I love a good baked cheesecake a lot more than an unbaked one. Nigella’s New York (London) cheesecake with cream cheese and sour cream has been one of my steady favourites for years, but because a cheesecake isn’t the lightest of desserts, I tend to avoid making it during the summers because I feel unnecessarily bogged down after the first slice. Adding to that, a cheesecake is still not cheap to make in India and if I want to make a sizeable portion, I’d have to invest in lots of Philly cream cheese. Nothing comes close to the taste of Philadelphia, especially when we talk about baked cheesecakes, and I’m not here to propose a substitute. Instead I wanted to make a cheesecake that I could enjoy in the summers without feeling bad if I went back for another slice. The obvious choice was to opt for Greek yoghurt, and I started with a combination of greekyo and malai paneer first. No matter how much vanilla I packed into the cheesecake, some paneer seemed to come through in the final taste, and I just wasn’t happy with it. The texture too was firmer than the rich, set-custard feel of good cheesecake when you spoon into it. All that luscious texture was absent from the first cheesecake and that just didn’t work for me. It was good, but it could have been better.
This cheesecake is the result of weeks of planning, trial and error with a shit ton of taste tests.It uses a combination of greek yoghurt, coconut milk and condensed milks, to which I add the richness of whole eggs and yolks, so when it sets in the oven, it sets like a super creamy, rich flan that could pass off as a cheesecake in a pinch. For this particular cheesecake, I made a topping of tinned pineapple slices caramelised in their own water, shavings of dried coconut and a final squirty squirt of some lime caramel sauce.
Pineapple and Coconut No-Cheese Cake
Yield 6-8 servings
You need to relax. This cheesecake is a doddle to make, and it’s a wobble in the centre that’ll tell you if it’s done. Much lighter than an average cream cheese cheesecake, this one is made with greek yoghurt and coconut milk, which makes it a perfect summer alternative.
For The Base:
Digestive biscuits 125g
Butter 50g, melted, plus extra for brushing on the sides of the pan
Pinch of salt
For The Cheesecake
Greek Yoghurt 300g, added to muslin cloth placed inside a strainer, set over a bowl
Condensed milk tin 150ml
Coconut milk 150ml
Caster sugar 50g
A pinch of salt
Vanilla extract 3/4 tsp (I used Sprig’s Natural Bourbon Vanilla)
Lime juice 1/2 tsp
Whole Eggs 3
Egg yolk 1
Tinned pineapple 1 small tin
Dried coconut 1/2 for shaving on top of the cheesecake
For The Lime Caramel Sauce:
Caster sugar 75g
Water 3 tbsp
Pinch of salt
Juice of 1 lime
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. Start by making the crust. In a food processor, blitz together the digestive biscuits, the melted butter and a pinch of salt. Blitz till the mixture begins to stick around the sides and can blitz no further. Tip the biscuit base into a 6-inch springform tin that has been greased, and pat it down using your hands. Compact the crumbs of the biscuit base by running the base of glass over it pressing down as you go.
Transfer the biscuit base to the oven to bake till it is firm, for about 8-10 minutes. Let the base sit outside to rest and cool while you get on with the filling.
Increase the temperature of the oven to 220 degrees celsius, and let this preheat. Take a large bowl and add the strained Greek yoghurt, then proceed to beat for 2 minutes using an electric hand mixer. Add the condensed milk, the coconut milk and the sugar, then blitz again till everything well combined. Then add the single egg yolk lemon juice and vanilla, beat once more.
Next, add the eggs one at a time beating between each addition. Take a piece of aluminium foil and wrap the base of the springform tin in the aluminium foil , compacting the base from all sides. Once this is done, carefully pour the cheesecake filling over the biscuit base and very carefully transfer to the oven.
Let the cheesecake bake at this high temperature for 6 minutes exactly before turning the heat down to 110 degrees celsius. Then, continue to bake the cheesecake for 45-50 minutes or until the cheesecake is set with a slight wobble in the centre when the pan is lightly nudged.
Cool the cheesecake for 15 minutes with the oven door open, then carefully take it out, run a knife around the corners of the cheesecake and let it continue cool in the mould itself at room temperature for an hour and a half at least.
After the cheesecake has cooled, transfer it to the refrigerator to chill for an hour and a half, covered, till it is time to top it.
Once the cheesecake is cool, and it’s time to serve, in a small saucepan with a handle, add the water, the caster sugar and a few drops of lime juice and set it over medium heat. Swirl the pan using the handle multiple times to evenly melt the sugar. Once the sugar and water has turned a dark amber in colour, take the pan off the heat quickly and add the cream, stirring all the time with a spatula. Take care since it’s going to bubble up. Keep stirring till all the cream has been incorporated, theme dd the butter and finally the lime juice. Taste and adjust for a bit more lime and set it aside to cool.
Set a frying pan, grill pan or a cast iron pan over high heat. Once it is very hot, add the pieces of pineapple in pairs and let the pieces of pineapple char at the bottom for 3-4 minutes on each side. Once the pineapple slices have charred, reduce the heat to medium, add in a few spoonfuls of the juice from the tin and let it bubble and caramelise around the sides of the pineapple. Transfer to a plate. Do this for as many slices as you need to top the cake.
To serve, lay the slices of pineapple over the cheesecake, grate over the dry coconut using a vegetable peeler or a mandoline slicer so you get nice looking slices. Then using a squeezey bottle, run the caramel over the top of the cheesecake letting a bit also run down the sides if need be. Serve.