By Carmel Karni — See the recipe
When I was growing up in Israel, the rest of the world was larger and more mysterious. Grocery stores in those days did not have a wealth of ingredients and products. There wasn’t much (if any) choice in shampoo, toothpaste or cereal. We had three kinds of widely used cheeses. Cottage cheese and two other cheeses that were called, prosaically, yellow cheese and white cheese.
The yellow one was a semi-hard mild Emmental style cheese; while the white was a soft, mild cheese like a thick yogurt or a lump-less cottage cheese. It is a do-it-all hard-working cheese that is eaten with breakfast and dinner alongside the ubiquitous tomato and cucumber salad or spread on sandwiches for snacks. A kid favorite was white cheese with tomato slices or olives but it is commonly used in all kinds of baked goods. Israeli cheesecake is traditionally made with that white cheese. The cake comes out light and fluffy, with a melt-in-your mouth texture.
A few years ago I realized that greek yogurt has a very similar flavor and texture to the (hard to find) Israeli white cheese. The yogurt works wonderfully in this recipe and hey, it's practically healthy! This is my moms go-to cheesecake recipe. The original recipe appeared in a newspaper years ago. My mom still keeps the yellowed newspaper cutting in her recipe box.
Ima’s Yogurt Cheesecake
Note on yogurt:
Make sure your yogurt has no stabilizers, ingredients should read: "milk (sometimes cream) and live active cultures". Its easier to find 5% than full fat at most grocery stores and the 5% works well, though higher fat is always welcome. Do not use a fat free yogurt. Fage is my go-to yogurt brand for this recipe.
- 200 grams graham crackers (roughly 1.5 sleeves)
- 50 grams slivered almonds (1/4 cup)
- 8 TB butter (one stick)
- 5 large eggs, separated
- 1 cup sugar, divided
- 2 teaspoon vanilla
- 200 ml (its a little more than 3/4 cup, you don’t have to be super exact) sour cream
- 750 grams greek yogurt, 5% or full fat (about 3 1/4 cups)
- 50 grams corn starch (5 TBS)
In a stand mixer, beat the yolks with 1/2 cup of the sugar and vanilla on high speed until very light and puffy, about 4 minutes. Slow the mixer down and add the sour cream, then the yogurt and finally the corn starch. Mix until everything looks blended.
Move the yolk mixture to a new bowl and clean out the mixer and mixer bowl. You need a clean mixer for the meringue to succeed, don’t skip this step. Put the egg whites in the now cleaned mixer bowl beat on high speed until foamy (about 30 seconds), add the reserved half cup sugar and beat until the meringue is shiny and holds its peaks. About 3-4 minutes. Fold the meringue into the yolks and yogurt mixture. Only mix until color looks homogenous. Do not over mix.
Pour filling into the your prepared pan with base. Bake for 60-70 minutes. The cake will rise a lot. When done, It will look appealingly brown or the top and will jiggle slightly when shaken. Allow cake to cool for about an hour before eating. Keep leftovers covered in plastic wrap but do not refrigerate.