Ahhh, dessert. For some people, it’s the whole point of a meal, saving the best for last. For me, it’s a rare occurrence. Sure, I love the occasional sweet indulgence but it’s not what makes me salivate (that would be vinegar, olives, more vinegar, followed with creamy butter slathered on bread!) But when I have dinner parties, I know that my guests are not all sour-alholics like myself. So I make concessions.
For years, this was my go-to dessert, not only because it was easy and made with inexpensive ingredients, but I loved the shock and awe it created. “Yogurt cheese?! What’s that? And why would you make it for dessert?!”
15 years ago when I first discovered this recipe courtesy of this Moosewood Cookbook, Greek yogurt was not a part of the shoppers experience; it was simply strained yogurt which made it thick, similar in consistency to cream cheese. And the fabulous Moosewood collective created this faux cheese pie. Fantastic!
This dish is one of the few recipes that I have committed to memory and basically follow to the letter, from the berry glaze to the crust and flavoring of the yogurt “cheese.” While you may be tempted to take a shortcut and strain vanilla flavored yogurt instead of plain, restrain yourself. The vanilla flavoring is just a hint, similar to its use in a white cake, not an overpowering vanilla flavor. And besides, it gives me an excuse to use my homemade vanilla extract!
Yogurt Cheese Pie with Raspberry Glaze
4 cups strained plain yogurt or Greek yogurt*
10 oz graham crackers (2 packages from a 14.4 oz box)
1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 lemon (or 2 limes) juiced
2 cups frozen raspberries, half defrosted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Crumble graham crackers into food processor and pulse until fine crumbs. Melt stick of butter over low heat until melted. Pour graham cracker crumbs into metal mixing bowl, add butter and salt if butter is unsalted (about 1 teaspoon) and stir to combine completely; crumbs should stick together. Press into 8 or 9 inch pie pan and press smoothly, packing mixture tightly against the sides and evenly on the bottom of the pan. Bake for 10 minutes until just browning and remove from oven and allow to cool at least 30 minutes before filling.
Combine yogurt, vanilla and 2 tablespoons of sugar and blend well by hand (a food processor is too harsh). In cleaned food processor, pulse raspberries, 2 tablespoons of sugar and lemon or lime juice until well blended. Once crust is cooled, scoop yogurt into crust, spreading carefully and evenly. Spread berry topping on top and chill in freezer for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours. Remove from freezer at least 30 minutes before serving.
*To strain yogurt, line a wire strainer with 2 layers of cheesecloth and place in a large mixing bowl (let it rest on the sides, not touching the bottom.) Pour the yogurt into the strainer and close the ends of the cheesecloth up around it, securing it tightly with a twist tie or rubber band. The liquid whey from the yogurt will begin to drip and collect in the bowl. Place the bowl in the refrigerator and drain every couple of hours and allow to strain for at least 8 hours. If you place a heavy weight on top of the yogurt – canned tomatoes or mason jar filled with beans – it will speed the process. Once yogurt is very dense and the consistency of cream cheese, scrape it all off the cheesecloth and refrigerate in a container until ready to use. Wash the cheesecloth thoroughly for use again and again.
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