I have to admit, despite all the things I have made in my time, a baked cheesecake was not one of them, until now. Between the fact they are not as common in the UK as in the US, and that we are not massive dessert people, it’s just never quite happened. However, a friend was moving away not so long ago and we were having a last get together, and a cheesecake seemed like the perfect thing to take. Mind you, starting with a bit of an experiment in this banana baked cheesecake was potentially a bit of a risky move. Thankfully, though, it was most definitely an experiment that worked out well. It was one of the most delicious cheesecakes I have had, if I do say so myself. And all the better for being pretty healthy.
There are a few ‘skinny’ or ‘healthy’ cheesecakes I have seen that use yogurt (and low fat if you really want to cut the calories) rather than cream and sour cream, that I was intrigued to try out. I also had the thought of mixing banana in with the topping to add some natural sweetness, as well as a delicious flavor, and from there a bit of peanut butter was a natural perfect partner. There’s only a little bit of honey as additional sweetener, so as I say, you can feel fairly good about eating it. Which is just as well, as it’s so tasty, I suspect like me you’ll want to come back for seconds. Hey, my excuse is I’m eating for two (though I suspect I would be back even without that excuse).
Making the base
The base is a classic graham cracker base (digestives the closest UK-equivalent), although not too heavy on the butter and without additional sugar, as many recipes add. Instead, there’s a bit of peanut butter for extra ‘glue’ and peanutiness. The base does come out a bit softer than I might have liked, I think mainly because of the fairly soft topping, but it still tastes delicious. I might experiment with non-cookie/cracker bases in future to see if that comes out any differently as it would also be a little healthier, but for now, this is pretty great as it is despite that slight flaw. It does, however, all hold together really well so you don’t lose any crumbs from your slice.
Making the filling
To make the main filling, you blend the cream cheese until smooth then add the banana followed by the yogurt and then eggs. Make sure you blend it nice and smooth at the early stages, as it becomes more liquid as you progress and you can’t really get lumps out. Plus, you don’t want to make it full of bubbles as you add the eggs, you just want them combined. To cook, you make a ‘bain marie’ or water bath to keep the temperature even, but before make sure you cover your tin with foil at least as high as the water will go (around 1in/2.5cm deep) to avoid any water leaking in.
Adding the spiral
The peanut butter swirls have led to the cheesecake cracking a bit, but it’s a fair trade off in my view. They are really easy to do, just create a spiral with some peanut butter into the topping once it’s in the mould then use a skewer to drag the peanut butter out or in to make a nice pattern. Don’t worry if it doesn’t come out perfectly even – I think it is probably almost impossible to make it perfect – it will still look good slightly rustic and will taste great either way. It is worth, however, trying to avoid having the line of peanut butter too thick, as both it’s more likely to crack and will also probably sink rather than stay towards the top. A little sinking is fine (as I had in the centre) but you don’t really want that all over.
This banana baked cheesecake is really not that hard to make, even if it seems like it takes a while most of that is just baking and then cooling. And the result is so tasty, it was met with ‘yum’ noises by all who tried it, including my toddler who happily gobbled as much down as I would give him. The banana flavor is really delicious and the whole thing is beautifully creamy. It holds together really well – you can hold a slice to eat it if you like rather than using a fork, as we found out. Plus, it’s relatively healthy so what could be a better excuse to try another slice! It would be great for your next party/gathering, or just because you feel like it, which I think will be my excuse to make it again pretty soon.
- 1½ cups graham crackers, approx 5oz/140g (digestives are about the closest UK equivalent)
- 2tbsp butter, melted
- 2tbsp smooth peanut butter
- 1x 8oz/225g packet of cream cheese
- 2 bananas, around 7oz/200g peeled weight
- 1 cup/240ml plain yogurt
- 1tsp vanilla extract
- 3 eggs
- 2tbsp smooth peanut butter
- Before you start, cover the outside of your cake tin with foil to at least be 1in/2.5cm up on each side from the bottom. Have another tin ready that will hold the cake tin inside to allow you to make a water bath and boil some water.
- Preheat oven to 350F/175C.
- To make the base, crush the graham crackers in a food processor, or by hand by putting them in a freezer bag and crushing with a rolling pin. Either way, you want even crumbs.
- Melt the butter in a small pan and add the crumbs and the peanut butter. Tip in to the cake tin and press evenly over the bottom.
- Bake the base for around 10min until crisp but not darkening, then remove to cool slightly. Reduce oven temperature to 325F/160C.
- Meanwhile, make the topping. Blend the cream cheese in a mixer or with a hand blender then add the banana and blend again until smooth. Try to ensure there are no lumps at this stage.
- Then add the yogurt and vanilla, blend in again, then add the eggs one at a time. As you are adding the eggs, so this with a lower speed so that and only as long as needed to combine to try to avoid getting bubbles.
- Carefully pour the filling over the crumb base.
- Using a spoon, drizzle the peanut butter on top in a spiral then use a skewer to draw out and in to make a spider-web style pattern on the top
- Carefully lift the cake tin inside larger tin, then make a water bath by pouring boiling water into the outer tin approx 1in/2.5cm deep, being careful not to get any in the cake tin.
- Carefully put the tins in the oven (it can be easiest to put them on the shelf before you put the water in then slide in) and bake for approx 1hr at 325F until it is set.
- Then turn off the oven but leave the cheesecake inside to sit with oven door ajar for around an hour.
- Take it out, allow it to come to room temperature then refrigerate overnight before taking out of the tin and serving.
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