Cutting weight is hard for me. Not so much because I can’t eat certain foods – I actually enjoy the food I eat, meat, vegetables and healthy fats are my game – but because I need to keep track of the amount of food I put on my plate. See, my metabolism is rather slow, and efficient at using every nutrient I feed it with, meaning I don’t need so many calories to keep going, even with the intense training I put my body through. Which also means I can’t really use a IIFYM approach to cutting. It would make me feel miserable because I would merely get a bite of certain foods, and I’m on the team that prefers not to taste something if I can’t have more. Better abstinent than frustrated. But that’s me. There is also the fact that I don’t really miss junk food, or sweets, or cakes, because they’ve never been part of my daily food habits. Thus there is no reason to incorporate them now in my diet. Throw on top of all this that I want to retain as much muscle as possible, and lose only fat, while getting stronger, and you get a good idea of the predicament I find myself in.
And then come certain times when I want to forget about the fact that I’m watching my calorie intake. Times when I want to put something scrumptious in my mouth that makes me feel totally decadent. Times when I want to gorge on mouthfuls of silky smoothness and explosions of sweet flavors. Times when I want some dessert. And because I still want it to be healthy and low carb, cheesecake is the ideal candidate. I won’t bother you with the history of cheesecake, which seems to be as ancient as cheese itself, or with the different types of cheesecake, if you’re really adventurous you can always try and eat all the cheesecakes from the Cheesecake Factory, like the people from Serious Eats.
What I’ll bother you with, however, is the one implement you’ll absolutely need to make a cheesecake, and which is this one:
A simple spatula. As you can see mine is all nicked because I use it a lot, and apparently I have the scrapping rather aggressive. Why is it the best implement to make a cheesecake? Because, if you’re like me, and you prefer your cheesecake creamy and velvety, cheesy enough to have some texture in the mouth, but not to the point that it tastes like a small block of cement, the number one enemy of the cheesecake is too much air in the mix. When you whip your cheese and the other ingredients that go into the cheesecake, you incorporate air that stays imprisoned thanks to the fat molecules present in the mixture (be they from the cheese or the eggs) – this is the principle behind whipped cream or any mousse. The problem is that, while cooking, the mousse will release water, loose its structure, and you will end up with a cheesecake drier on the inside and wetter on the outside. Not too yummy huh?
So please trust me, and ban your hand blender or electric whisk from your kitchen while you make cheesecake. Ban any whisk in the vicinity for that matter. You’ll thank me and will enjoy the best cheesecake ever, even if it doesn’t contain too much fat.
The version I’m about to show you contains only a few ingredients and is supplemented in protein, so you can easily eat it for breakfast before a training session, as a post-workout meal, as a protein snack, or gobble half of the cake for dinner because these muscles won’t grow all by themselves, right?
I always use the same kind of ingredients for all my cheesecakes, so you can easily make the cheese mix as a base and add any flavor you like. I use a fresh cheese called kvarg here in Sweden, which is the equivalent of the German quark. It is very low in fat (0,3%) and keeps its texture without releasing too much water. You can replace it by any fresh cheese you like, including cottage cheese (but I advise you to keep this one for later, because soon I’ll treat you with the Swedish version of cheesecake, the ostkaka, and new horizons will open before your eyes), or Greek yogurt. I add to this a pack of full fat cream cheese, for the texture and the taste, but you can of course choose a lower fat version if you wish so.
The protein I add to the cake is this one :
It’s unflavored but you can of course use a flavored version. Vanilla works well, and I had some success for other cheesecakes with an apple pie or caramel flavor. Be sure to use whey, though, because casein would give a cakey and powdery texture to the cheesecake, and you don’t want that.
I used frozen strawberries (you can use fresh ones if you prefer, I just find frozen ones are handy to use), so I started by thaw them in a small pot, then crushed them coarsely with a fork. I prefer to leave some texture in the fruit, but if you prefer a smooth coulis, just blend it with a mixer.
Then I mixed almond flour, vanilla extract, cinnamon in a bowl. I added one egg and a few drops of sweetener, and formed a dough that I spread at the bottom of a cake form. Mine is 24cm diameter, and I made enough dough to cover it with a very thin layer of crust.
Tip: wet your hands before pressing the dough, it will prevent it from staying stuck to your hands.
I put it in the oven for 10 mn, and during this time prepared the cheese mix, by simply beating lightly the kvarg, cream cheese and protein together. Then I added a little vanilla extract, some sweetener and two eggs. I stirred just to incorporate the eggs, no more. You want to end with an homogeneous consistency, but it can still be a little grainy as shown in the picture below.
I just poured the cheese mix on the baked crust, that had time to cool down a little.
Then comes the fun part. You will delicately put spoonfuls of the strawberries onto the cheese, and then marble it with a wooden skewer or the handle of a wooden spoon.
All that’s left to do is to bake it, refrigerate it and devour it!
Ingredients for 8 pers.
500g kvarg, or any low fat fresh cheese or Greek yogurt
200g full fat cream cheese (feel free to replace it with a low fat option if you wish, but know that it will impair the texture a bit)
50g whey protein (about 1 1/2 to 2 scoops)
200g strawberries (fresh or frozen)
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract or powder
carb free sweetener of your choice (I use Hermesetas liquid)
For the crust:
60g almond flour (circa 1 cup)
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract or powder
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
sweetener to taste
Preparation: 10 mn.
Cooking time: 30-35 mn.
Macros per serving: 201 kcal., protein: 18g; carbs: 6.3g; fat: 11.5g
Start by making the strawberry coulis, to allow it to cool while you prepare the other ingredients. Put the strawberries in a saucepan, and heat them just long enough for them to be soft, about 3 mn. Add a little sweetener if they’re too acidic, but not too much since you want to keep a hint of tartness to balance the sweetness of the cheese. Crush them with a fork, just to make a coarse puree. Leave it aside to cool.
Put the ingredients for the crust into a bowl and mix them thoroughly until you obtain a thick dough. Spread this dough in a tin form (mine is round and 24 cm diameter) and form a thin layer pressing the dough with your hands. Bake it at 170-180°C for 10 mn or until it starts to get colored.
During this time, put the kvarg and cream cheese into a bowl with the whey protein and vanilla extract, and mix well with a spatula. Add the two eggs, mix again gently with the spatula. Add some sweetener to your taste (I added about 1 tsp. of Hermesetas liquid in this recipe). Stop mixing as soon as all the ingredients are incorporated.
Pour the mixture over the crust in the pan. Put spoonfuls of the strawberry coulis on top of the cheese. Make marble patterns with a skewer or the handle of a wooden spoon by delicately moving it around the pan. Be careful of not piercing through the crust.
Put the cheesecake in the oven and bake it at 160°-170°C for 30-35 mn. Adjust the temperature and time according to your oven. You don’t want the cheesecake to brown or become colored. Take the cheesecake out of the oven when it’s still wobbly in the center. It will settle while cooling, and this is the secret to a soft and creamy cheesecake. Overcook it and you will end up with a concrete block, and you wouldn’t want that, would you?
Let the cheesecake sit in the fridge for at least 2 hours or even overnight before eating it.