Recipe Revamping: Banana Cheesecake

“I wouldn’t have thought of that!”

At a baking workshop I had last week where 32 people were present, the comment I kept hearing in response to my answers to their questions was “I wouldn’t have thought of that!”

I found this intriguing, because I don’t really think it’s that folks wouldn’t have thought of it. I think it’s more that sometimes we tend to accept things as they are as opposed to giving any thought to whether something can done be different.

This week I received an email asking if I could revamp a recipe, which always thrills me. I enjoy thinking about a recipe and seeing if I can make it healthier, allergy friendly, and yummy all at the same time.

It was a gentleman writing in this time about a cheesecake recipe. I was interested immediately simply because it was a banana cheesecake which I had never actually heard of before. He needed it to be dairy, nut and gluten free, but he also wanted to cut back on the refined sugar and fat.

The bananas:

Original Recipe: 2 large bananas, diced, cooked with 1 tbsp lemon and 2 tbsp brown sugar

I thought about the folks who said they “wouldn’t have thought of that” because one of the first changes I made to the recipe was to roast the bananas. The recipe called for cooking the bananas on the stove top with sugar. The easiest way to sweeten bananas without the use of sugar is to bake them so their own sweetness becomes concentrated.

The idea of roasting a banana, though, isn’t something people usually consider for home cooking. It’s quite easy to do, though. There are several different ways to go about it, but the way I prefer is to simply bake the banana in its peel. You preheat the oven to 400 degrees, put your bananas in a line on a cookie sheet and bake for about 20 minutes. Allow the bananas to cool until you can safely peel them, and then use the bananas as you’d like.

The crust:

Original Recipe: 1 1/2 cup finely crushed vanilla wafers, 1/2 cup chopped pecans, and 1/4 cup butter (plus 17 vanilla wafers for the sides and 1/2 cup coarsely topped wafers for the top) 

This recipe called for the use of a lot of vanilla wafers.  It needed crushed wafers for the crust, then more wafers for the sides, and finally coarsely chopped wafers for the topping. This is a lot of sugar, fat, and just plain empty carbs. It’s also not great for folks with food allergies.

For folks who want to use vanilla wafers, Kinnikinnick actually makes a gluten, dairy, nut free vanilla wafer. I’d recommend just using it for the crust, though, and forgetting about the sides and top. That alone will cut back on the calories, sugar and fat. Since I’m always in favor of adding something better if possible, I opted to use Jo-Sef’s gluten, dairy, nut free dark chocolate cookie squares, because these cookies are made with soy flour, which adds protein, and not just the usual rice flour. In addition, because it’s a dark chocolate cookie, the sugars in it are much less. I zooped an 8 oz box of cookies in my food processor for the crust.

To make it dairy free, I used a vegan butter instead. Since 1/4 cup is actually a reasonably small amount compared to most crust recipes, I kept the amount as is. To make it nut free, I simply omitted the pecans altogether, which also cuts back on the total fat, though nuts are considered good fats in general.

(FYI: If you want to make your own vanilla wafers, Gluten Free on a ShoeString actually has a gluten free recipe which can easily be adapted to also be dairy, nut, soy, etc… free.http://glutenfreeonashoestring.com/nilla-wafers/)

The filling:

Original Recipe: 3 8 oz pkgs cream cheese, 1 cup white sugar, 3 large eggs, 2 tsp vanilla

Since the crust was made with a store bought cookie which had some sugar, even if less than other cookies, I omitted sugar from the cheesecake filling, choosing to use Agave instead because I could then use half the amount of what would have been required of sugar.

To cut back on the fat, I replaced the whole eggs with egg whites, and to make it dairy free, I simply used tofu cream cheese instead. The vanilla, I kept as is.

The topping:

Original Recipe: 1/2 cup coarsely crushed vanilla wafers

As mentioned earlier, omitting the use of more vanilla wafers cuts back on the sugar and fat. It does, though, leave the cheesecake a little naked. So, I opted to make a sour cream topping with some amendments.

Usually a sour cream topping for a cheesecake calls for 2 cups of sour cream. I opted to use only one cup, though, to cut back on overall calories, and I used tofu sour cream to make it dairy free.

Sour cream topping usually also calls for anywhere from 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of sugar. I used 2 tbsp of coconut sugar, and I added 1/2 tsp of cinnamon for some additional flavoring.

The size:

Original Recipe: Bake in a 9 inch spring form pan.

A simple trick for cutting back on overall calories, fat and sugar, is to change the size of the cheesecake. Instead of using a 9 inch pan, I used a 10 inch, which slightly spreads the cheesecake to thin the overall layer out. So when you go to cut the cheesecake, you can cut it into more slices which have a little less height to them, thus making for a little less of everything you’re eating.

Banana Cheesecake

Ingredients:

one 8 oz package chocolate cookie wafers (I used Jo-Sef’s gluten, dairy, nut free ones)

1/4 cup vegan butter, melted

three 6 inch bananas

three 8 oz packages Tofu cream cheese, at room temperature

1/2 cup agave

3/4 cup liquid egg whites, at room temperature

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup tofu sour cream

2 tbsp coconut sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Baking Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a food processor process the chocolate cookie wafers into crumbs. Empty the crumbs into a bowl and mix them with the melted butter.

3. Put the chocolate cookie mixture into a 10 inch springform pan, and evenly press the mixture into a bottom crust for the cheesecake.

4. Bake the crust in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Remove and allow it to cool.

5. Increase the oven heat to 400 degrees.

6. Line the three bananas on a cookie sheet, and bake them for 20 minutes. They will be black and soft with some moisture oozing out of them when they’re done. Allow the bananas to cool.

7. Decrease the oven to 325 degrees.

8. In a mixer, gently blend the cream cheese until it’s smooth.

9. With the mixer on low, slowly pour in the agave until it’s all incorporated into the cream cheese. Be sure to use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides and bottom occasionally.

10. With the mixer on low, slowly add the egg whites until they’re fully incorporated into the cream cheese batter.

11. Add the vanilla.

12. Remove the roasted bananas from their peels, and mash them. Then add them to the cream cheese batter until they’re fully mixed in. Be sure to scraped down the sides and bottom with a rubber spatula once or twice.

13. Completely cover the bottom of the springform pan with aluminum foil and put the pan into a larger pan which will hold it.

14. Gently pour in the cream cheese batter into the prepared pan, and level off the filling so it’s even.

15. Pour boiling water into the larger pan until the water is halfway up the sides of the springform pan.

16. Bake in the oven for one hour.

17. Mix the sour cream with the coconut sugar and cinnamon. When the cheesecake is done at the hour mark, carefully spread the sour cream mixture evenly over the top of the cheesecake, and bake for 10 minutes.

18. Remove the cheesecake from the larger pan when it’s done, and allow it to cool for about half an hour to an hour on a cooling rack.

19. Remove the outside of the springform pan, and put the cheesecake into the fridge to completely cool. Usually it needs at least three to four hours.

20. Slice, serve, and enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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