Greek Yogurt Cheesecake with Ouzo Poached Figs
15 plain Melba toasts, (about 4 ounces; not Melba “snacks”)
1/3 cup walnut halves
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sugar
14 ounces reduced-fat (Neufchâtel) cream cheese
1 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups low-fat or nonfat plain Greek yogurt, (see Ingredient Note)
7 large egg whites
1 teaspoon cinnamon
16 whole dried figs
2 cups warm water
1/2 cup ouzo, Mavrodaphne or port wine (see Ingredient Note)
2 rose geranium leaves, plus more for garnish (optional; see Ingredient Note)
1 cinnamon stick
1 3-inch strip orange zest
1/2 cup sugar
To prepare crust: Preheat oven to 325°F. Put a kettle of water on to heat for the water bath. Coat a 10-inch springform pan with cooking spray; tightly wrap the bottom and outside with a double layer of foil.
Process Melba toasts and walnuts in a food processor until fine crumbs form. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add oil and 2 tablespoons sugar and toss until evenly moist. Press the crumb mixture into the bottom of the pan. Bake until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
To prepare cheesecake: When the crust is almost cool, beat cream cheese and 1 cup sugar in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Add yogurt, egg whites and cinnamon; beat until well blended. Pour the batter over the cooled crust.
Place the cheesecake in a roasting pan and pour in enough boiling water to come 1 inch up the outside of the springform pan. Bake the cheesecake in the center of the oven until set around the edges but the center still jiggles, about 45 minutes. Turn off the oven and let the cheesecake sit in the oven with the door ajar for 1 hour. Let cool on a wire rack for 1 hour more.
To prepare topping: Meanwhile, place figs in a small bowl, cover with warm water and let soak for 1 hour.
Strain the figs, reserving the soaking water. Strain the soaking water into a medium saucepan. Add ouzo (or wine); bring to a boil over high heat. Add geranium leaves (if using), cinnamon stick, orange zest and the figs. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the figs are plump and the liquid is the consistency of a thin syrup, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the figs with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool. Stir 1/2 cup sugar into the liquid, adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, and cook until the liquid is reduced by half, 15 to 25 minutes. Discard the geranium leaves, cinnamon stick and orange zest. Chop the figs and return them to the syrup.
Remove the pan sides from the cheesecake. Serve each slice topped with some of the fig sauce and a rose geranium leaf, if desired.
Pairs Well With
We hosted a Greek dinner night at our home not too long ago and I needed something for dessert that would stand out. This cheesecake turned out perfectly and everyone loved the anise/licorice infused taste of the figs. I ended up having to make copies of the recipe for everyone before they left.