Yogurt Cheesecake with a Salty Pretzel Crust and Candied Walnuts

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I like a challenge and was excited to see a notice for a contest to create a recipe using California walnuts. The goal was to submit a blog post and recipe using walnuts in either a sweet or savory recipe. Well, I love walnuts and so I jumped at the chance to enter the contest. However, by the time my walnut samples arrived in the mail and I figured out what to make, I’d missed the deadline. I made my recipe anyway. It is a soothing yogurt cheesecake — very healthy, too — I added a salty pretzel crust (savory) and candied walnuts on top (sweet). The recipe contains a “twist” on traditional cheesecake recipes. You will see. The dessert turned out great.

I also had another motive for making this cheesecake. Several years ago I received a flyer as a magazine insert advertising the “Bon Appetit” Magazine. The cover had a photo of a great looking yogurt cheesecake with pomegranates. Unfortunately, the flyer didn’t include the recipe. I assume they wanted you to purchase a magazine subscription. Well, I’ve kept the flyer tacked to my refrigerator door for several years (because I like the photo) and eventually tracked down the recipe on the internet. And so this recipe is also an attempt to re-create the “Bon Appetit” cheesecake — although I changed it substantially. Comparing the photos, not too bad. (And I didn’t purchase a subscription — I purchase the magazines one at a time — the expensive way!)

Healthy Cheesecake Recipe

This cheesecake is very healthy — compared to traditional cheesecake recipes. The filling uses Greek yogurt to replace much of the cream cheese. So this is a “lite” recipe, higher in protein and lower in fat. I used pretzels for the crust which have minimal fat content and and sprinkled the top with blueberries adding nutrition as well as walnuts. And there are no eggs in this recipe if you are concerned about cholesterol.

And walnuts are loaded with nutritional value including omega-3 fatty acids.

The California walnut samples came with information and trivia:

  • walnuts have more omega-3  ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) than another nut,
  • 99% of all walnuts consumed in America are grown in California (although we did have a walnut tree nearby when growing up in Virginia),
  • store walnuts in the freezer to keep them fresh longer.

What is the importance of omega-3 fatty acids? They are considered to be an essential nutritional component meaning that the body can’t make the this fatty acid. It must come from foods in our diet including fish, oils, walnuts, flaxseed and leafy green vegetables. There are other food sources, too, but these are the richest ones.

What do omega-3 fatty acids do?  Omega-3 fatty acids help control many processes in the body including cell wall membrane function, inflammation and blood clotting through their actions on cell wall receptors and formation of hormones. They have been studied and have positive effects in preventing heart disease and stroke and may help control autoimmune diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and eczema. Omega-3 fatty acids have been studied in relation to “dry eyes” but with no conclusive evidence.

With all the problems of Covid-19 virus — including blood clotting disorders and inflammation in the lungs — I wonder a person’s nutritional status makes a difference? Who knows, just a thought.

So eating walnuts is certainly healthy and it is important to consider this nutrient (omega-3 fatty acids) and food sources when planning one’s meals. A diet containing lots of vegetables, fruits, beans and nuts certainly prepares you nutritionally for our current health problems.

Yogurt Cheesecake Recipe

For the salty part of the recipe, I made a crust using pretzels. The crust ingredients also included confectioners sugar and either butter or margarine.

I prepared the cheesecake in a large 10″ spring form pan, so I used more crust ingredients than usual. I baked the crust for 10 minutes to “set” it and then let it cool.

The filling ingredients include plain Chobani Greek yogurt, cream cheese, sugar, lemon juice, vanilla extract for flavoring and a pinch of salt.

Recipe “twist”

Unlike traditional cheesecake recipes, this recipe has a twist. The filling is molded and chilled — it is not baked. The recipe uses plain gelatin to firm up the filling. Plain gelatin must be prepared differently from instant “Jello” packages, so be careful with what you are doing . It is not hard, just different.

To use plain gelatin, first soften in it in a small amount of cold water for 5 minutes. You can see the gelatin granules that have softened in the measuring cup. After it is softened, place the measuring cup inside a small pot filled partially with water. Bring the pot to a boil. Stir until the gelatin dissolves. This may take several minutes. The gelatin will be thin, clear and syrupy. This gelatin is not quite completely dissolved yet.

Process the cheesecake filling ingredients in a food processor until smooth and silky. Then stream in the dissolved gelatin while it is still hot.

Pour the filling into the baked and cooled crust. Cover with plastic wrap and let chill in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

Candied Walnuts – the simple way

I’ve seen alot of methods for making “candied walnuts.” This method can’t be simpler. Just add the whole walnuts, sugar and margarine or oil to a small heavy skillet.

Cook over low heat and stir constantly until the sugar and margarine are dissolved and the walnuts are coated with the syrup.

Then transfer the candied walnuts to a baking sheet which is covered with aluminum foil and oiled. Let the walnuts cool. Store in an airtight container.

When you are ready to serve, cut into pieces and transfer to serving dishes. Decorate with the candied walnuts, pretzels and fresh blueberries.

This is a light and refreshing dessert. Full of nutrition. Enjoy!

Yogurt Cheesecake

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Ingredients for crust:

  • 6 to 8 oz curly pretzels – to make 2-1/2 cups crushed
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
  • 4 Tbsp powdered sugar

Ingredients for cheesecake filling:

  • 1 pkg gelatin powder
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened at room temperature
  • 2 cups Chobani Greek plain yogurt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch salt

Ingredients for candied walnuts:

  • 1 Tbsp butter or margarine
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup whole walnuts and pieces

Decoration:

  • 1/4 cup fresh blueberries

Method and Steps:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. For the crust: Crush the pretzels. Place about 1/4 of the pretzels in a small ziplock bag and crush with rolling pin. Place in large bowl. Repeat with remaining pretzels.
  3. Add the melted butter (or margarine) and powdered sugar to the crushed pretzels. Stir to combine until all the pretzels are moistened with the butter.
  4. Transfer to a 10″ spring form pan and press the pretzel mixture into the bottom of the pan. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 10 minutes. Remove to a wire rack and cool completely.
  5. For the filling: Add the gelatin packet to the 1/4 cup cold water in glass measuring cup or small heat-resistant bowl. Stir briefly. Let set on room temperature counter for 5 minutes until the gelatin softens.
  6. Fill a small pot with water to 1″ depth and bring to a boil. Set the measuring cup or bowl containing the gelatin in the pot with water. Heat and stir the gelatin until it dissolves, becomes syrupy with no granules remain. Turn stove off; let gelatin remain dissolved on the stove.
  7. Add the remaining filling ingredients — softened cream cheese, Chobani Greek yogurt, sugar, lemon juice, vanilla extract and salt to a large food processor bowl. Process until smooth and silky.
  8. With food processor bowl running, stream in the warm, dissolved gelatin and process just until combined.
  9. Pour filling over the cooled pretzel crust in spring form pan. Cover with plastic wrap an place in refrigerator to gel and set for several hours.
  10. Meanwhile, make the candied walnuts. In a small heavy skillet, add the whole walnuts, butter (or margarine) and sugar. Heat and stir over low heat, tossing the walnuts in the melted butter and sugar for several minutes. Do not let the walnuts burn.
  11. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and coat with a thin layer oil or spray margarine. Pour the walnuts onto the baking sheet and let cool at room temperature. Remove and store in air tight container.
  12. When ready to serve, remove the sides of the spring form pan. Arrange candied walnuts and blueberries on top of the cheesecake. Cut and serve.
  13. Store leftover cheesecake in refrigerator.

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/fats-and-cholesterol/types-of-fat/omega-3-fats/