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Better-for-You Maple Cheesecake with Pecan-Graham Cracker Crust

Better-for-You Maple Cheesecake with Pecan-Graham Cracker Crust

This better-for-you maple cheesecake tastes incredibly rich, yet it is much lower in calories and fat, thanks to a clever, secret ingredient.

Better-for-You Maple Cheesecake // FoodNouveau.com

Of all desserts that became off-limits when I officially concluded I was lactose-intolerant, initially, I missed cheesecake the most. The dessert had a special meaning: it was over a shared slice of cheesecake at one of my favorite Quebec City cafés that I concluded almost 20 years ago that the guy sitting in front of me was the one I would spend the rest of my life with. He was racing to eat more cake than I was, which was slightly upsetting—weren’t we supposed to share 50/50?—but it was also a sign that he knew to enjoy the good things in life. We went back a few times to share the dessert again, making a deal to observe stricter sharing rules, but we had to halt the tradition when I discovered the beloved cheesecake was literally making me sick.

Fifteen years ago, it was nearly impossible to find decent-tasting dairy-free cream cheese, so I just put that dessert on the shelf along with all the others I now had to abstain from. But over the last 10 years, the market for plant-based and lactose-free alternatives to dairy products has exploded. Once I discovered a dairy-free cream cheese with a flavor close enough to the real thing that I enjoyed it slathered on bagels, I thought it was time to bring cheesecake back into my life.

It’s no secret that cheesecake is a rich, decadent dessert. While I experimented with cream cheese alternatives, I figured I might as well try to find ways to cut back on the quantity. Yes, cream cheese is delicious, but it’s also extremely rich, and I just knew there had to be a way to make a maple cheesecake that tasted just as decadent yet was “better for you.” You don’t need to be on a diet to make a better-for-you dessert! Making smarter choices—ones that cut back on calories and fat, yet sacrifice nothing in terms of flavor and texture—simply means you get to stop seeing cheesecake as an occasional indulgence and can make it (and enjoy it!) more often.

Better-for-You Maple Cheesecake // FoodNouveau.com

Through my research, I have come to substitute half of the cream cheese used in cheesecake with what may sound like a surprising ingredient: silken tofu. Silken tofu is the perfect cloaking device: not only is it lean and fat-free, but it provides a lovely, super smooth texture to this maple cheesecake, all while letting the flavor of cream cheese and, in this recipe, maple syrup, shine to their fullest.

Since I perfected this better-for-you maple cheesecake recipe, I’ve never gone back to a regular, 100% cream cheese recipe. There’s just no reason to do so: the flavor of better-for-you silken tofu is unnoticeable, and the velvety consistency it gives the maple cheesecake is always a huge hit. None of the loved ones I serve this maple cheesecake to can ever guess what my secret ingredient is—but they’re always happy to learn they can go back for guilt-free seconds.

Better-for-You Maple Cheesecake // FoodNouveau.com

Better-for-You Maple Cheesecake // FoodNouveau.com

Better-for-You Maple Cheesecake with Pecan-Graham Cracker Crust

This better-for-you maple cheesecake tastes incredibly rich, yet it is much lower in calories and fat, thanks to a clever, secret ingredient.
Prep Time:20 mins
Cook Time:1 hr 30 mins
Cooling Time:12 hrs
Servings 12 servings

Ingredients

For the pecan-graham cracker crust

  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • ½ cup finely ground pecans
  • ½ cup granulated maple sugar
  • cup unsalted butter

For the maple cheesecake

  • 1 lb silken soft tofu, drained and patted dry
  • 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature (you can use either the regular or light varieties, or substitute lactose-free or dairy-free cream cheese)
  • 1 cup granulated maple sugar
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the glazed pecans (optional)

  • 1 cup unsalted pecan halves
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup

To serve

  • Maple syrup (optional)

Instructions

For the pecan-graham cracker crust:

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Lightly coat a 9-inch (23-cm) springform pan with cooking spray.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, ground pecans, maple sugar, and melted butter, and mix well using a spatula until the dry ingredients are completely moistened. Firmly press the crust over the bottom of the prepared springform pan. Bake for 15 minutes or until the crust is fragrant and the edges are lightly golden. Let cool completely.

For the maple cheesecake:

  • Fill a roasting pan halfway with water and place on the lower rack of the oven (which should still be running at 350°F / 175°C). Wrap the outside of the springform pan containing the baked graham cracker crust with a large sheet of aluminum foil to prevent any leaks. 
  • In a food processor, beat all the cheesecake ingredients together until the texture is smooth and silky. Alternatively, you can use a hand blender to mix all the ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. It’s important to get a completely smooth texture; if you see lumps remaining, press the cheesecake mixture through a fine-mesh strainer to ensure a velvety texture.
  • Pour the cheesecake mixture into the prepared crust, then carefully transfer the pan to the oven’s middle rack, setting it right above the water-filled roasting pan. Bake for 75 minutes or until the cake is set around the edges but the center is still a bit jiggly (the cake will set completely as it cools.) Place the cake on a wire rack and let cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least half a day or overnight.

For the glazed pecans:

  • Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the nuts and maple syrup and mix using a spatula so the nuts are completely coated with syrup. Cook, stirring often, until the syrup is caramelized and the nuts are toasted, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate lined covered with a sheet of parchment paper. Use forks to separate the pecans (otherwise they will clump together) and let cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.
  • SERVING: Return the cheesecake back to room temperature about a half-hour before serving. Run a sharp knife around the inside of the pan and then remove the springform ring. Set the cake on a stand or in a large serving plate (keeping the bottom of the springform pan under the cake). Scatter the glazed pecans on top of the cake, or place them neatly all around the edge of the cake. Drizzle each serving with extra maple syrup if desired.
  • STORAGE: Store leftover cheesecake covered with plastic wrap in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Note that the crust may soften over time due to the humidity transferring from the cake.
  • MAKE IT DAIRY FREE: Substitute lactose-free or plant-based butter and cream cheese for their dairy counterparts. My favorite plant-based cream cheese products are Daiya and Tofutti.

Did you make this?

Tell me how you liked it! Leave a comment or take a picture and tag it with @foodnouveau on Instagram.

 
Prep Time: 20 mins
Cook Time: 1 hr 30 mins
Cooling Time: 12 hrs

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