Can a dessert be a cheesecake when it doesn’t start with cheese? My gut feeling tells me that it can’t. In spite of that, I can’t resist calling these little yogurt-based souffles, “cheesecake souffles” because they taste exactly like a light and fluffy cheesecake – only without all the calories and fat of a “real cheesecake.”
When I first set about making these, I was simply experimenting with yogurt as a potential souffle base ingredient in a recipe that was originally created by Alice Medrich. Souffles are such classy little desserts and always make a great presentation, so I enjoy making them. But because I don’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen, I have a slight preference for souffles that don’t require pre-cooked bases. Yogurt has an appealing thickness to it, but it isn’t generally known for its ability to stand up to heat well. I shouldn’t have been worried because the eggs, sugar and flour that also go into the base of this dish serve to support the yogurt and give plenty of structure to the souffle.
The texture is very light and fluffy, similar to some souffle-style ricotta cheesecakes I’ve tried in the past, and has a very fine, pillowy consistency. If your egg whites are beaten well and you give each of your ramekins a tap on the counter before putting the into the oven, you should have no large air pockets in the souffles to mar their beautiful interiors. The souffles have a very slightly tangy flavor to them from the yogurt. They are lightly sweet and have a pleasant vanilla flavor. If you prefer your souffles/cheesecake to be sweeter, you can add 1 or 2 additional tablespoons of sugar or top off the finished souffles with a drizzle of chocolate syrup or fruit.
I used thick, Greek-style yogurt for this recipe and opted for a low fat instead of full-fat. Nonfat Greek yogurt actually works well, too, although the souffles will be very slightly richer with the low fat variety. If you don’t have Greek-style yogurt, you can use regular, plain yogurt. Make sure to choose a brand that is all natural, then pour the yogurt into a cheesecloth-lined strainer for about 15 minutes before using to thicken it up and drain off excess liquid.
Yogurt ‘Cheesecake’ Souffles
1 cup plain yogurt (greek style, pref.)
3 large egg yolks
3 large egg whites, room temperature
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup sugar
butter and sugar, for ramekins
Preheat the oven to 375F.
Butter six 6-oz. ramekins. Pour a small amount of sugar into each and roll the ramekins to coat (just like flouring a pan). Set on a baking sheet.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together yogurt, egg yolks, flour, salt and vanilla extract.
In a medium mixing bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy. Gradually stream in sugar and continue beating on medium-high speed until all sugar has been incorporated and egg whites have reached soft peaks.
Working in two or three batches, gently fold egg whites in to yolk mixture. This can be done with a whisk or with a spatula. Make sure all egg whites have been fully incorporated.
Divide mixture evenly into ramekins, using about 1/2 cup in each and leaving ramekins on the baking tray.
Bake for about 15 minutes, until evenly risen and lightly browned around the edges.