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