Monday, November 07, 2016

Cottage Cheesecake

Cottage Cheese. You all know what I'm talking about. No, not the unattractive dimply stuff in our thighs. Rather, the stuff diner menus include in what they inexplicably refer to as a "diet plate," along with a bare hamburger patty and some iceberg lettuce. Or the white lumpy stuff that my mother-in-law ate on matzoh crackers with a touch of apple butter. Cottage cheese was once a popular food, but these days, the salty curds-and-cream substance seems more like punishment. The last time I tried supermarket cottage cheese, I gagged.

Of course, I once felt the same way about yogurt, and now I eat a ton of it.

Earlier in the year, at the Fancy Food Show, I tasted a new brand of cottage cheese. I'll try anything once, even camel milk and tortilla chips made with cricket flour. Expecting the same chalky curds in mucus-y sauce that I had eaten in my youth, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the curds were tender and the sauce binding them together was more like sweet cream. It was tasty. I liked it.

So when I received an e-mail from Muuna Cottage Cheese, asking if I'd be willing to try their products and write about them, I said, "sure." As it turned out, I had seen Muuna at the local grocery store just that week and had purchased the mango flavor. It was tasty. I liked it.

Muuna sent us a great box of cottage cheese goodness - 5.3-ounce cups of all five flavors (blueberry, strawberry, peach, mango, and pineapple) plus a cup of the lowfat plain. I tucked into the flavored stuff immediately, and found that while pineapple and mango were pretty good, blueberry and strawberry were even better. However, I wasn't sure I was ready to eat the plain lowfat cottage cheese on its own. So I made cheesecake with it. Pumpkin cheesecake. Because fall. Oh, and since I only had 5 ounces of cottage cheese to work with, I made minis.

There was still a bit of trepidation involved. I am a fan of smooth cheesecakes. I don't like the oddly dry texture of ricotta cheesecake, and I have never liked the old Baltimore favorite smearcase, which was commonly made with cottage cheese. So I popped the Muuna into the mini prep and gave it a whirl.

The result was an incredibly smooth cream, the texture of my favorite Australian-style yogurt. I added cream cheese, pumpkin, and spices, poured the mixture into graham cracker crusts, and popped them in the oven.

They were incredible. Seriously. I like smooth-textured cheesecakes that aren't overly-cheesy. These little babies were perfect, IMHO. Very pumpkin-y, very smooth, not too dense or cheesy. One 4-inch cheesecake was the perfect size to split with Mr Minx.

I was so pleased with the results and the texture of the blended cottage cheese, I think I might try a version without using any cream cheese at all. Maybe even a smearcase-style cake. Maybe.

Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes for Two
I call for a mini prep to whiz the cottage cheese because it seems silly to dirty a big food processor with this ridiculously small amount of batter. If that's all you have, however, then use it. A blender would work, too. I find the Cuisinart Mini-Prep's 3-cup size is just perfect for small jobs like hummus and pesto, and it's small enough to leave on the counter at all times. Amazon has it for around $35, and I have more than gotten my money's worth.

For the crust:
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs (I used crushed Teddy Grahams)
2 heaped tablespoons toasted unsalted pumpkin seeds (pepitas), ground in a mini prep or with a mortar and pestle if you're old fashioned
Pinch brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter, melted

For the filling:
1 (5.3 ounce) container of Muuna lowfat plain cottage cheese
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
1 egg

To make the crust: Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Place the crust ingredients in a zip-top sandwich bag. Close the bag and squish the ingredients around until everything is coated with the butter. Dump the bag into two 4-inch springform pans and pat into an even layer, coming a little up the sides. Bake for 7 minutes, then remove and allow to cool to room temperature.

To make the filling: Put the cottage cheese in the bowl of a mini-prep food processor and pulse until the cheese has been pureed. Add the pumpkin, sugar, spices, salt, and vanilla and blend well. Scrape mixture into a bowl and stir in the softened cream cheese, then beat in the egg until everything is well combined.

Pour filling into prepared pans and bake at 350° for 40-45 minutes, or until puffed and set. The middle might jiggle a wee bit but should not be liquidy. If it is, bake it for an additional 5 minutes. Cool cakes on a rack. When cool, loosen the edges with a knife before releasing the sides of the pan. Wrap and foil and refrigerate until cold.

Serve topped with whipped cream.

Serves 4

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats. Amazon links earn me $ at no cost to you! Please buy!

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