Monday, February 20, 2012

Cheesecake: 4th Time is a Charm!

I love tinkering in the kitchen and creating new recipes. When I first decided to get in touch with my inner chef, I started by creating several healthy cake recipes. Most of my efforts were reasonably successful. Encouraged by these initial successes, I decided to tackle something a bit more challenging: cheesecake. I figured that every chef ought to have a good cheesecake recipe in her repertoire, and besides, how hard could it be?

Well, it turned out that developing a good cheesecake was a bit more difficult than I had anticipated. There are gazillions of cheesecake recipes available on the internet, but I wanted to create a healthier version using wholesome, nutritious ingredients (no white sugar and no graham crackers out of a box). So I ventured into the test kitchen, rolled up my sleeves, and began tinkering with crust recipes and various combinations of cheeses. Bill was always a good sport about taste-testing my concoctions, but I'll be honest -- my first few attempts turned out pretty poorly. The cheesecakes usually tasted pretty good, but they never came out quite right. The edges of the cake got too brown, the cakes dried out, and the crust always seemed to get overdone.

After doing a bit of internet sleuthing, I discovered that baking your cheesecake in a water bath (see instructions below) can help to prevent all of the problems that I've described above. On my fourth attempt, I finally succeeded in baking a really good cheesecake.

The filling consists primarily of ricotta cheese and cottage cheese, sweetened with agave nectar. I've tried various combinations of ricotta, cottage, and cream cheese, and they all produced tasty results. However, the ricotta/cottage cheese combo is my favorite so far, because it produces a moist, creamy cheesecake with a slightly tangy flavor. Feel free to experiment with different kinds of cheese and find the combination that you like best. Baking times may vary slightly, depending on the type of cheese(s) you use.

Also, I recommend using low-fat (rather than fat-free) cheese. Your cheesecake will be much creamier and tastier if you use cheese that has a little bit of fat in it. Also, when I perused the dairy aisle at my grocery store, I discovered that most fat-free cheese products include a lot of artificial flavorings, thickeners, and other ingredients that aren't found in nature. (Sodium tripolyphosphate? Um, no thank you.)

So, without further ado, here's the recipe. Enjoy!

Raspberry cheesecake (makes 4 servings):
Wheat-free, free of refined sugars

½ cup oats
¼ cup spelt flour (or other flour of choice)
2 Tbsp agave nectar
2 tsp. olive oil

1 cup low-fat ricotta cheese
½ cup low-fat cottage cheese
1 egg
¼ cup agave nectar
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon

Raspberry topping
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tsp. agave nectar
1 cup fresh raspberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray four ramekins (8 to 10 ounces each) with cooking spray.

To make the crust, place the oats and flour in a food processor, and pulse until the oats are coarsely ground. Add the agave nectar and olive oil, and process until the mixture is crumbly. Press the mixture into the bottom of the ramekins.

To make the filling, place all filling ingredients in the food processor, and process until smooth. Pour the filling into the ramekins, on top of the crust.

Fill a large baking pan (or two small baking pans) with hot (not quite boiling) water, so that the water is about 1 to 1.5 inches deep. Place the ramekins in the hot water, and then place the entire pan into the oven. Bake until cheesecakes are nearly set in the center, about 45 minutes. Remove cheesecakes from the water bath, and chill before serving.

To make the topping, stir together the orange juice and agave nectar. Add the raspberries and stir gently to coat the berries with the orange juice mixture. Spoon topping on top of cheesecakes.

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This recipe is posted on Slightly Indulgent Tuesday


  1. Ok. they're in the oven as I type. I didn't have ricotta on hand and needed to use the cream cheese before it went bad so I I'll let you know how they turn out. Thanks for posting the recipe.

    1. Thanks for the note, Maribel. I hope they turn out well!

  2. Wow! It turned out great. Yummy! Yay! Great recipe. I'm adding this to my collection.