judge tid bits, and Top Chef tips – all in addition to those delicious recipes.  But now that I reallllly look at it, I’m struck by something entirely different… how cool, that a television phenomenon has produced a print publication, that is now being shared online. A cooking show, to a cookbook, to a cooking blog – multi-media at it’s finest.

Within such a wonderful book, I found an even more alluring recipe for Low-Fat Berry Cheesecake, brought to us by Chef Elia of Season 2.  I am admittedly in love with every dessert from The Cheesecake Factory (one of my biggest guilty pleasures). So what better than the opportunity to make my very own, homemade cheesecake?

Clearly I had no choice but to put my baking skills to the test – so, while on my work break at 6 AM on Wednesday morning, I promptly ordered a Chicago Metallic Springform Pan from Amazon.com (total confessions of a shopaholic). And after my little online-shopping whim, there was no turning back…CHEESECAKE TIME!

On Friday afternoon, I dragged my roommate, Marly, with me to Trader Joe’s, where I stocked up on all the ingredients needed for my first homemade cheesecake. The only thing that TJ’s didn’t have was non-flavored gelatin, for which I had to turn to Lucky’s.

The recipe calls for:

  • 1 cup of organic plain granola
  • 1 cup of flax cereal
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 tbsp unflavored gelatin
  • 11/2 cups low-fat strawberry yogurt
  • Two 8 oz packages of low-fat cream cheese
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups blackberries
  • 1 cup halves strawberries

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 375˚F
  • Put the granola and flax cereal into a heavy-duty zip-top bag (I improvised with an old plastic bread bag that I tied on top). Crush with a rolling pin to form “coarse crumbs”
  • In a bowl, lightly beat egg whites. Add in granola/cereal mixture and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into an 8-inch springform pan. Spread evenly over the bottom of the pan and a little up the sides – pat so it all stays together (I used a spatula).
  • Bake crust for 15 minutes (or until crisp), remove from oven, and let cool completely.
  • Pour 1/3 cup of water into a small saucepan and sprinkle gelatin over it. Let stand for 10 minutes. Place over low heat and stir until gelatin dissolves.
  • In a food processor (a blender worked just fine for me), combine yogurt, cream cheese, and vanilla and blend until smooth. With the motor running, slowly add warm gelatin mixture through the hole in the lid.
  • Pour the filling over the crust. Cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight to set. If the crust didn’t shrink, run a dull knife around the sides of the pan to loosen cake. Release the pan side and transfer to a serving platter.
  • GARNISH with berries and other goodies — really, whatever you like!

After an entire day of sheer anticipation, it was finally time to EAT! The cheesecake popped out of the pan and slid perfectly onto my ceramic white platter. Much to my surprise, I was even able to cleanly cut a few slices without completely destroying the crust. And after force-feeding them to my roommates, we collectively decided that the filling was delicious, but the crust was a little odd (maybe too healthy).  Though it didn’t taste like a traditional cheesecake, it was still super tasty!  Most of all, I’m just happy that it actually turned out looking like a real, edible cheesecake, and not a sloppy, melting blob of jello-y cheese.  WOO!