Everyday Food (January/February 2011)
As more than one commenter noted in our recent gallery of magazine covers, January is the time of year for food magazines to trot out every "light" and "health" dish they can find. It makes sense, of course, after the glut of holiday fare and with New Year's resolutions fresh on the brain.
If you've resolved to eat better, these Mini Mocha Cheesecakes are a terrific way to satisfy your sweet tooth in a healthier way. (Although let's just all be honest for one second: If we were really trying to improve our diets, we'd be skipping dessert altogether.)
Anyway, we were drawn to these cheesecakes because they seemed like light, simple desserts. Well, they are light -- just 174 calories each -- and they should be simple. But there are some things you need to know.
As a substitute, we decided to just get some chocolate graham crackers, whirr them up in the food processor and use that as the cheesecake base. But we couldn't find those either! We also struck out trying to find chocolate Teddy Grahams cookies.
We settled for generic-brand chocolate penguins. It seemed cruel to pulverize all the cute little penguins. But cooking is war.
Anyway, with our chocolate penguin dust on hand, we ran into another problem: We didn't have cupcake liners. We forgot that we'd recently thrown ours out in a fit of kitchen reorganizing. With the cheesecake all mixed up -- and with dozens of murdered penguins on our hands -- we decided to improvise.
We also decided to experiment: We cooked some cheesecakes in individual ramekins (intending to just serve them in the ramekins as well); we tried one in a muffin tin lined with parchment (our improvised, homemade cupcake liners); and we tried one in an unlined muffin tin, sprayed with cooking spray.
The cheesecake in the unlined tin was a disaster -- no amount of slicing or tapping could pry it free in one piece. The one with the parchment (which is the one we photographed, above) turned out okay, if ugly. But it made us wonder -- wouldn't cupcake liners leave a bunch of little crinkly ridges in these cheesecakes? If you can find smooth liners, that would be they way to go. Conversely, we'd be interested to see how these might work in one of those pliable silicone muffin trays. Would they pop out perfectly?
We served the ramekin cheesecakes to friends for dinner. They tasted great -- light and mildly chocolatey, and the hint of espresso is a nice touch.
All in all, this is a very good dessert. And if you can find all the right ingredients and equipment, it'd be even better. Will these cheesecakes rock your world? Nah -- no "light" dessert will. But if you're looking for an easy and light dessert, they're a great choice.
2 cups nonfat cottage cheese
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
9 chocolate wafer cookies, such as Famous
whipped cream (optional), for serving
Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Line 9 standard muffin cups with cupcake liners. In a food processor, combine cottage cheese, eggs, confectioners' sugar, cocoa powder, flour, espresso powder and vanilla. Process until smooth, 4 minutes, scraping down sides as needed. Divide mixture among cups and place 1 cookie on top of each.
Bake until fillings are set and cookies soften, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool to room temperature in pan on a wire rack, then refrigerate at least 1 1/2 hours (or, covered, up to 3 days). To serve, invert cheesecakes onto plates and peel off liners. Top with a dollop of whipped cream if desired.