Welcome to my recipe scrapbook. What I have here at this time are notes related to recipes that I have experimented with (presented in a "rough draft" web page). Enjoy!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bran Buddy Bars—Prototype 1:

Uses two 8-oz. packages of Philly 1/3-less-fat cream cheese

Crust:
Melt: 12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
Add: 2 oz. Philly 1/3-less-fat cream cheese (softened)
Add: 2 tbsp. sugar
Add: 1 tbsp: skim milk
Mix together.
Add: 1/2 package (i.e., 8.8 oz.) of Kellogg's All Bran Bran Buds
Mix together.
Press into 13" x 9" pan (a good idea is to line it with wax paper first).
Refrigerate, at least until reasonably firm.

Filling:
Soften: remaining 14 oz. of Philly 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
Add: 4 oz. creamy peanut butter
Add: 3/4 cup sugar
Mix together.

Add filling on top of crust and spread out.

Refrigerate until firm, then cut into squares.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bran Buddy Bars—Prototype 2:

Still uses two 8-oz. packages of Philly 1/3-less-fat cream cheese

Crust:
Melt: 12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
Add: 4 oz. (INSTEAD OF 2 oz.) Philly 1/3-less-fat cream cheese (softened)
Add: 2 tbsp. sugar
Add: 1 tbsp: skim milk
ADD: 2 TEASPOONS OF VANILLA
Mix together.
Add: 1/2 package (i.e., 8.8 oz.) of Kellogg's All Bran Bran Buds
Mix together.
Press into 13" x 9" pan (a good idea is to line it with wax paper first).
Refrigerate, at least until reasonably firm.

Filling:
Soften: remaining 12 oz. (INSTEAD OF 14 oz.) of Philly 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
Add: 4 oz. creamy peanut butter
ADD: 2 OZ. SEMI-SWEET CHOCOLATE (MELTED)
Add: 3/4 cup sugar
Mix together.

Add filling on top of crust and spread out.

Refrigerate until firm, then cut into squares.

SUMMARY OF DIFFERENCES FOR PROTOTYPE 2, COMPARED TO PROTOTYPE 1:
Crust gets 2 teaspoons of vanilla, plus 2 additional oz. of cream cheese.
Filling gets 2 less oz. of cream cheese. In other words, 2 oz. of the cream cheese gets shifted from the filling to the crust. Filling also gets 2 oz. of melted semi-sweet chocolate.

Originally, the aforementioned 2 oz. of chocolate for the filling was supposed to be shifted from the crust's allocation (resulting in only 10 oz. of semi-sweet chocolate for the crust), but this step was forgotten. So the crust still got a full 12 oz., all of this chocolate being mixed in and the crust being made up before the error of forgetfulness was discovered. So a separate allocation of 2 oz. of chocolate was used for the filling (resulting in a total of 14 oz. of semi-sweet chocolate for the entire recipe, instead of 12 oz. as originally planned). It is hoped that next time, the step to take 2 oz. from the 12 oz. allocation of melted chocolate will NOT BE FORGOTTEN.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bran Buddy Bars—Prototype 3:

What Prototype 2 was meant to be. In other words, a grand total of 12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate was used for the entire recipe. Memorial success won out this time as the crust got only the intended 10 oz. of the melted chocolate (and the filling still got the remaining 2 oz.).

However, a new concern was triggered by eating these bars perhaps a day or so after they were prepared. The Bran Buds lost their crunch! It is likely that the moisture from other ingredients rendered them more chewy and/or soggy. The result was a texture that did not seem to feel great when eaten.

Somebody suggested using Splenda (sucralose) instead of sugar to suppress the crunch's loss.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bran Buddy Bars—Prototype 4:

Repeat Prototype 3, 12 oz. total of melted semi-sweet chocolate and all, but with a new approach. Give up on the crunch. But avoid the unsatisfactory texture of the seemingly soggy Bran Buds as well.

All of the ingredients, both for the crust and for the filling are ultimately mixed together before being put into the pan. But...the Bran Buds are finely ground in a blender to a flour-like texture first, before being added to the other ingredients.

Here is a suggested sequence (with the quantities repeated for convenience):

Soften: two 8-oz. packages of Philly 1/3-less-fat cream cheese (and set aside)

Grind: 1/2 package (i.e., 8.8 oz.) of Kellogg's All Bran Bran Buds (and set aside)
Make sure the Bran Buds are finely ground to a flour-like texture (use a blender or food processor).

Measure: 3/4 cup PLUS 2 tbsp. sugar
Add: 1 tbsp: skim milk
Add: 2 Teaspoons of vanilla
Mix together.
Add: 4 oz. creamy peanut butter
Mix together.
Melt: 12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
Combine this with the sugar/milk/vanilla/peanut butter mixture (quickly, while the chocolate is still melted).

Next, add the softened cream cheese to the above mixture, and mix well.

Finally, add the powdered Bran Buds to this mixture, and blend well (plenty of effort needed here as the texture becomes stiff). Spread all this into a 13" x 9" pan (a good idea is to line it with wax paper first).

Refrigerate until firm, then cut into squares. Expect a somewhat fudge-like texture. Please keep in mind that sugar was used in this prototype (not Splenda).

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bran Buddy Bars—Prototype 5:

While Prototype 4 had a decent taste, its single-mixture appearance might have been too mysterious for some. So it's back to the two-layered approach, but with some major changes: The peanut butter goes to the bottom, and the chocolate (all of it!) goes to the top. And baking (!) is added as well.

First, the crust. Start with the first 8-oz. package of the softened cream cheese and blend it with the 4 oz. of creamy peanut butter, the 1 tbsp. of skim milk, the 1/2 package (i.e., 8.8 oz.) of Bran Buds, finely ground, and 1/2 cup of the sugar. Press it all into a 13" x 9" pan (lined with wax paper).

Then bake this crust at 350 degrees (preheat the oven first) for 10 minutes.

Next comes the filling, a blend of the second 8-oz. package of the softened cream cheese, the entire 12 oz. of melted, semi-sweet chocolate, the 2 teaspoons of vanilla and 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. of the sugar.

Spread this filling evenly onto the crust in the pan (cooling it off first is not necessary, and was largely skipped here).

Then return the pan to the 350-degree oven for another 10 minutes. Remove and let cool afterward, for about an hour, then place into refrigerator, and let the recipe firm up there before cutting into squares.

One of the challenges was deciding how much of the recipe's total sugar to allocate to the crust, which was initially going to contain only the peanut butter and the ground Bran Buds, along with the crust's small share of the sugar. However, this mixture was determined to be way too dry. Ultimately, some of the cream cheese (likely all of which was originally planned to be allocated to the filling) was gradually added to get the moisture up. And this was done, unfortunately, after the peanut butter and the Bran Buds powder got mixed together earlier. So blending in the cream cheese was difficult. Some heating assistance was needed, therefore the mixture got a little "microwaving" in order make the cream cheese hopefully more workable. The milk, originally planned for the filling on top, also got switched to the crust on the bottom in order to contribute to the moisture.

So the filling got "robbed" of all of its milk, half of its cream cheese, plus some of its initial share of the sugar (to compensate for the cream cheese shift) in order to "pay" the "thirsty" crust. To bake this crust was also a late decision, in hopes of possibly enhancing the blend for a better firmness, in light of the cream cheese's late addition (and therefore difficulties in blending) to the crust. The filling's stiffness led to the additional baking (in hopes of the filling evening out more).

It should also be noted here that the peanut butter used in this prototype was unsalted (salted varieties were likely used in at least some of the earlier prototypes).

The result of all this is a lightly-colored crust on the bottom, along with dark-colored filling on top, in keeping with the looks of many popular, square-shaped, baked goods. Furthermore, the peanut butter's light, brown color matches the crust exclusively containing it. And the filling's dark, brown color does a good job of reflecting the chocolate solely allocated to this upper layer.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bran Buddy Bars—Prototype 6:

A repetition of Prototype 5, but with some challenging reallocations (and additional, yet minor changes)!

Shift 4 ounces of cream cheese from the filling to the crust (2 tablespoons of sugar were also supposed to be transferred along with this cream cheese in the filling-to-crust shift, and probably was indeed done, but the memory of this action is not 100% certain).

Sequential details (combining order) for crust:
12 oz. cream cheese
4 oz. unsalted peanut butter
1 tbsp. skim milk
(blend the three wet ingredients above before adding the two dry ones below)
1/2 cup plus (hopefully) 2 tbsp. sugar
8.8 oz. Bran Buds (ground up, of course)

Sequential details (combining order) for filling:
12 oz. melted, semi-sweet chocolate
2 teaspoons vanilla (should have added this one last, instead of at this point, because it quickly stiffened the chocolate)
4 oz. cream cheese
1/4 cup (hopefully only this amount) sugar

Now things get really challenging. Press only HALF the chocolate filling into the 13" x 9" wax-paper-lined pan (if necessary, apply a minimal amount of broiler heat to facilitate the spreading). Then firm this up by chilling it in the freezer for 20 minutes.

Remove the pan from the freezer, and add the crust mixture on top of the lower chocolate layer. Press it down firmly, then return the pan to the freezer for another 20 minutes.

Next, take the pan out of the freezer and press the remaining half of the chocolate filling on top of the crust layer. This step was too difficult, because the chocolate hardened too soon. Got to cut down next time on the freezer duration that follows the crust addition (seems like the filling absorbed the crust's cold temperature too quickly). Just make sure that the crust is packed as firmly as possible. But not all was lost, thanks to a quick heat application (broiling the pan in the oven for about a couple of minutes). Spreading the top filling suddenly became extremely easy.

Next, it's "back to cool" time, but this time the pan goes into the refrigerator, not the freezer.

Far more than enough time required for firmness passed (probably about two hours) before the contents of the pan were cut.

Unfortunately, the chocolate filling tended to break up badly during the cutting phase. Applying some oven heat helped a little, but not enough.
 
Here is some further background for Prototype 6. Laurie (a cousin of Lesa, who herself had provided excellent home care for my dad in his later years) made a number of recommendations for my Bran Buddy Bars (I think Laurie was probably also the one who suggested using Splenda back around Prototype 3). More specifically, she felt that the crust texture of Prototype 5 was too dry. She had two suggestions. One was to split up the chocolate filling into two parts so that these would form the top and bottom layers. The crust would go in between them. This approach would result in a bite that was more moist to the touch. Her other suggestion was to shift more of the cream cheese from the filling to the crust. She advised perhaps shifting as much as all the cream cheese to the crust, but I was concerned that taking too much cream cheese from the filling would result in the chocolate layers being too firm. This excessive hardness could also contribute, along with the thinness of these layers, to the chocolate filling cracking up too easily. So I made a decision to take only half of the filling's Prototype 5 share of the cream cheese and transfer it to the crust. Since I felt that some matching sweetness should also go along with this reallocated cream cheese, I also made plans to transfer 2 tablespoons of sugar as well.

Seeing that the chocolate filling was disintegrating on me during the bar-cutting process, I am glad that I didn't raid any more cream cheese from it. But I hope to come up next time with a better way to cut the bars non-destructively.

So what was the feedback on this prototype from Laurie? I had to wait a long time for this one (due to her absence at the time that I served these bars), but I was finally told by Lesa (who saved some bars for Laurie's later consumption) that she "liked them" (hopefully, according to what I best recall hearing).
 
Chocolate Bran Buddy Bars—Prototype 1:

After having made Prototype 6 of the Chocolate Peanut Butter Bran Buddy Bars, it was time to try a chocolate-only version (which is largely based on that prototype).

For the crust (featuring cocoa, along with additional milk, sugar and vanilla) start with...
1/4 cup skim milk, heated and combined with...
1/4 cup cocoa powder. Fully dissolve this in the milk, then blend in...
12 oz. cream cheese. Then add...
1 cup sugar. Blend thoroughly, then add...
2 teaspoons vanilla (next to last ingredient here). Blend this in, then finally mix in...
8.8 oz. finely ground Bran Buds

Sequential details (combining order) for filling:
12 oz. melted, semi-sweet chocolate
4 oz. cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla (last ingredient here!)

Note that only cream cheese, sugar and vanilla (identical amounts on this one!) are used for both the crust and filling.

Press half the chocolate filling into the 13" x 9" wax-paper-lined pan (if necessary, apply a minimal amount of broiler heat to facilitate the spreading). Then firm this up by chilling it in the freezer for 20 minutes.

Remove the pan from the freezer, and add the crust mixture on top of the lower chocolate layer. Press it down firmly...but do NOT return the pan to the freezer afterward (the crust mixture was already fairly stiff).

Instead, proceed directly with pressing the remaining half of the chocolate filling on top of the crust layer, applying broiler heat as needed (be careful, and do not overheat). For some reason, spreading the filling (top and bottom) was not all that easy this time.

Apply a final shot of heat, this time BAKING briefly (instead of broiling), hopefully to get the chocolate filling layers, especially the bottom one, to adhere better to the crust.

Cool the pan until it can be comfortably touched, then put it into the refrigerator. Refrigerate until firm, about 60 to 90 minutes. For the sake of cutting, do not refrigerate for too long (the idea here is to prevent the filling layers from cracking up or coming apart).

There was still some disintegration here, but hopefully not as badly as in the aforementioned Prototype 6 of the chocolate peanut butter bars.

Despite omitting the peanut butter, the taste of the chocolate-only bars was still close to that of the chocolate peanut butter ones. This was probably due to whole wheat (of which bran is a particularly important characteristic) tending to have a "nutty" flavor.
 
Laurie loved these chocolate ones a lot! This time she was present when I served these Bran Buddies, and I got an overwhelmingly great response from other people as well (along with preferences for this recipe over the chocolate-peanut butter versions). Lesa's partner Steve pleaded for me to not change this prototype. Thus I felt like I hit a big winner with this one. Furthermore, the taste seemed less "nutty" and more "chocolaty" at the time I served these guests (nearly 3/4 of a day after my somehow perceiving a nuttier taste as I was cutting these bars).

So it looks like I have managed to accomplish a prototype to greatly please the crowds. But the filling's excessively thin layers still made my work difficult.

It was time for me to bring up a sizing issue at this point.

In many of my earlier chocolate peanut butter prototypes, I made full recipes and used a 13" x 9" pan. However, for later prototypes and this chocolate-only version, I went with only HALF recipes (in order to reduce excessive leftover problems that I had to deal with). Because of this, I switched to a 9" x 9" pan.

So why did I in these notes list the measurements based on FULL recipes in the later prototypes, despite making half-size batches? It was likely to make proportional comparisons much easier.

But there was a catch, something that hopefully hardly mattered in the earlier prototypes. But it would indeed matter in Prototype 6 of the Chocolate Peanut Butter Bran Buddy Bars and Prototype 1 of the Chocolate ("only") Bran Buddy Bars, due to the 2-layed chocolate filling approach. The 9" x 9" pan used in the half recipes was NOT half the size of the 13" x 9" pan used in the full recipes. The smaller pan was proportionally much larger!

Shall we do the math here? Both pans are 9" wide. So in keeping with the full recipe proportions, if the full-sized pan is 13" long, then the smaller pan's corresponding dimension for the half recipes should be only 6 1/2". But the measurement here is actually 9". How much bigger is that? 9" / 6.5" = about 1.38. That's about 38% too big! Therefore, the layers are stretched out considerably thinner in a 9" x 9" pan when a half recipe is used (about 28% of the thickness is diminished).

Got 6.5" x 9" pan (for half recipes)?

Such a pan could improve the thickness of those excessively thin chocolate filling layers by about 38%, and this can be helpful in reducing disintegration problems.

An even sweeter idea for full recipes is to use the 9" x 9" pan instead of the 13" x 9" one. Now we're talking double-thick filling layers that we can work with, compared to the half recipe-9" x 9" pan combination (about 44% thicker and easier than the full recipe-13" x 9" pan combination, by the way).
 
Chocolate Bran Buddy Bars—Prototype 2:

Repeat Prototype 1, but substitute whipped lowfat cottage cheese for the lowfat cream cheese. And this time, thicken up! Use a full recipe (instead of half), and put it all in a 9" x 9" pan.

Chocolate Bran Buddy Bars—Prototype 2

The bars looked (and tasted) great in their thicker form, but there were still some disintegration problems, likely due to the timing of my cutting these bars after refrigeration. All this painstaking preparation, off to a late start, was getting well into the wee hours of the morning, and I wanted to get to bed. So I finally did so shortly after putting the finished recipe in the refrigerator for a firm chill. Therefore I did not get around to cutting up the bars until at least four or five (too many) hours afterward. Applying some quick oven heat helped a little.

All this happened on a very eventful weekend, so my schedule was a bit crazy, but I wanted to make some Bran Buddies to bring to a friend's house for a Shavuot celebration on the Sunday of that weekend. Many people there liked the recipe.

A number of days later, I also presented these thicker bars to Lesa and Steve, who enjoyed these as well as the earlier prototype (Steve was particularly enthusiastic about these chocolate-only bars).
 
Chocolate Peanut Butter Bran Buddy Bars—Prototype 7:

This was sort of a new one, featuring three distinct layers and a new ingredient: white chocolate. Due to this prototype being made after Prototype 2 of the Chocolate (only) Bran Buddy Bars, whipped cottage cheese (lowfat, of course) replaced the cream cheese as well.

Sequential details (combining order) for lower filling:
6 oz. melted, semi-sweet chocolate
2 oz. whipped lowfat cottage cheese
1/8 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla (last ingredient here!)

Sequential details (combining order) for crust:
14 oz. whipped lowfat cottage cheese
2 oz. unsalted peanut butter
1 tbsp. skim milk
(blend the three wet ingredients above before adding the two dry ones below)
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. sugar
8.8 oz. Bran Buds, ground up

Sequential details (combining order) for upper filling:
6 oz. melted, white chocolate
2 oz. unsalted peanut butter
1/8 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla (last ingredient here!)

Tip: 1/8 cup of sugar weighs 1 ounce, so if a measuring cup of this size is not available, try using a kitchen scale instead.

Note a 2 ounce swap—2 ounces of the peanut butter being switched from the crust to the upper filling (mainly to give this filling more of a peanut butter color), and 2 ounces of cottage cheese (the upper filling's entire Prototype 6 share in its corresponding cream cheese form) being switched from the upper filling to the crust.

Also note that the white chocolate replaces the semi-sweet on the top layer.

The pan procedures were similar to those of Prototype 6 (20-minute freezer exposures, etc.), and the full recipe was actually used here—not half—along with, however, a 9" x 9" pan (see the comments above on Prototype 1 of the Chocolate Bran Buddy Bars for further info on this issue). The cutting was done after probably about an hour and a half of refrigeration (i.e., that occurred right after the top layer's placement). There were still some disintegration problems, mainly with the semi-sweet chocolate filling layer. However, the resulting cut bars were each transferred to an individual-sized piece of wax paper, re-assembled with the the broken filling sections, then heat-treated (semi-sweet side up, under the broiler), and this approach ended up working out quite well. The bars were then transferred back to the refrigerator for re-hardening. "Integrated" success was hopefully attained at last!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bran Buddy Bars—Prototype 7

I made these bars in honor of Lesa's birthday.
 
Chocolate Bran Buddy Bars—Prototype 3:

Let's face it. To make a batch of three-layered (filling-crust-filling) Bran Buddies has certainly become so time-consuming. And the lower layer of filling breaking up upon cutting these bars (after chilling) only added to the difficulty.

It was time for some kind of compromise. Retain only the top filling layer, and merge the lower one into the crust. While this would result in the relatively dry crust being at the bottom and hence more likely to hit the eater's tongue (sorry, Laurie), at least this reformulated crust would be somewhat moister. Furthermore, the bars wouldn't be as messy to handle (the dual-filling-layers version tended to melt easily in one's hand).

So Prototype 2 gets repeated, but the ingredients for the bottom filling layer get combined with those of the crust mixture. Here are the details:

Crust:
1/4 cup skim milk, heated and combined with...
1/4 cup cocoa powder. Fully dissolve this in the milk, then blend in...
14 oz. lowfat cottage cheese, whipped. Then add...
1 + 1/8 cups sugar. Blend thoroughly, then add...
6 oz. melted, semi-sweet chocolate
1 tablespoon vanilla (next to last ingredient here). Blend this in, then finally mix in...
8.8 oz. finely ground Bran Buds

Filling:
6 oz. melted, semi-sweet chocolate
2 oz. lowfat cottage cheese, whipped
1/8 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla (last ingredient here!)

Press the crust mixture into a 9" x 9" wax-paper-lined pan. Then firm this up by chilling it in the freezer for 20 minutes.

Remove the pan from the freezer, and add the chocolate filling on top of the crust layer, carefully applying broiler heat as needed.

When the pan is cool enough to be comfortably touched, put it into the refrigerator. Chill until the top filling is almost completely firm, about 60 to 90 minutes, then cut into bars. Return these to the refrigerator, and chill until fully firm.

Chocolate Bran Buddy Bars—Prototype 3

What a difference dealing with the filling being only on top! There were hardly any disintegration problems. Another helpful factor had to do with the timing of cutting these bars, which was after maybe about an hour (or a little longer) of refrigeration. At that point, the filling was slightly soft (hence just right for cutting). I no longer had to wait for some kind of bottom filling layer to get considerably hard (hard enough to avoid getting squished out under the pressure of cutting the bars, but also prone to easily getting broken up as well).

And this prototype was still a great success, particularly at the Sports Page, a place frequented by Lesa, Steve and their friends for playing darts, singing karaoke or just hanging out—where I have brought in many past Bran Buddy prototypes in addition to this latest batch of chocolate ones (Steve loved 'em)!
 
Chocolate Peanut Butter Bran Buddy Bars—Prototype 8:

How about doing to the Chocolate Peanut Butter Bran Buddy Bars the same kind of thing that was done for Prototype 3 of their chocolate-only counterparts? In other words, merge the lower, dark, chocolate filling layer into the crust mixture, but retain the peanut butter filling layer on top.

While this method would make the recipe simpler, another helpful idea involved an extremely minor shift for the sugar. More specifically, the total sugar used here amounted to 3/4 of a cup plus 2 tablespoons. The distribution of this ingredient on Prototype 7 was:

Bottom filling: 1/8 cup
Crust mixture: 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons
Upper filling: 1/8 cup

But efforts to measure 1/8 of a cup had been a challenge, due to lack of a measuring cup in this size. Some claims out there have somehow indicated this amount as being equal to 2 tablespoons. However, a closer check would reveal 1/8 of a cup to be more than that, but it wouldn't be by much. In fact, the difference was negligible enough to make a minor change in how the sugar would get measured out for this prototype. By merging the two lower layers based on the above info, the sugar allocation would be:

Combined bottom filling/crust mixture: 1/2 cup plus 1/8 cup plus 2 tablespoons
Upper filling: 1/8 cup

Due to the small enough difference between 1/8 of a cup and 2 tablespoons, a tiny allocation swap could be made, and the recipe total for the sugar would still be 3/4 of a cup plus 2 tablespoons, as follows:

Combined bottom filling/crust mixture: 1/2 cup plus 1/8 cup plus 1/8 cup
Upper filling: 2 tablespoons

Hence the sugar for the combined lower mixture would now add up to an easier-to-handle 3/4 of a cup (and measuring this ingredient for the upper filling would be easier as well)!

Here, then, are the simplified details:

Crust:
16 oz. whipped lowfat cottage cheese
2 oz. unsalted peanut butter
1 tbsp. skim milk
(blend the above three ingredients before adding the next four ones below)
3/4 cup sugar
6 oz. melted, semi-sweet chocolate (be sure to quickly stir this one in while it is still melted)
1 teaspoon vanilla (next to last ingredient here!)
8.8 oz. Bran Buds, ground up

Filling:
6 oz. melted, white chocolate
2 oz. unsalted peanut butter
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla (last ingredient here!)

Press the crust mixture into a 9" x 9" wax-paper-lined pan. Then firm this up by chilling it in the refrigerator (not the freezer this time—it has been determined that refrigeration is sufficient) for 20 minutes.

Remove the pan from the refrigerator, and add the peanut butter filling on top of the crust layer. If broiler heat is needed, be very careful. Use just enough to make the filling spreadable (too much heat can brown the filling).

When the pan is cool enough to be comfortably touched, put it into the refrigerator. Chill until the top filling is almost completely firm, about 60 to 90 minutes, then cut into bars. Return these to the refrigerator, and chill until fully firm.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bran Buddy Bars—Prototype 8

Looks like I overdid it with the broiler heat, as the filling on top got slightly browned. But the outcome was not a disaster. However, I cut up the bars a little on the late side, so there was some filling disintegration, although very little. A cautiously quick heat treatment would fix that.

Lesa greeted me with a thankful kiss, immediately picking up one of these bars as I walked with a plate of them through the entrance door into the Sports Page, where she was playing darts. It didn't take very long to empty the rest of this plate.

That's another treat that was "on target".
 
Seems like something went wrong when I tried to compare 1/8 of a cup to 2 tablespoons for this prototype. Chances are, I was using a small cup that indicated a measurement of 2 tablespoons—a quick, convenient way to make such a measurement, rather than using a single measuring tablespoon twice. A few weeks after making this batch of bars, I did some additional research on the Internet in regard to the question of how many tablespoons were in 1 cup. I kept on getting 16 as the answer here. This would mean that 1/8 of a cup would equal only 2 tablespoons—not more than that, as I thought earlier!

But I wondered why I came up with such a different evaluation. So I took some measuring spoons and cups, did some further research, and determined that the "2 TBSP COFFEE MEASURE" which I very likely used in the earlier comparison was, in fact, deficient (no, this supposedly was not from a coffee can, but rather part of a regular set of measuring cups). Maybe this particular cup was meant for heaping, not leveling. So after checking with the other measuring utensils, I have finally arrived at the conclusion that 1/8 cup = 2 tablespoons.
 
Chocolate Peanut Butter Dream Bran Buddy Bars—Prototype 1:
 
This one is my answer to Mrs. Fields!

Around the time that I produced Prototype 8 of the Chocolate Peanut Butter Bran Buddy Bars, I was visiting a shopping mall and passed by a Mrs. Field's outlet, whose tasty treats included chocolate/peanut butter "Dream" bars. Chances are highly likely that I had such a bar in the distant past—and greatly enjoyed it. The price, be it financially or nutritionally, was likely on the high side. A great idea popped into my mind on my more recent visit—how about a Bran Buddy version? And so I quickly began to brainstorm a recipe that would be derived mainly from Prototype 7 of the Chocolate Peanut Butter Bran Buddy Bars, labor-intensive as they were. But I also gave a lot of thought to the crust of Prototype 8 (and/or the crust of the chocolate-only bars) as well, due to that crust having a dark brown appearance. This would come close to matching the Mrs. Field's bar's thick bottom layer—on top of which went an obscurely thin chocolate layer, followed by a somewhat thicker peanut butter layer, then finally an easily visible chocolate one (these top three layers seemed to have a filling-like appearance). However, my version would skip the obscure chocolate layer immediately below the peanut butter one. Visually, it did not matter much, but there would be a lot less work involved.

So the plan was to start with Chocolate Peanut Butter Prototype 7 and relocate the chocolate filling from the bottom and put it on top of the peanut butter one. That was easy to determine. Figuring out how to darken the crust (which would now be on the bottom) was much more of a challenge. One option considered was to make it like that of Prototype 8. This would therefore call for a second occurrence of ingredients of the chocolate filling. This additional set would be merged into the crust.

But there were at least a couple of issues. The total amount of cottage cheese for this recipe would be 18 ounces. Since I was not using this perishable ingredient for anything else, I would have preferred being able to buy a container of cottage cheese in this amount. Such a size was not available, at least in my knowledge (I was able to find containers at least in 8, 16 and 24 ounces). And I had some concern about the idea of adding another 6 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate, in light of my trying to keep the fat down.

I finally decided on a reasonable compromise for the crust. I also decided to give the peanut butter filling more of a peanut butter appearance.
 
These Bran Buddy Bars just keep on getting better and better. What does this mean? They're getting devoured more quickly! Because of this, the actual recipe was increased by 50% and put into a 13" x 9" pan. However, the normal size recipe is presented here (remember to use a 9" x 9" pan if using this one!) for the sake of reference. Some helpful tips are provided as well.

Grind the Bran Buds ahead of time, then set side. Next, whip the cottage cheese ahead of time, then place in refrigerator until it is needed.

Sequential details (combining order) for crust (lower layer):
1/4 cup skim milk, heated
1/4 cup cocoa powder. Fully dissolve this in the milk.
2 oz. melted, semi-sweet chocolate
2 oz. unsalted peanut butter
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. sugar
14 oz. whipped lowfat cottage cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla (next to last ingredient here). Blend this in, then finally mix in...
8.8 oz. Bran Buds, ground up

Sequential details (combining order) for peanut butter filling (middle layer):
6 oz. melted, white chocolate
3 oz. unsalted peanut butter
3 tbsp. sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla (last ingredient here!)

Sequential details (combining order) for chocolate filling (upper layer):
6 oz. melted, semi-sweet chocolate
2 oz. whipped lowfat cottage cheese
2 tbsp. sugar

Note the added peanut butter (along with a corresponding increase in sugar) for the peanut butter filling.

"Hey, wait a minute! Wasn't the chocolate filling supposed to include 1 teaspoon of vanilla??" As a matter of fact, yes. Unfortunately, this late step was forgotten.

Here are some additional tips. Melt the entire recipe's semi-sweet chocolate, i.e., 8 ounces, before adding any of it to the crust. More specifically, add the 2 ounces to the milk and cocoa powder mixture—quickly, of course. Immediately afterward, take the cottage cheese from the refrigerator, and add 2 ounces of this to the remaining 6 ounces of melted chocolate (return the remaining cottage cheese to the refrigerator). Blend these two together, reserving this mixture for the chocolate filling—set it aside and be sure to protect it against spoilage (since it may be a long while before the mixture is needed to complete the filling, refrigeration is recommended until then—at which point the contents can be reheated). After setting this mixture aside, continue with the crust (adding peanut butter, etc.).

And here's another tip: 1/4 cup of cocoa powder has been determined to weigh 1.2 ounces (so if this is what the normal-sized recipe calls for, a 50% increase would require an additional .6 ounce, i.e., 1.8 ounces altogether).

Chill until the top filling is almost completely firm, about an hour, then cut into bars. Return these to the refrigerator, and chill until fully firm.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Dream Bran Buddy Bars—Prototype 1

There were hardly any disintegration problems (looks like one hour of refrigeration before cutting was the way to go), and these bars were a terrific hit at the Sports Page. Steve told me that he had two of them ("for energy") before shooting his round of darts—and he beat his competitor! Lesa told me that the away team loved these a lot. Maybe I should nickname this prototype the Bull Shooter's Special.
 
Change of name from Bran Buddy(-ies) to HiFi Buddy(-ies)
 
The way that I came up with the name Bran Buddy/Buddies is derived from the name of the key ingredient used in these recipes: Kellogg's All-Bran Bran Buds—or "All Bran Bran Buds" as I often expressed it (Kellogg's itself being the trademark owner of the All-Bran and Bran Buds names). I have also used the Bran Buddy expression for some other Bran-Buds-containing treats that I have thrown together, not just these bars. But it was for good reason that I used this kind of naming on all of these recipes. Yes, they obviously contained bran from the Bran Buds. But they were also very delicious—high in fiber, yet surprisingly delectable or "decadent" (as some would say). I somehow perceived a "nutritious and very delicious" kind of treat like this as a "buddy"—as in friend, pal, ally, etc.—this word being, of course, derived from "Buds" in Bran Buds.

While I have succeeded in getting many people turned on to these recipes that were both nutrition-friendly and taste-friendly, at least one person suggested that I drop "Bran" from the name, due to the likelihood of scaring off some other potential tasters. This would pose a challenge to me, due to my having used the "Bran Buddy" form for a few years.

But another term had been on my mind throughout those years as well—Hi-Fi. Why?

As I was growing up, "Hi-Fi" (or "HiFi," or "hi-fi," or "hifi") had a nice ring to it, at least for me and many other people of my generation. Hi-Fi was an abbreviation for High Fidelity, a term describing high-quality audio. In more recent times, this wording has somehow given way to "Hi-Def" or High Definition, a term still applicable to audio, but a lot more easily associated with video (particularly HDTV's, i.e., high-definition televisions, with wide, flat screens).

However, what I had in mind was the idea of "Hi-Fi" standing for "High Fiber", at least within the context of my Bran Buddy concoctions. So I thought that I would change the name of my high-fiber treats to "Hi-Fi Buddies" (or "Hi-Fi Buddy Bars"). This sounded good to me, and I felt that it would sound good to many people from my generation as well (hopefully in addition to those people older than us). Many of us who grew up rockin' out to "hi-fi stereo" systems in the 1970's would acquire a significant desire for fiber as we got older.

But what about those younger than us? These people may not yet be as concerned about getting enough fiber, and "Hi-Fi" and "High Fidelity" may sound too old to them. But at least "Hi-Fi" easily rhymes with "Wi-Fi", which itself stands for "Wireless Fidelity" (a bonus is that the "Fi" part still stands for "Fidelity"), and this Internet-related term is something that these younger ones can much more easily relate to. So as long as the rhyme is there, perhaps "Hi-Fi" will still have at least a somewhat decent ring with these people too. Furthermore, even though they might not have a particularly big appetite for fiber these days, they still may like the high-fiber snacks anyway.

When someone hears the wording "Hi-Fi Buddies", that may bring up images of some kind of audiophile community. "Ah, the joys of high-end electronics!" Anyway, I have come to conclude that switching to this new naming arrangement, with "Hi-Fi" standing for "High Fiber" in this context, was a good move.
 
Chocolate Cherry HiFi Buddy Bars—Prototype 1:

Given that chocolate and cherry are a popular Valentine's Day combination, let's make some HiFi Buddies for this romantic holiday. This particular recipe uses cherry butter, a pasty-textured cherry spread available (at least as of this batch's production) at Whole Foods Market.

This recipe is based mainly on Prototype 8 of the chocolate peanut butter bars. However, the cherry butter directly replaces the peanut butter. Due to exchanging this peanut butter for a sweeter ingredient, the sugar is omitted from the filling as well. The details are as follows:

Crust:
6 oz. melted, semi-sweet chocolate
2 oz. cherry butter (combine quickly with the chocolate above while it is still melted, and blend in the next two ingredients shortly afterward)
3/4 cup sugar
16 oz. whipped lowfat cottage cheese
1 tbsp. skim milk
1 teaspoon vanilla (next to last ingredient here!)
8.8 oz. Bran Buds, ground up

Filling:
6 oz. melted, white chocolate
2 oz. cherry butter
1 teaspoon vanilla (last ingredient here!)

Press the crust mixture into a 9" x 9" wax-paper-lined pan. Firm it up in the refrigerator for 20 minutes or freezer for 10 minutes.

Remove the pan from whatever cooler was used, and add the cherry filling on top of the crust layer. Tip: if the filling is stiff, microwave it a little to soften, before it gets put on the crust (this is better than the broiler heat approach).

Place the pan in the refrigerator. Chill until the top filling is almost completely firm, about 60 to 90 minutes, then cut into bars. Return these to the refrigerator, and chill until fully firm.

Chocolate Cherry HiFi Buddy Bars—Prototype 1

I had difficulty detecting a cherry presence upon eating these bars. This may have been due to some cold symptoms which I had (which, by the way, moved me to be extra careful in regard to sanitary handling procedures). But these bars went over very well at Living Hope Church, where many people there could taste the cherry. However, I still wondered about that flavor's strength, whether it was too weak.

But a few days later my cold symptoms dropped off significantly, and my cherry detection picked up a lot better. At that point, I reasoned that I did not need to add more cherry flavor. I had gotten additional favorable comments from Lesa's friends. The balance between this flavor and the chocolate seemed to be on target. For me, personally, whenever I took a bite, the flavor actually varied throughout the chewing process, with cherry dominating at the beginning and chocolate doing so at the end.
 
Chocolate Cherry HiFi Buddy Bars—Prototype 2:

No need to add more cherry! No need to lower it either. But the quest was on for the filling to have a more reddish appearance. Repeat Prototype 1, but shift 1 ounce of the cherry butter from the crust to the filling (which would furthermore have more of a distinct cherry taste). This means 1 ounce of cherry butter for the crust, and 3 ounces of it for the filling.

Another change was to defer the crust's sugar until after the cottage cheese. In Prototype 1, there was a lumpiness problem in fully blending the semi-sweet chocolate mixture with the cottage cheese. This was likely caused by the cold cottage cheese being combined long after the chocolate was melted. What happened was that the chocolate mixture had an extended chance to cool back down, thanks in part to mixing the sugar into it before bringing on the cottage cheese. The mixing bowl used was metal, so microwave usage was not a suitable choice. A cautious use of a conventional oven would reheat the contents enough to produce a desired thorough blend. As for Prototype 2, a further step was to somehow preheat the metal bowl. One way of doing this was by heating it in an oven. Another helpful approach involved filling a sink with some hot water and placing the bowl of mixture there and blending the contents without getting any of the sink's water into the bowl.

Fast forward to the point after the top filling is spread over the crust! Place the completed pan in the refrigerator, and chill until the top filling is almost completely firm. But this time allow about 2 1/2 to 3 hours, due to a softer filling (because of it having more of the soft cherry butter), then cut into bars. Return these to the refrigerator, and chill until fully firm.

Chocolate Cherry HiFi Buddy Bars—Prototype 2

These bars fared well, and it seems that at least one of Lesa's friends liked this prototype better than the first one. I was fairly happy myself, at least with the taste, although the filling still looked too dark.

But despite the top lacking a bright red appearance, the taste was still great. Happy Valentine's Day!
 
Peanut Butter HiFi Buddy Bars—Prototype 1:

Let's take a good look back at all these "Buddy" bars. Chocolate and peanut butter "shared" their "rule" with each other for the first few recipes. Then chocolate got to have a recipe all to itself. Later on, this popular flavor teamed up with cherry early in a year as Valentine's Day approached.

But peanut butter never got to have such a bar recipe all to itself...until now. Okay, white chocolate is used here, but this stuff is relatively neutral, at least compared to its darker, brown counterparts. In fact, many feel that this white ingredient should not even be called "chocolate". Possible alternative names have included "white candy". What can one officially call this thing? Maybe "neutral confection"? Still, for now, let's call this ingredient "white chocolate", whether it really is chocolate or not. Anyway, in light of this ingredient being so neutral that many flavorings added to it have easily dominated this white stuff, it should be reasonably safe to say that peanut butter is the sole flavor ruler (or at least easily the dominator) of this recipe described here.

So what do you do for such a nutty prototype here?

Looks like Prototype 8 of the Chocolate Peanut Butter Bran Buddy Bars is a good starting point. The changes are extremely simple and only need to be made in the crust: delete the semi-sweet chocolate, and increase the peanut butter by 4 ounces and the sugar by 1/4 cup. That all! The results:

Crust:
16 oz. whipped lowfat cottage cheese
6 oz. unsalted peanut butter
1 tbsp. skim milk
(blend the above three ingredients before adding the next three ones below)
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla (next to last ingredient here!)
8.8 oz. Bran Buds, ground up

Filling:
6 oz. melted, white chocolate
2 oz. unsalted peanut butter
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla (last ingredient here!)

Use a 9" x 9" pan, of course.

Peanut Butter HiFi Buddy Bars—Prototype 1

Delicious peanut butter flavor, although these bars seem to have a taste that may be too sweet for at least some people.
 
Peanut Butter HiFi Buddy Bars—Prototype 2:

If the above recipe was too sweet, perhaps this was the case only with the filling. However, the crust seemed like it could use a little more sweetness. So let's repeat Prototype 1, but shift all of the filling's sugar to the crust.

In light of a 13" x 9" pan being used for Prototype 2, the amounts shown below reflect this bigger batch:

Crust:
24 oz. whipped lowfat cottage cheese
9 oz. unsalted peanut butter
1 + 1/2 tbsp. skim milk
(blend the above three ingredients before adding the next three ones below)
1 + 1/2 cup plus 3 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tbsp. vanilla (next to last ingredient here!)
13.2 oz. Bran Buds, ground up

Filling:
9 oz. melted, white chocolate
3 oz. unsalted peanut butter
1/2 tbsp. vanilla (last ingredient here!)

Repeating what was just stated, a 13" x 9" (not 9" x 9"!) pan was used, and the ingredient amounts shown here reflect this.

Some tips are worth noting here. Vigorously stir the filling immediately after adding the vanilla, because this last ingredient causes the filling to get stiff. And (for all Bran/HiFi Buddy Bar recipes) stir, with even more intense vigor, the crust mixture immediately after adding the Bran Buds for the same type of reason. It is advisable to dump this entire amount of Bran Buds "powder" on top of the other crust ingredients, and then blend the contents as quickly as possible, before this dry, ground-up bran absorbs a lot of the moisture from the wet ingredients, thus rendering the crust very stiff.
 
I think that I improved the taste with this one. Happy Easter!
 
Banana HiFi Buddy Bars—Prototype 1:

Let's go bananas with this one! Plan ahead by taking two medium-to-large sized bananas (enough to make 8 ounces of puree) and let them get ripe. Then peel and puree them (a blender or food processor is recommended here) just before using in the recipe that follows:

Crust:
16 oz. whipped lowfat cottage cheese
6 oz. banana puree
1 tbsp. skim milk
(blend the above three ingredients before adding the next three ones below)
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla (next to last ingredient here!)
8.8 oz. Bran Buds, ground up

Filling:
6 oz. melted, white chocolate
2 oz. banana puree
1 teaspoon vanilla (last ingredient here!)

Fit all this into a 9" x 9" pan, and chill until firm.
 
Looks like banana puree was too thin to let the filling get firm. Even when I put this recipe in the freezer, as opposed to the refrigerator, this still did not work out well enough.

Therefore, I took the pan out, let it sit at room temperature for perhaps about a half hour, then dumped the whole thing into a bowl.

And I blended the crust and filling together (this took considerable effort)!

Then I put this combined mixture back into the pan and placed it all into the freezer. After perhaps at least roughly a couple of hours, I cut up the bars from it.
 
Banana HiFi Buddy Bars—Prototype 1

Even then, the bars tended to be very soft when allowed to be at refrigerator temperature. Although the texture seemed to resemble cookie dough, the taste (at least to me) was very delicious—a nice, "melt in your mouth" experience and a terrific banana flavor.
 
 
First you mix, mix, mix, some Fluff and peanut butter, add ground-up Bran Buds, and have a...

Fluffernutter HiFi Buddy Bar!

Anybody remember the "Fluffernutter" jingle for Marshmallow Fluff?

If you lived in the Boston area around the 1960's or the 1970's, you probably do.

Well, that's my variation on this jingle...and on the Fluffernutter recipe itself, a fairly simple sandwich. Let's give this baby-boomer classic the Bran Buddy treatment.
 
Fluffernutter HiFi Buddy Bars—Prototype 1:

This is the simplest HiFi Buddy Bar recipe yet—there is only one layer, and these bars should keep for a very long time at room temperature (no refrigeration needed).

The sequence suggested by the song's lyrics are crucial. According to the original tune, the peanut butter went on the bread first, and the Marshmallow Fluff was added afterward. For the Hifi Buddy Bars, it's a different story, so pay close attention.

Sequential details (combining order) for single layer:
1 jar (i.e., 7.5 ounces) Marshmallow Fluff (or other brand of marshmallow cream, if you cannot get the Fluff brand)
4 oz. unsalted peanut butter (mixture will become very stiff after combining the first two ingredients)
8.8 oz. Bran Buds, ground up (last ingredient here!)

Mix hard! You are dealing with a very stiff mixture. Then press it all into a 9" x 9" wax-paper-lined pan. Get it leveled off, and expect a thin layer. Once this is done, cut into bars and enjoy!

Fluffernutter HiFi Buddy Bars—Prototype 1

This one was thin and chewy, and the peanut butter could be detected. The marshmallow flavor was not nearly as much present, but these bars were still a nice hit.
 
Fluffernutter HiFi Buddy Bars—Prototype 2:

Those bars need to be made thicker and softer. This means increasing the recipe, but also giving the marshmallow cream a proportionally higher boost—which increases its flavor as well.

Sequential details:
1 large "tub" (i.e., 16 ounces) Marshmallow Fluff (or other marshmallow cream)
6 oz. unsalted peanut butter
13.2 oz. Bran Buds, ground up (last ingredient here!)

Mix hard, press into 9" x 9" pan, level off, cut into bars, enjoy some, store the rest at room temperature (chilling will result in stiffer, harder bars).

Fluffernutter HiFi Buddy Bars—Prototype 2

The bars were indeed softer this time, although the peanut butter's presence seemed a little lacking.
 
Fluffernutter HiFi Buddy Bars—Prototype 3:
 
With this prototype, I discovered that the square glass dish ("pan") that I had been using all along in many of these Bran Buddy/Hi-Fi Buddy recipes was, in fact, highly likely of an 8" x 8" size (at least according to the numbers etched thereon and confirmed by tape measure, combined with my failing to locate an alternative similar-looking dish), rather than 9" x 9".

What about the bigger, rectangular glass dish ("pan") that I also likely used? I could not find any dimensions etched into this one, although I did see "3QT" (which I assumed to mean three quarts). So I took out my tape measure and came up with about 8.5" x 13.5", as opposed to 9" x 13".

Hopefully, the differences aren't too big, especially for the larger rectangular dish. Nevertheless, for this Buddy Bar prototype and later, I felt that I would state 8" x 8" every time the square dish was used—and stick with mentioning 13" x 9" for the rectangular, out of simplicity (particularly since that was close enough in area to 8.5" x 13.5").

Okay, enough of this size discrepancy discussion on these Pyrex dishes—bring on the bars!
 
Increase the peanut butter...slightly.

Sequential details:
1 large "tub" (i.e., 16 ounces) Marshmallow Fluff (or other marshmallow cream)
7 oz. unsalted peanut butter
Tip: Heat these first two ingredients, blend well, then (if needed) heat again just before adding the last ingredient. This should help ease the stiffness somewhat.
13.2 oz. Bran Buds, ground up (last ingredient here!)

Mix hard and quickly, press into an 8" x 8" pan or dish, level off and cut into bars (store at room temperature).
 
Nice taste. A great hit at the Sports Page, at which point we also celebrated Lesa's birthday.
 
Lemon HiFi Buddy Bars—Prototypes 1 & 2:

The ingredients are the same for both of these prototypes. The difference is in the ways that the filling is handled.

Crust:
5 oz. lemonade concentrate, thawed
1/3 cup sugar
16 oz. whipped lowfat cottage cheese
(blend the above three ingredients first before adding the Bran Buds)
8.8 oz. Bran Buds, ground up
(blend this into the above mixture as fast and "furiously" as possible)

Filling:
6 oz. melted, white chocolate
1 oz. lemonade concentrate, thawed

Spread the crust mixture into an 8" x 8" pan, then add the filling on top, and chill until firm.
 
As for how much "concentrated" the lemonade concentrate was, the directions—on the can it came in—would have called for 4 and 1/3 cans of water, in order to make the lemonade drink itself. Thus a 12-ounce can would need 52 ounces of water (in order to make 64 ounces of lemonade). Of course, I did not use water, because I was not making this drink. Instead, I used the concentrate for Buddy Bar flavoring purposes.

For Prototype 1, I chilled the crust for perhaps about 10-20 minutes before adding the filling. The way that I prepared the filling itself involved microwaving the lemon concentrate and white chocolate together. At times the concentrate seemed to boil. I aimed for a soft liquid, and it looks like that is what I got. But after pouring this onto the crust, I failed to cover the entire surface, probably due to the crust's chilliness cooling the filling too soon. So I heat-treated the recipe with broiler heat in order to get a hopeful filling distribution before I resumed chilling. As a result, the filling turned out a bit hard and crusty, almost like hard candy.

So for the second prototype, I microwaved the white chocolate alone, carefully trying not to get it too hot. Then I added the lemonade concentrate, making sure beforehand that it was warm (but not hot). I mixed these two ingredients very quickly, hoping for sufficient softness, before adding this to the crust, which this time I did NOT chill beforehand (in fact, I slightly heated this crust in order to have it a little warm in preparation for placing the filling on top of it). Instead of dumping all of the filling at once onto the middle of the crust's surface, I placed this melted topping in small amounts around the edges and worked my way towards the center. However, the surface looked too uneven, so I very sparingly applied broiler heat (about 60 seconds), then tilted the pan for a more even distribution. Even then the filling appeared to have a somewhat unblended look (perhaps due to the water of the lemonade concentrate not blending well with the fat content of the white chocolate?), but I did not want to push any further with heating. So I placed the pan in the refrigerator for about an hour. I afterward cut up the bars (with plenty of ease this time around) and returned them to the refrigerator for additional firming. The outcome: The topping's softness was just right—a pleasant firmness that I had been used to with my Buddy Bar recipes—without the abnormal crunch.

So I learned a new lesson: Steer clear of overheating certain chocolate mixtures (such as white chocolate and water-based drink concentrates).
 
Lemon HiFi Buddy Bars—Prototype 2

The amount of lemon flavor (at least in my opinion and hopefully those of many others as well) was just right (for both prototypes). Jude, a close friend of mine (and sister of a guitar player who performed in a cover rock band with my drum-playing brother back in their high school days), immensely enjoyed these bars, especially the second prototype, possibly as her favorite HiFi Buddy Bars of all time (or at least up to this point).
 
Orange HiFi Buddy Bars—Prototype 1:

This one is easily based on the Lemon HiFi Buddy Bars. There is only one difference: orange juice concentrate replaces the lemonade concentrate that was used in the lemon recipe. Simple enough. Here are the details for quick reference:

Crust:
5 oz. orange juice concentrate, thawed
1/3 cup sugar
16 oz. whipped lowfat cottage cheese
(blend the above three ingredients first before adding the Bran Buds)
8.8 oz. Bran Buds, ground up
(blend this into the above mixture as fast and "furiously" as possible)

Filling:
6 oz. melted, white chocolate
1 oz. orange juice concentrate, thawed

Spread the crust mixture into an 8" x 8" pan, then add the filling on top, and chill until firm (cut them about an hour after chilling).
 
These orange-flavored bars look nearly identical to their lemon counterparts. One may be compelled to add orange food coloring, at least to the filling. However, my personal preference is to avoid artificial colors.

The bars were delicious, though, and many other people enjoyed them too.
 
Orange HiFi Buddy Balls—Prototype 1:

That's right: "Balls" is correct. This is a new approach.

All the Crust and all the Filling ingredients of the Orange HiFi Buddy Bars recipe are combined together into a single mixture. Note that the total amount of orange juice concentrate used is 6 ounces. Also, the Bran Buds should be the last ingredient—blend together all the other ones first.

The resulting mixture may be a bit too soft at first, so refrigerate this in order to get it a little more firm.

Then take a little bit of the mixture at a time, forming it into a ball, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter, and place it onto wax paper. Repeat this until all the mixture is used up. This should result in about 24 balls. Refrigerate at least about an hour.

Orange HiFi Buddy Balls—Prototype 1

Nice orangey taste!
 
Pumpkin HiFi Buddy Bars—Prototype 1:

Are you ready for some football ("American football" to many of those who live outside the USA)? While this sport is a major part of the autumn season, pumpkins are largely associated with this time of year as well, and pumpkin pie, in particular, is a popular treat (especially around November). Here's a HiFi Buddy version!

Crust:
4.5 oz. pumpkin butter (available at Trader Joe's)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
16 oz. whipped lowfat cottage cheese
(fully blend the above three ingredients first before adding the Bran Buds)
8.8 oz. Bran Buds, ground up
(blend quickly into the above mixture)

Filling:
6 oz. melted, white chocolate
1.5 oz. pumpkin butter

Spread the crust mixture into an 8" x 8" pan, then add the filling on top, and chill until firm.

Pumpkin HiFi Buddy Bars—Prototype 1

Another terrific hit! Looks like this one became Jude's new favorite (even ahead of the lemon ones). In fact, she had been looking forward to these for a long time (perhaps since about a whole year ago, assuming that she likely suggested a pumpkin flavor back then). Furthermore, these bars went very quickly when I brought them to the Sports Page.
 
Buddy Balls variation:

Simply combine all of the Crust and all of the Filling ingredients of the Pumpkin HiFi Buddy Bars recipe into a single mixture. Then form this into balls, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter, and chill for at least an hour.

Chocolate HiFi Buddy Balls—Prototype 1:
 
The Orange HiFi Buddy Balls turned out to be a great idea. So why not apply this same approach to Prototype 3 of the Chocolate Bran Buddy Bars: Combine the crust and filling mixtures together, and form into balls. The chocolate ones in this particular shape reminded me of chocolate truffles, although that's not what these Buddy Balls are. But warm one up in the microwave, and the result is a still deliciously soft, chocolate texture!
 
12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate. Heat only until it just becomes fully melted, then mix in...
1/4 cup cocoa powder. Heat this mixture a little more, then blend in, as thoroughly as possible...
1/4 cup skim milk. Heat this mixture a little more, mix it more thoroughly, then gradually combine...
16 oz. lowfat cottage cheese, whipped. Then add...
1 + 1/4 cups sugar. Blend thoroughly, then add...
1 + 1/3 tablespoons vanilla (next to last ingredient here). Blend this in, then finally mix in...
8.8 oz. finely ground Bran Buds. Mix quickly with vigor.

Let resulting mixture sit for at least 5-10 minutes, perhaps even in the refrigerator. Then form into balls. Refrigerate until firm. Makes about 24 (each one close to 1 1/2" in diameter, based upon about 2.1 to 2.2 ounces per ball).
 
Mmmm (especially when warmed up)! The truffles shape (and additional similar characteristics, at least if these "Buddies" are heated) has caused me to come up with this alternative name: "Bran Buffles" (or "Hifi Buffles", although I like Bran Buffles better, perhaps due to alliteration reasons). Alright, what is "Buffles"?! My mind somehow came up with this by contracting "buddy" with "truffles", and this wording has stuck!
 
Orange-Chocolate variation:

Replace the 1/4 cup skim milk with 3 ("touch of orange") to 4 ("possibly overwhelming orange") ounces of orange juice concentrate.
 
I think that 3 ounces of orange juice concentrate is just about the right amount here. These went over very well at the Sports Page.
 
Chocolate HiFi Buddy Balls—Prototype 2:
 
I updated these bran balls to a yogurt cheese version. I sought out plain, nonfat Market Basket yogurt, because I trusted this store brand. But I could not find this exact product stocked at the Market Basket store where I was shopping at the time. So I settled for a vanilla version. Because of this, I reduced the amounts of vanilla extract and sugar added by the Buddy Balls recipe in an effort to compensate for the vanilla and sugar already included in the yogurt.
 
12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup skim milk (heated and combined with the cocoa powder)
16 oz. nonfat vanilla yogurt cheese (derived through straining from 32 oz. of nonfat vanilla yogurt, preferably Market Basket)
7/8 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
8.8 oz. finely ground Bran Buds (last ingredient, mix this one in quickly with vigor)

Let resulting mixture sit for at least 5-10 minutes, perhaps even in the refrigerator. Then form into balls. Refrigerate until firm. Makes about 25-30 (each one close to 1 1/2" in diameter, based upon about 2 ounces per ball).

Chocolate HiFi Buddy Balls—Prototype 2

I prepared these for New Year's Eve as 2013 arrived and brought them to the Italian Community Center in Beverly. Steve's main comment on this recipe: "intense chocolate". Another guest described this one as "decadent".

I also served these treats the following Friday night at Congregation Sar Shalom, my monthly Messianic Jewish congregation, where they were well-received.

Even though no cottage cheese was used in this prototype—just yogurt as the cheese-type ingredient—I did not find any excess tart problems whatsoever with the resulting recipe.
 
Peanut Butter HiFi Buddy Balls—Prototype 1:
 
Or is that "Peanut Butter [HiFi/Bran] Buffles"? How about just "Peanut Buffles" ("Butter" somewhat contracted into "Buffles")? Anyway, this one is simply a matter of combining all the ingredients of the "Bars" version. Note that the total ingredient proportions between Prototypes 1 and 2 of the Peanut Butter HiFi Buddy Bars are the same. The following recipe contains the sum of the Prototype 1 Bars, which is a regular-sized recipe (its Prototype 2 counterpart being 50% larger).
 
6 oz. melted, white chocolate
8 oz. unsalted peanut butter
16 oz. whipped lowfat cottage cheese
1 tbsp. skim milk
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla (last ingredient just before the Bran Buds)
8.8 oz. Bran Buds, ground up (make sure that all the other ingredients are thoroughly blended first, then quickly combine this one using a serious amount of intensity, expecting stiff results)

These is no need to let the resulting mixture sit for long. It gets very stiff rather quickly. Form this into balls, and refrigerate until firm. Makes about 24 (each one close to 1 1/2" in diameter, based upon about 1.9 to 2.0 ounces per ball).
 
These Balls reminded me of peanut butter fudge. They went over very well at the Sports Page.
 
Peanut Butter HiFi Buddy Balls—Prototype 2:
 
In Prototype 1, the peanut butter favor is rather on the strong side. I had an idea of making HiFi Buddy Balls which would combine the peanut butter mixture with its chocolate counterpart (i.e., Chocolate HiFi Buddy Balls, above), somewhat like a marble cake. However, I felt that the peanut butter was too dominant. This flavor is reduced for Prototype 2.
 
Repeat Prototype 1, but...
Reduce peanut butter by 2 ounces, to 6 ounces
Reduce sugar by 3 tablespoons, to 15 tablespoons (1 cup minus 1 tablespoon)
 
I felt that this provided a better balance when combined with the chocolate HiFi Buddy Balls mixture (see Chocolate Peanut Butter HiFi Buddy Balls, below, for more details).

NOTE: Even if the peanut butter flavor were to still be too strong, I had already come up with a contingency plan to further reduce the peanut butter to 4 ounces, and also reduce the sugar to 3/4 cup.
 
Chocolate Peanut Butter HiFi Buddy Balls—Prototypes 1 & 2:
 
The peanut butter flavor somewhat overwhelmed the chocolate in Prototype 1. The flavors seemed to be more balanced for Prototype 2. Take your pick.
 
For both prototypes, prepare a bowl of the mixture for Chocolate HiFi Buddy Balls, Prototype 1.

For Prototype 1 of these combination balls, prepare a bowl of the mixture for Peanut Butter HiFi Buddy Balls, Prototype 1.

For Prototype 2 of these combination balls, prepare a bowl of the mixture for Peanut Butter HiFi Buddy Balls, Prototype 2.

From the bowls of both of these flavors, take equal amounts from each one—about one ounce from each mixture is suggested—and roll them together into a single ball. The result is a somewhat marbled pattern (about a two-ounce, 1 1/2" size). Repeat this until the bowls are empty. There will probably be some extra mixture left in one of the bowls after the other one is empty. Simply take double amounts (such as about two ounces) from the surplus bowl and form into balls solely in that flavor. The yield should be close to 4 dozen balls.

Chocolate Peanut Butter HiFi Buddy Balls—Prototype 1

Many years ago, back around the early 1980's, I overheard some co-workers referring to another co-worker as "Buffy", but to me, that sounded like a great name for a pet, particularly a fluffy one, such as a cat (supposedly because of "Buffy" and "Fluffy" rhyming with each other). In fact, I did have a long-haired cat at the time, named Patches, who I greatly enjoyed, and she easily came to mind when I heard the word "Buffy". Patches was a multi-colored cat with colors like brown, black, orange and white, and it wasn't long before I felt compelled to somehow apply the name "Buffy" to her. At some point, I was baking chocolate-chip, marbled "Bundt" cakes. Due to these being multi-colored somewhat like Patches, I ended up calling my such recipes "Buffy" cakes.

Fast forward to these more recent times and my HiFi, or Bran, Buddy Balls. With the chocolate versions, I somehow came up with "Buffles" ("
buddy" + "truffles"). Subsequently, I ended up creating a batch of "Buffles" that were "marbled" or "multi-colored", somewhat like my "Buffy" cat of late. In light of "Buffles" (and also "Buddies") being very close to another "funky" word—"Buffies", I ended up with the idea of these alternative names for this multiple-colored recipe: "Bran Buffies" and "HiFi Buffies" (singular "Bran Buffy" and "HiFi Buffy", of course)!
 
Maple HiFi Buddy Balls—Prototype 1:
 
For some time, I had been dreaming of making these balls in a maple flavor. I quickly threw together this recipe shortly after being invited by a friend from Beverly's Living Hope Church to a Mother's Day cookout a little later that Sunday.

This recipe includes two ingredients that are particularly challenging to shop for—maple flavoring (try Whole Foods Market) and maple sugar (at least if it's granular, which is what I prefer, as opposed to the molded "candies"). If you happen to be driving in Vermont, stock up on some of this sugar (check around for prices, because maple sugar can be very expensive). When you get back home, store it in the refrigerator, rather than at room temperature, in order to help prolong this ingredient's shelf life.
 
6 oz. melted, white chocolate
16 oz. whipped lowfat cottage cheese ("no salt added" recommended)
(When combining the two above ingredients, start off by blending just some of the cottage cheese—perhaps close to half of the total amount—with all of the white chocolate, using heat along the way, so that this chocolate does not solidify back up. Once it is thoroughly "dissolved", no additional heat should be needed upon adding the rest of the cottage cheese.)
1 cup maple sugar
2 teaspoons maple flavoring
8.8 oz. finely ground Bran Buds (mix this in last, and mix it fast)

This small, simple list of ingredients only yields about 18 two-ounce balls, so increase the proportions if more balls are desired.
 
The hosts at the cookout, Eric and Mary Beth, as well as some guests, expressed their appreciation for this HiFi treat. I enjoyed it myself and felt that the maple flavor in particular was sufficient—that's pretty good for a first prototype here.
 
Eggnog HiFi Buddy Balls—Prototype 1:
 
After having failed a few years back to come up with a decent, eggnog-flavored Bran Buddies recipe, due mainly to a lack of sufficient firmness (the information on my pitfalls and unsuccessful recipes has more details), I felt that I would try a yogurt cheese version, which would also involve white chocolate. I reasoned that these two ingredients, when used together, might finally produce a firm enough mixture (in light of the eggnog also being used), which I would be able to shape into balls.
 
12 oz. white chocolate
1 pint light eggnog
16 oz. yogurt cheese
1/2 cup granulated sugar
8.8 oz. Bran Buds, ground up

A key tip here is using a double boiler or something similar, rather than a microwave oven, not only to melt the chocolate, but also to heat up the eggnog, thus evaporating it a little as well. Cook and fully blend these two together. The sugar and yogurt cheese need to be mixed in at some point as well, but make sure that these first four ingredients are well mixed (and cooled down if still hot) before the Bran Buds are added. After mixing in these Bran Buds, the resulting mixture should thicken a little. Then place the bowl or pot (cooled down) of mixture into the refrigerator for at least a few hours (perhaps no less than six). This should enable the mixture to get somewhat stiffer. The longer the mixture sits in the refrigerator, the firmer the mixture should be. When it is stiff enough, form it into balls, about 2 ounces each, or roughly 1 1/2" in diameter.
 
These turned out just barely firm enough and had a nice taste. I made them especially for Lesa, because of her love for eggnog. Unfortunately, I was afterward informed that she could not safely eat these treats due to their containing wheat, which I learned was bad for an allergy (or other medical condition) that she had. However, a few other guests at the Sports Page gave these HiFi Buddy Balls a try.
 

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Awesome, Rawkin' Egg "Nawg" Pancake Batter:

Combine a 50-50 blend of Trader Joe's Buttermilk Pancake (& All Purpose Baking) Mix and egg nog.
(Do not add eggs, because the egg nog already contains some.)
Expect batter to be thick.
Gradually add water (or more egg nog) to produce a suitably thin consistency.

Tip: If the pancakes are very hot, cool them slightly in order to better enjoy the egg nog flavor.

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Additional Trader Joe's Buttermilk Pancake & All Purpose Baking Mix notes:

Using a scale for weighing, instead of a measuring cup:
1 cup of this pancake mix (packed down) = 7 ounces

Chocolate version: Add 3 tablespoons of sugar and 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder to the aforementioned cup of pancake mix. Add semi-sweet chocolate chips as well for a great chocolaty taste.

Chocolate chip cookie dough version: Fold 3 1/2 ounces of this cookie dough, finely chopped, into the batter prepared with the aforementioned cup of pancake mix (in other words, first combine the pancake mix with water and/or other liquid ingredients, then add the cookie dough afterwards).

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Pancakes

Orange version: Add 2 tablespoons of grated orange peel (rind) to the aforementioned cup of pancake mix, and instead of adding water to this mix (per package instructions), substitute orange juice (no eggs are really necessary).

Lemon version: Add 1/2 cup of lemon juice and 1/4 cup of sugar to the aforementioned cup of pancake mix, mix together, then add water until desired consistency is obtained (no eggs are really necessary).

Cinnamon roll version (my attempted answer to an IHOP limited-time offer from the past): Using the aforementioned cup of pancake mix, prepare pancakes the regular way with water (eggs optional, but not really necessary), but also prepare these two toppings as well:

1. Cottage cheese (not cream cheese) icing (mix together 1/2 cup of whipped cottage cheese, 2 tablespoons of confectioner's sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla)
2. Cinnamon "filling" (mix together 1/4 cup of brown sugar, 1 tablespoon of cinnamon, and just enough maple syrup to obtain a thick liquid consistency)

Use both of these to top off the pancakes.

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Barbecue Latkes:

Prepare latkes according to the potato latkes package, but whatever amount of water this package calls for, replace 1/3 of it with barbecue sauce.
For example, if using Streit's Potato Pancake Mix, and the package says to add 2 eggs and 2 cups of water to the mix, go ahead and use the 2 eggs, but add only 1 1/3 cups of water, along with 2/3 cup of barbecue sauce, to the mix.

Barbecue Latkes

Buffalo Ranch Latkes:

This is similar to the barbecue latkes recipe. However, instead of using barbecue sauce, use an equal amount of a 50-50 blend of wing sauce and ranch dressing. By utilizing the above example, 2 eggs and 1 1/3 cups of water, along with 1/3 cup of wing sauce and 1/3 cup of ranch dressing, would be added to the mix.

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Matzah Pizza Stack (or "Matzone" or "Matzah Calzone"):

Top 7 planks of matzah with sauce prepared from one to two 6-ounce cans of tomato paste (probably closer to two cans, as the tomato flavor could hardly be detected with only one can on an earlier try—in fact, make that two full cans). Spice up this sauce beforehand according to taste (e.g, with Italian seasoning, oregano, crushed red pepper). Sprinkle some hard, grated cheese (optional) on top of the sauce. Add pepperoni (optional), 16 slices per plank, to 5 of the planks. Using 2 8-ounce packages of shredded cheese, divide this cheese among all 7 planks. Bake and/or broil the topped planks until cheese is melted. Assemble these 7 planks immediately afterward, toppings-sides-upward. Add an 8th plank of matzah, a plain one, on top of all this. Let the resulting stack sit until the moisture from the lower contents has softened the 8th plank on top. Then cut into desired sizes and serve promptly.

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Basic Bran-Buds-Based Pie Crust:

For one 9.5" pie plate (expect crust to be somewhat thicker than normal)

Mix:
8 oz. whipped lowfat cottage cheese
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Optional (useful for eggnog pies):
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup eggnog


Then add:
4.4 oz. Bran Buds, ground up

Mix quickly and vigorously. Then press into pie plate and refrigerate.

Suggestion: Line pie plate with a circular piece of wax paper on the bottom.

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Chilled Eggnog Pie:

For one a 9.5" pie plate, prepare a Basic Bran-Buds-Based Pie Crust, and include the optional ingredients for eggnog pies.

Then for the filling, combine 2 packages of instant vanilla pudding mix (I used Trader Joe's, each package being a 3.39 oz. size) with 3 cups of light eggnog (I used Hood). Mix well, let the resulting mixture thicken a little, then pour it into the crust, and chill (preferably for at least three hours). Note: One variation is to increase the eggnog to 3 1/2 cups, but the filling may be a little runny when the pie is sliced (unless it is served frozen).

Chilled Pumpkin Eggnog Pie—Prototype 1:

I used a somewhat smaller pie plate (perhaps a little over 8.5") for this recipe. The pumpkin part of this one is largely based on the Pumpkin HiFi Buddy Bars (Prototype 1), but there is a slight shift in regard to the pumpkin butter.

First, prepare this crust, and press it into the pie plate:
2 oz. pumpkin butter (I used Trader Joe's)
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons sugar (this equals 1/6 cup)
8 oz. whipped lowfat cottage cheese
(fully blend the above three ingredients first before adding the Bran Buds)
4.4 oz. Bran Buds, ground up
(blend quickly into the above mixture)

Next prepare this "lower" filling, and spread it onto the crust (try to get the filling almost to the top of the crust):
3 oz. melted, white chocolate
1 oz. pumpkin butter

Note two things here:

1. This is, generally speaking, half of the Buddy Bars recipe.
2. Some of the pumpkin butter has been, proportionally speaking, shifted from the crust to the "lower" filling (so the crust only gets 2 oz., not 2.25 oz., and the filling gets 1 oz., as opposed to .75 oz.).

Chill all this until the pumpkin filling is firm.

Make the "upper" filling:
1 package instant vanilla pudding mix (such as Trader Joe's)
1 3/4 cup light eggnog (such as Hood)

Mix these, let the mixture stiffen a little (perhaps about 5 minutes), then pour it onto the other contents in the pie plate, and chill the whole thing for at least three hours.

The result of this one: The eggnog filling was sort of runny (and would easily slide off the rather slick pumpkin filling), as well as overwhelmed by the pumpkin flavor. Maybe this is because eggnog tends be mild, while pumpkin, at least when used in dessert recipes like this one, tends to be a lot more spicy.

Furthermore, the color of the pumpkin filling was nearly identical to its eggnog counterpart (I had hoped for a decent difference, in order to be able to more easily distinguish this recipe from an eggnog-only pie).

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Baked Chocolate Cheesecake—Prototype 10.1:
 
Prototype 10.1?? What's that??

The batter for this recipe is derived from a line of cheesecake prototypes that I made back around the late 1980's. The crust is derived, scaled down to a one-third recipe—with extremely small deviations on the cottage cheese and Bran Buds—from that used in Prototype 3 of the Chocolate Bran Buddy Bars.

More specifically, around 1987 or 1988, I began experimenting with a "Baked Cheese Pie" recipe in a cookbook from the American Heart Association. This initial recipe was not chocolate flavored, but supposedly meant to be plain, although it actually turned out too lemony. I referred to it as "Prototype 1". From there, I went through a number of different cheesecake prototypes, with a few different flavors, incrementing the "prototype" number as I went along. "Prototype 4" was my first chocolate attempt (it ended up having way too much cocoa powder). A number of prototypes later, I had a much improved chocolate cheesecake, "Prototype 10", and continued on with additional flavors. I hardly gave consideration to the crust, as I wanted to focus on the batter.

The recipe presented here uses this "Prototype 10" batter, but with a relatively minor swap. The original version used margarine. The updated version presented here uses butter instead. Since I am adding crust, I felt that I would also implement a minor variation for the prototype number. "10.1" is the result.

This one is a baked recipe (as opposed to "refrigerate until firm").
 
Crust:
2 oz. melted, semi-sweet chocolate
4 teaspoons skim milk, heated
4 teaspoons cocoa powder. Fully dissolve this in the chocolate and milk, then gradually blend in...
5 oz. whipped, lowfat cottage cheese. Then add...
3/8 cup granulated sugar. Blend thoroughly, then add...
1 teaspoon vanilla (next to last ingredient here). Blend this in, then finally mix in (quickly and vigorously, all at once)...
2.9 oz. finely ground Bran Buds

Press this crust mixture into the bottom of a lightly buttered 9" cheesecake pan (such as removable-bottom or spring-form). There is no need to press the crust up the pan's sidewall.

Batter:
2 cups lowfat cottage cheese
2 tablespoons melted or softened butter
2 eggs
7/8 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup skim milk
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons cocoa powder

Blend all these ingredients together thoroughly, particularly the butter and eggs (an electric mixer or food processor may be needed for this), then pour this batter into the pan (on top of the crust, of course). Promptly place this into the oven—preheated at 300 degrees—and bake for 100 minutes (or until cake tester comes out clean). Remove from oven, cool down to about room temperature, carefully remove from pan, and refrigerate (perhaps at least three hours is a good suggestion at this last step).

Baked Chocolate Cheesecake—Prototype 10.2:
 
This is a tastier version. The crust is somewhat richer, due to inclusion of the "filling" ingredients of the Prototype 3 Chocolate Bran Buddy Bars. Essentially, what goes into this cheesecake's crust is a one-quarter recipe of the Chocolate HiFi Buddy Balls (Prototype 1). Remember, that's a quarter recipe, not a third, as I felt that the crust needed to be cut down a bit. Another change is the addition of vanilla to the batter.

Despite this batter modification, I have chosen to keep the "10" in "Prototype 10.2" rather than up this number to 11. Not only is this more in keeping with the 1980's prototype numbering, but the vanilla addition is an extremely small change anyway—small enough that I would rather consolidate this modification with that of the crust, resulting in a ".2" (up from ".1") after the "10".
 
Crust:
3 oz. semi-sweet chocolate. Heat only until it just becomes fully melted, then mix in...
1 tablespoon cocoa powder. Heat this mixture a little more, then blend in, as thoroughly as possible...
1 tablespoon skim milk. Heat this mixture a little more, mix it more thoroughly, then gradually combine...
4 oz. lowfat cottage cheese, whipped. Then add...
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar. Blend thoroughly, then add...
1 teaspoon vanilla (next to last ingredient here). Blend this in, then finally mix in...
2.2 oz. finely ground Bran Buds. Mix quickly with vigor.

Press this crust mixture into the bottom of a lightly buttered 9" cheesecake pan (such as removable-bottom or spring-form).

Batter:
1/2 cup skim milk
2 tablespoons melted butter
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
7/8 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups lowfat cottage cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs

Blend all these ingredients together thoroughly and pour into pan. Promptly place into 300-degree oven (preheated), and bake for 100 minutes (or until cake tester comes out clean). Remove from oven, cool down to about room temperature, carefully remove from pan, and refrigerate.

Baked Chocolate Cheesecake—Prototype 10.3:
 
I felt that the crust's texture was somewhat too dry on the previous version. While the Chocolate HiFi Buddy Balls may have been moist enough, baking their same set of ingredients for a cheesecake was apt to produce dry results. So I needed to find a "wetter" approach for the crust.
 
Repeat the previous version, but make these changes for the crust:
Boost semi-sweet chocolate by 1 ounce, to 4 ounces.
Boost skim milk by 1 tablespoon, to 2 tablespoons.
 
I think that this one is almost on target. I felt that the crust could use a little more moisture.
 
Baked Chocolate Cheesecake—Prototype 10.4:

Repeat the previous version, but boost the crust's skim milk by 2 tablespoons, to 1/4 cup. Tip: Immediately after adding the Bran Buds to the crust's other ingredients, act real fast! Get the Bran Buds soaked and mix quickly, yet thoroughly. The resulting crust mixture should have a thick, liquid texture. But this is not going to stay this runny for long. So before it hardens, dump it into the bottom of the pan, and tilt this pan in various directions until the mixture has coated the entire bottom. If necessary, carefully spread this mixture (using something small, such as a finger) to close any remaining gaps, but be as quick as possible. Give the pan a slight shake as needed to help level out the crust.
 
The crust's texture was considerably better.
 
Baked Chocolate Cheesecake—Prototype 10.5:

The quest is still on for crust improvement! Repeat the previous version, but boost the crust's skim milk, by 4 teaspoons, to 1/3 cup. Increase the granulated sugar as well, by a tablespoon, to 3/8 cup for a tastier crust. Finally, use the bath approach for this cheesecake (i.e., wrap foil around the pan, and place it in a hot "tub"—see Baked Eggnog Cheesecake, Prototypes 8 and 9, below, for more info).
 
A huge improvement for the entire cheesecake, especially the crust! "Tubbing" makes a world of difference! Could it be that the bath separates the pros from the rest? Maybe I should become a "tub-thumper" for cheesecake baking (not quite the "Chumba-cheese-wamba-cake" variety, inasmuch that my non-bath cheesecakes got "knocked down" upon removal from the oven after "getting up" in the baking process—but the bath approach would "keep" the batter "down" throughout...so..."When we're baking, we'll be winning, if we're bathing—Cake gets knocked down, but it gets up at first, if cake you're gonna keep un-bathed/Oh, bain marie, bain marie, bain marie").
 
Baked Chocolate Cheesecake—Prototype 11:
 
The crust's sugar and, especially, its milk got boosted in the last few prototypes. I felt that the cocoa should be given a little boost as well. Cutting down the batter's salt (see Baked Eggnog Cheesecake—Prototype 10, for more info on this change) also seemed like a good idea.

With this change affecting both the crust and the batter, and in light of my wanting to revert at some point to whole-numbered prototype designations, I felt that I would move the
Baked Chocolate Cheesecake designation beyond the "10.x" series and call this version "Prototype 11", rather than "Prototype 10.6". By now it was time to get out of the "late 1980's cheesecake prototype numbering system" and bring things up to date for this 21st century scrapbook.

Upon checking my 1980's cheesecake prototypes, it looked like 7 of them were specifically chocolate ("Prototype 4" through "Prototype 10" under that arrangement), and I did not (from what I best recall) get involved with crust experiments back then. If I were to resume prototype numbers solely for the chocolate batter in this 21st century scrapbook (i.e., pick up on the chocolate batter where the 1980's experiments left off, calling the first chocolate cheesecake prototype of this scrapbook "Baked Chocolate Cheesecake—Prototype 8"), then "Scrapbook Prototype 10.1" could be thought of as "Prototype 8" (butter replacing margarine), "Scrapbook Prototype 10.2" (as well as "10.3", "10.4" and "10.5") could be thought of as "Prototype 9" (1 teaspoon vanilla being added), and "Scrapbook Prototype 10.6" (this current recipe here, which I wanted to rather call "11") could be thought of as "Prototype 10" (salt being reduced to 1/4 teaspoon), the integers 8, 9 and 10 all being in sequence with the 1980's chocolate experiments. But the "10 series" designation had already been in use by the
Baked Chocolate Cheesecake "21st century scrapbook system", so that would present a problem in calling this latest version "Prototype 10" here. What if I were to further bump up the number each time for changes made solely to the crust (not to the batter)? That's 3 "crust-only" modifications ("10.3", "10.4" and "10.5"), so this recipe's proposed "Prototype 10" designation could instead be "Prototype 13".

The batter votes for a not-so-eligible "10". The crust, not wanting to be "counted out", casts its ballot for a more-eligible "13". The midpoint would be "11.5", but I wanted only an integer. Since the batter dominated over the crust, I thought it would be a good idea to move from "11.5" to the nearest integer in the batter's direction, and this resulted in yet another reason to go with the number "11" (in addition to it being the lowest eligible integer here). So "Baked Chocolate Cheesecake—Prototype 11" it is for this particular version in this 21st century recipe scrapbook. For now, I felt that this number was a reasonable compromise. Should I make subsequent variations for
Baked Chocolate Cheesecake (whether for the batter only, crust only or both of them), the plan would be to use "12", "13", "14", etc.
 
Repeat Prototype 10.5, but...
For the crust, boost cocoa powder by 1 teaspoon, to 1 1/3 tablespoons.
For the batter, reduce salt by 1/4 teaspoon, to 1/4 teaspoon.

The latest update for the ingredient lists...

Crust:
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted
1 1/3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/3 cup skim milk
4 oz. lowfat cottage cheese, whipped (no-salt-added recommended)
3/8 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla (next to last ingredient here)
2.2 oz. finely ground Bran Buds

Batter:
1/2 cup skim milk
2 tablespoons melted butter
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
7/8 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups lowfat cottage cheese, whipped (no-salt-added recommended)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
 
This one went over very nicely at the Sports Page, and Steve, in particular, could hardly stop raving about this Prototype. Of all the treats that I brought—for him, Lesa and others in their company to enjoy—this seemed to be one of his favorites, perhaps even his #1 favorite, at least up to this point. I myself felt that both the filling and the crust were terrific!
 
Baked Chocolate Cheesecake—Prototype 12:
 
Inasmuch as the crust had a nice chocolate taste to it, I wanted a richer cheese presence as well. I decided to swap out the 1/3 cup skim milk, replacing it with an additional 4 ounces—i.e., about 1/2 cup—of cottage cheese. It was a painstaking experience for me to arrive at this amount. But not only was this easier than attempting an equal "1/3 cup for 1/3 cup" exchange (or boosting the cottage cheese by an oddly 2 2/3 ounces!), but the amount of liquidity (or moisture) for the overall mixture would hopefully remain close (replacement of 1/3 cup of a thin, wet ingredient with about 1/2 cup of a somewhat thicker one).
 
Repeat Prototype 11, but...
For the crust, eliminate the skim milk, and boost the whipped cottage cheese by 4 oz., to 8 oz.
 
This resulted in a thicker crust. I think the taste may have indeed been slightly richer, perhaps with the cottage cheese's flavor barely being present—not easily detected, due its mild characteristic.
 
Baked Chocolate Cheesecake—Prototype 13:
 
Back in the 1980's I aimed to get my chocolate cheesecake to taste very much like that of a certain brand that I enjoyed at the time: Alden Merrell. My efforts back then were for a healthy answer to a high-fat treat. Inasmuch as I came close, tartness was one of the taste issues that I was grappling with. My earlier prototypes included lemon juice and lemon peel, which I ended up outright eliminating in the later chocolate cheesecakes at the time.

My goals have shifted more recently, and I reasoned that tartness had an important contributing role to the cheesecake flavor, particularly when using cottage cheese, whose taste I felt was relatively mild. In light of my giving lemon juice a try in my latest combination "chocolate-and-peanut-butter" cheesecakes—with successful results—I thought that I would utilize it here in this latest chocolate-only prototype as well.

In another move to better ensure the cheese presence in the batter, the cottage cheese was boosted as well. To compensate for this, I also increased the flour.

In fact, the chocolate batter of Prototype 13 here is identical to that of Prototype 3 of Baked Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake (see below), with the only exception being the amount of flour (I used slightly more in the latter recipe, due to its deeper height in the baking process). The chocolate crust is the same for both recipes!
 
Repeat Prototype 12, but make these changes for the batter:
Boost whipped cottage cheese by 4 ounces (1/2 cup), to 20 ounces (2 1/2 cups).
Boost flour by 4 teaspoons (1/12 cup), to 1/3 cup.
Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.

Bake this cheesecake for two hours (at 300 degrees, with hot water bath), then remove from oven, and allow about two hours for cooling before removing from pan. NOTE: If using a 9 1/2" pan (instead of 9"), cut this baking time to 110 minutes.

Chocolate Cheesecake—Prototype 13

The batter had a delicious cheese presence. It also had a nice tart taste, without being excessive (and I felt that the sweetness wasn't deficient either). This prototype went amazingly fast at a church event that involved only a small crowd.

This is a very popular one. I think that I have baked this particular prototype more than once using an older 9" pan in the past. I have more recently started using my newer, 9 1/2" Frieling pan on this cheesecake.
 
Baked Chocolate Cheesecake—Prototype 14:
 
It had been a while at this point since I initially made Prototype 13. Yogurt cheese would make its chocolate cheesecake debut with the 14th prototype. This recipe would also be, to the best of my knowledge, the very first one in my entire recipe scrapbook to be done outside of my home—with the only exceptions likely being some pancake recipes, at least the chocolate version, done a number of times over the past few years at my cousin Rachel's house in Vermont (as well as at my own place) and one of the Fluffernutter HiFi Buddy Bar prototypes, being prepared elsewhere in my hometown probably about 3 years ago. Not only would Prototype 14 of my chocolate cheesecakes be the very first item in my recipe scrapbook that I produced outside of New England—it would be prepared and served at my brother Eric's house in Tahoe—more specifically, in California! This was done at a cousins reunion held there in late August of 2012. To help make things easier, I skipped the crust—but I nearly doubled up on the batter. I also made modifications based upon some recent yogurt cheese efforts, such as with Prototype 8 of my plain cheesecakes and Prototype 16 of my eggnog ones.
 
Batter only:
4 tablespoons melted/softened butter
6 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
32 ounces nonfat yogurt cheese
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs

Pour into buttered 9-inch springform pan, place into hot bath and bake for the first 30 minutes at 325 degrees. Then lower temperature to 300 degrees and bake for 45 more minutes. Cool outside of oven and bath for about 1 1/4 hours, then refrigerate. For a nicer touch, place semi-sweet chocolate chips, flat-side-down, in a circle around the cheesecake's top surface at its outer edge shortly after removal from the oven (avoid burns—be careful not to touch the pan's hot sidewall while placing the chocolate chips).

Chocolate Cheesecake—Prototype 14

At first, I got the impression that this cheesecake had a very long way to go in its baking when I checked it at, from what I best recall, about 50 minutes. But at 75 minutes this one was nearly overflowing the 9" pan that Jean, Eric's wife, provided to me (my trusty, 9 1/2" Frieling—a gift from them and their daughters—was back home). I thought that the oven at the Tahoe house may have been using convection to speed up the baking. Anyway, I quickly took the cheesecake out. It was perhaps around this point that the idea of chocolate chips entered my mind. I found some Nestlé's Toll House semi-sweet chocolate chips lying around and was pleasantly surprised that they were "all-natural" (at least according the package's claim). So I put a "ring" of them on my cheesecake while it was still hot, and these chips sat nicely on the top surface.

While a number of guests at the reunion expressed appreciation for this prototype, I felt that the taste was rather somewhat too tart, at least for a chocolate cheesecake (I personally still liked it, but I—and probably the other guests—would have enjoyed it considerably more if the taste wasn't so tart).

Normally I used the Market Basket brand of yogurt back home, and this brand would strain so well that I would have to add back some whey to get the weight I wanted. But at Tahoe, I used a different brand whose name I could not remember (from what I best recall, it was organic—a bonus), and this seemed to strain relatively slowly. I started with 64 ounces (in the form of two 32-ounce containers) of plain, nonfat yogurt, allowed about 24 hours of straining time and ended up with considerably more than the 32 ounces of yogurt cheese that I was targeting. So I had some left over.

Perhaps if I allowed much more time (which I wasn't in a position to do), more whey would have drained out, and maybe the resulting cheese would have been a little less tart, but I wasn't sure. But I also reasoned that while tartness was good with certain cheesecake flavors such as plain, lemon, orange and other citrus varieties, perhaps I needed to ease up on it when dealing with flavors such as chocolate. Another thing that I considered was that this bought-in-California brand of yogurt was perhaps more tart than Market Basket's.

Anyway, having given thought to Lesa's friend Steve commenting about "lemon" tastes in my recent yogurt cheese prototypes made back at my home in Massachusetts—Market Basket yogurt usage and all—despite my not adding any lemon juice or other specifically-lemon ingredients to them, I contemplated a partial return to cottage cheese—such as a 50/50 blend of this cheese and yogurt cheese—for future cheesecakes.
 
Baked Chocolate Cheesecake—Prototype 15:
 
After more than half a year, I felt that I would make another chocolate prototype. This one reflects updates such as those included in Prototype 5 of my chocolate peanut butter cheesecake, (e.g., arrowroot, yogurt-cottage cheese blend).
 
2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 32 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers (that's 64 ounces altogether) of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine one 16-ounce container of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Grease a 9 1/2" (or 9") pan, but do not wrap foil around it until just before the batter is added (spreading the crust in an already wrapped pan can result in greater disturbance to the foil, thus increasing leakage risks).

Chocolate Crust:
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted
1 1/3 tablespoons cocoa powder
8 oz. (1 cup) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
3/8 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2.2 oz. finely ground Bran Buds

Place resulting mixture in 9 1/2" (or 9") pan.

Chocolate Batter:
4 tablespoons melted/softened butter
3/8 cup cocoa powder
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons arrowroot
1/2 teaspoon salt
40 ounces (5 cups) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs

Pour the batter over the crust and bake this cheesecake in a hot water tub at 300 degrees for 100 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then shut off oven and cool cheesecake down while still in it (and in tub), with door slightly ajar, for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and (a border of chocolate chips can be added at this point) continue to cool down at room temperature for another 100 minutes, then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Chocolate Cheesecake—Prototype 15 Chocolate Cheesecake—Prototype 15 (top view)

I had been decorating the top of some my cheesecakes with semi-sweet chocolate chips for some time. For this latest prototype, I felt that I would add alternating "white" chocolate chips to liven things up a bit. But they were so small, roughly half-height, compared to their semi-sweet counterparts, so I doubled up on the whites (both kinds of chips used here came from Trader Joe's).

This one tasted terrific! The amount of tartness was just right—not too much, not too little. There seemed be a nice balance of "tang", sweetness and chocolate. Even though the gathering for refreshments (after worship services) in Living Hope Church's fellowship hall was not a full-fledged community/communion meal, there was a somewhat moderate amount of snack competition. Anyway, Prototype
15 was devoured in probably less than 15 minutes (Gaynell, in particular, called this chocolate cheesecake a "favorite"). I myself, finding the taste of this particular treat to be extraordinary, got an urge to hasten plans for making another one in the future.
 
Baked Chocolate Cheesecake—Prototype 16:
 
This repeats Prototype 15, but with a couple of changes that I made to the chocolate crust, as reflected in Prototype 8 of my cookies+creme cheesecake. And for the batter, I boldly decided to try a new trick—some really cool, dark stripes and swirls, using chocolate syrup. I felt that this would give the cheesecake a more tantalizing look.
 
2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 32 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers (that's 64 ounces altogether) of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine one 16-ounce container of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Grease a 9 1/2" (or 9") pan, but do not wrap foil around it until just before the batter is added (spreading the crust in an already wrapped pan can result in greater disturbance to the foil, thus increasing leakage risks).

Chocolate Crust:
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
8 oz. (1 cup) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
3/8 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 oz. finely ground Bran Buds

Place resulting mixture in 9 1/2" (or 9") pan.

Chocolate Batter:
4 tablespoons melted/softened butter
3/8 cup cocoa powder
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons arrowroot
1/2 teaspoon salt
40 ounces (5 cups) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs

Chocolate syrup (Trader Joe's Organic Midnight Moo recommended), about 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) altogether

Expect more than 7 cups of the resulting batter, but do not add this to the pan all at once (otherwise, the syrup, which is also added here, may end up floating—or perhaps sinking—too much to a single level, due to density differences). Rather, this needs to be done in four installments. Wrap the pan in foil just before adding the first installment. Minimize the foil's disturbance in order to minimize its leakage risk.

For each of the first three installments, scoop about 1 3/4 to 2 cups of batter into the pan. Then add about 2 tablespoons of chocolate syrup (close to 1 1/3 ounces by weight if using the TJ's brand recommended above). The best way to do this is to squirt some thick, parallel stripes of it throughout the pan (the TJ's syrup, as of this writing, comes in a squeezable bottle with a squirt nozzle). Then pull a knife in perpendicular directions through these stripes in the batter (just deeply enough for the installment being added) in order to produce a wavy, swirl pattern (see photo below for an example).

Chocolate Cheesecake—Prototype 16 (top view)
(Top view of finished cheesecake, with a suggested pattern)

Use extra care in the later installments when adding batter (i.e., gently scoop it) into the pan. After adding an installment, bake the pan with its contents at 325 degrees for 15 minutes, in a tub filled with at least 1/4 to 1/2 inch of boiling water. To reduce spillage risks, do not fill the tub all the way at this point, because the whole tub-and-pan assembly is going to need to be removed from the oven (in order to comfortably add contents to the pan) between installments.

After all this is done, there should be about 1 3/4 to 2 cups of batter remaining, with 45 minutes of baking time reached at this point (15 minutes for each of the first three installments). Now comes the fourth installment—add the batter and syrup in the same way as with the earlier three installments. But try to place (and swirl) the syrup as neatly as possible on top, because this is what is going to end up being exposed. So appearance is particularly important for this final installment. Next, return the entire pan-and-tub assembly to the oven. At this point, fill up the tub generously with boiling water. Resume baking, but with the oven temperature lowered to 300 degrees, for about another 75 minutes (based upon usage of a 9 1/2" pan).

Afterward, shut the oven off, and leave its door slightly ajar, with the cheesecake still inside—and in the tub—for an hour. Next, remove the cheesecake from the oven and tub, and—if desired—add a border of chocolate chips around the edge of this cheesecake. Continue to cool it down at room temperature for another two hours. After doing so, remove the cheesecake from pan and refrigerate.

Chocolate Cheesecake—Prototype 16 Chocolate Cheesecake—Prototype 16 (sliced)

This cheesecake fared well at Living Hope Church and was gone probably within 45 minutes (almost all of it within 30), amidst a very modest selection of snacks.

However, I was rather surprised that the chocolate syrup hardly made distinct appearances
inside the batter. Maybe it somehow got too easily dissolved. But the cottage cheese's curds didn't. What happened was that I took a chance on a mixer, rather than a blender, to accomplish this, but the mixer was not thorough enough. Some white specks could still be seen in the batter and crust. Nevertheless, I found the taste of this chocolate prototype to be irresistible. For the sake of inner appearance, I have given thought to using more chocolate syrup, in the form of thicker, unswirled stripes for the inner installments—and a blender for the cottage cheese—next time.
 
Baked Chocolate Cheesecake—Prototype 17 (7-Way Chocolate):
 
Now things are really getting chocolaty here—a chocolate cheesecake (interpret that as chocolate batter and chocolate crust, of course) with chocolate syrup and double-chocolate sandwich cookies (chocolate cookie outsides with chocolate creme in the middle)—and don't spare the chocolate chips (two kinds) border! Did you count all that? I counted seven. That's one loaded cheesecake!

Although I tried to pursue a fairly exact Oreo-like taste in my all-natural quests for a vanilla creme sandwich cookie in the past (see
Cookies+Creme Cheesecake for more information), I made no effort to approximate Oreo's chocolate creme version. Why?

Oreo's vanilla creme sandwich cookies have stood the test of time. This classic has become one of America's top cookies. On the other hand, I have reasoned that its chocolate creme counterpart did not have anywhere nearly as much "seniority". With this later Oreo product being not much older than competing brands (perhaps even being younger in some cases?), I felt that I should not regard it as an established standard by which all other brands are to be compared. In light of this, I chose to simply consider a natural brand without performing any comparison tests against Oreo. As long as the natural brand's taste was good enough, that would be my choice.

In fact, I bought two natural brands for consideration—Newman-O's and Joe-Joe's. After taste-testing both, I could not come up with a preference for one brand over another. So I used both of them on a 50-50 basis in this cheesecake—at least for the first time that I prepared Prototype 17.

Note also the crust's Bran Buds being replaced with regular ("Original") All-Bran, as well as the batter's omission of salt. These changes are derived from recent updates that I have done on other cheesecake flavors.
 
2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 32 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers (that's 64 ounces altogether) of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine one 16-ounce container of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Grease a 9 1/2" (or 9") pan, but do not wrap foil around it until just before the batter is added (spreading the crust in an already wrapped pan can result in greater disturbance to the foil, thus increasing leakage risks).

Chocolate Crust:
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
8 oz. (1 cup) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
3/8 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 oz. finely ground All-Bran

Place resulting mixture in 9 1/2" (or 9") pan. Allow mixture to get firm. See note in comments below for more information on this.

Chocolate Batter:
4 tablespoons melted/softened butter
3/8 cup cocoa powder
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons arrowroot
40 ounces (5 cups) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs

Double-chocolate sandwich cookies, about 2 dozen

Chocolate syrup (Trader Joe's Organic Midnight Moo recommended), about 6 tablespoons altogether

Expect more than 7 cups of the resulting batter, but do not add this to the pan all at once (otherwise, the cookies and syrup, which are also added here, may end up floating and/or sinking too much to a single level, due to density differences). Rather, this needs to be done in five installments. Wrap the pan in foil just before adding the first installment. Minimize the foil's disturbance in order to minimize its leakage risk.

For each of the first four installments, gently scoop about 1 1/2 cups of batter into the pan. Add about 6 cookies (don't bother breaking them up—keeping them whole is fine and, in fact, recommended), ensuring that they are fully coated and immersed. Then add a generous amount, close to 1/4 cup, of chocolate syrup (almost 3 ounces by weight if using the TJ's brand recommended above)—but add this syrup only for the second installment (of the first four installments described here). The best way to do this is to squirt some thick, parallel stripes of it throughout the pan (the TJ's syrup, as of this writing, comes in a squeezable bottle with a squirt nozzle). But—do not swirl the syrup with a knife on this second installment.

After adding an installment, bake the pan with its contents at 325 degrees for 15 minutes, in a tub filled with at least 1/4 to 1/2 inch of boiling water. To reduce spillage risks, do not fill the tub all the way at this point, because the whole tub-and-pan assembly is going to need to be removed from the oven (in order to comfortably add contents to the pan) between installments.

For the fifth (and final) installment, gently add the remaining batter to the pan, but do not add any more cookies. Instead, add some more chocolate syrup on the top surface. Squirt thick, parallel stripes of this syrup, about a couple of tablespoons altogether (almost 1 1/2 ounces by weight if using TJ's), throughout the pan. Then pull a knife in perpendicular directions through these top stripes in the batter (just deeply enough for the uppermost installment's surface) in order to produce a wavy, swirl pattern (see photo below for a suggestion). Do all this as neatly as possible (avoid cutting into the lower installments underneath).

After the fifth installment (including the syrup) is in place, return the entire pan-and-tub assembly to the oven. At this point, fill up the tub generously with boiling water. Resume baking, but with the oven temperature lowered to 300 degrees, for about another 65 minutes (based upon usage of a 9 1/2" pan).

Afterward, shut the oven off, and leave its door slightly ajar, with the cheesecake still inside—and in the tub—for an hour. Next, remove the cheesecake from the oven and tub. Now, for the final chocolate touch, add a border of chocolate chips, semi-sweet and white, around the edge of this cheesecake (see photo below). Continue to cool it down at room temperature for another two hours. After doing so, remove the cheesecake from pan and refrigerate.

Chocolate Cheesecake—Prototype 17 Chocolate Cheesecake—Prototype 17 (sliced)

Of all the cheesecakes that I have brought to family/relatives' occasions up to this point, it appears that Prototype 17 of my chocolate cheesecakes ended up being the most successful one ever—by far! By the time I finished serving this one at our annual cousins' summer reunion in 2013 (held at my cousin Robin's home in Manchester, New Hampshire, for the first time—after many years at my cousin Joanne's in Peabody, Massachusetts), this dessert was nearly 2/3 gone—which, for a get-together like that, was really terrific! In the past, I had brought to other family/relatives' occasions a number of other cheesecakes hardly any larger than half the size as this latest one, and those were often less than halfway gone—many of those times with my eating the "bulk" of whatever was consumed (and with there being no more than a tiny handful of other takers). With my later cheesecakes in big sizes like the latest one presented here, it certainly was not unusual for me to have an overwhelming amount left over at a cousin's house. While many of my cheesecakes were hugely successful at Living Hope Church, I had yet to achieve a real winner with my relatives. It looked like I had finally scored one here.

I personally enjoyed this very chocolaty prototype myself. Much of what was left over from the reunion went to some of my friends for their enjoyment. So this cheesecake didn't last very long (I did
not have to "stomach" the "bulk" of it). In the end this loaded, chocolate cheesecake was...a loaded success!

In fact, I decided to repeat Prototype 17 nearly a week later for Living Hope Church as well. The cheesecake was almost completely gone within a half hour (among a modest snack selection). One last tiny piece remained for perhaps an additional half hour. I ended up finishing off that one.

In light of all these things, this extremely chocolaty cheesecake may go down as my most successful cheesecake ever, at least up to this point.

Chocolate Cheesecake—Prototype 17 (almost 1/6 gone) Chocolate Cheesecake—Prototype 17 (about 1/2 gone)
Chocolate Cheesecake—Prototype 17 (about 1/2 gone w/ sign) Chocolate Cheesecake—Prototype 17 (about 2/3 gone)

This cheesecake was so good (as well as so complex on the inside) that I was moved to include additional pictures here.

Sign—Chocolate Cheesecake 17 (LOADED!!)
Here is more complete portrayal of the sign I provided with this cheesecake!

Any more encores? Yes! A few weeks later, I asked my cousin Joanne to select a cheesecake for me to bring to a Rosh HaShanah lunch at her house (hosted each year for her relatives, plus some friends). She enjoyed this chocolate prototype served at the annual cousins' reunion so much that she chose this one (this is the same Joanne who hosted that summer event in the past before letting Robin take over for this year).

And it ended up being a great hit at Joanne's home (about 2/3 of it gone, which for a rather small gathering was impressive). What a sweet way to start off 5774 (the Jewish new year)!

So what did I do with the rest? It somehow got a little further reduced until about 1/4 of the entire cheesecake was left. That was probably because I myself ate more of this irresistible treat.

I froze this remaining leftover for nearly a week, then I thawed it in order to bring it to darts at the Italian Community Center in Beverly. Lesa's friend Steve was wowed by it. Melissa, the wife of another one of the players on Lesa's team, tasted my cheesecake and rated it considerably better than that of The Cheesecake Factory (and that was supposedly on taste alone). Now that's a real compliment and a half (particularly for something nutritionally superior as well)! All of the cheesecake was finished off before we left the club that night.

NOTE: With this third preparation of Prototype 17, I made a small change in how I firmed up the crust before adding the batter to it. Rather than refrigerating it, I pre-baked the crust (without a tub at this step) at 300 degrees for about 10 minutes. Then I let the pan cool off until it could be comfortably touched. This was done in order to make it easier, later on, to separate the finished cheesecake from the pan's bottom.
 
Baked Chocolate Cheesecake—Prototype 18:
 
With the latest refinements over my cheesecakes in general, I felt that I would make a "back-to-basics" chocolate cheesecake.
 
2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 32 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers (that's 64 ounces altogether) of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine one 16-ounce container of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Grease a 9 1/2" (or 9") pan, but do not wrap foil around it until just before the batter is added (spreading the crust in an already wrapped pan can result in greater disturbance to the foil, thus increasing leakage risks).

Chocolate Crust:
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
8 oz. (1 cup) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
3/8 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 oz. finely ground All-Bran

Place resulting mixture in the greased pan and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 10 minutes, then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Chocolate Batter:
4 tablespoons melted/softened butter
3/8 cup cocoa powder
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons arrowroot
40 ounces (5 cups) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs

Wrap the pan in foil at this point. Carefully pour the batter over the crust and bake this cheesecake in a hot water tub at 300 degrees for 105 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then shut off oven and cool cheesecake down while still in it (and in tub), with door slightly ajar, for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down at room temperature for another 105 minutes, then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Chocolate Cheesecake—Prototype 18

It looked like my chocolate cheesecakes have recently been turning into classics. This latest one, served at Living Hope Church in early November of 2013, was gone in what seemed to be less than half an hour—among a somewhat modest selection of snacks.

At a later point, I made this prototype again. But I felt that I would add a somewhat simple enhancement. I topped the cheesecake with a thin coating of melted, semi-sweet chocolate (about 2 ounces).


Chocolate Cheesecake—Prototype 18 (chocolate-topped, warm)
The chocolate was melted and placed on the still-warm cheesecake.

Chocolate Cheesecake—Prototype 18 (chocolate-topped, cooled)
This is the cheesecake, with the chocolate firmed up, after refrigeration.

Chocolate Cheesecake—Prototype 18 (chocolate-topped slice)
And here is a close-up of a slice.

The result was another very successful cheesecake at Living Hope in late April of 2014.

I repeated this now-classic prototype with a top border of chocolate chips and brought it to a mid-October 2014 event—for which I volunteered—at Barrington Baptist Church, in Rhode Island.

Chocolate Cheesecake—Prototype 18 (with chocolate chip border)
Prototype 18, bordered with chocolate chips and brought to Rhode Island.

A concert was performed there by a Christian parody band, ApologetiX. The cheesecake was enjoyed by many members of this band—and the drummer's wife, Eve (who was particularly enlightened by this recipe's more extensive details)—as well as some people from this church, including Holly, who had the main role in promoting this concert. We had a great time!
 
Baked Chocolate Cheesecake—Prototype 19:
 
It has been better than two years since I last updated my chocolate cheesecake. The latest prototype presented here is based on my major cheesecake batter overhaul of 2015.
 
3-Cheese Blend (1CT-1NC-4YG):
Prepare ahead of time 32 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers (that's 64 ounces altogether) of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 8 ounces of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese and 8 ounces of softened Neufchatel cheese ("light cream cheese").

Grease a 9 1/2" (or 9") pan, but do not wrap foil around it until just before the batter is added (spreading the crust in an already wrapped pan can result in greater disturbance to the foil, thus increasing leakage risks).

Chocolate Crust:
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted
3/8 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
8 oz. (1 cup) 3-cheese blend (see above)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 oz. finely ground All-Bran

Place the resulting mixture in the greased pan and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 5-10 minutes, depending on the mixture's thickness (closer to 10 minutes if thin enough to be fully distributed across the pan's bottom by gentle shaking, closer to 5 minutes if thick enough to require spreading out this mixture by pressing on it with a utensil and/or fingers), then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Chocolate Batter:
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
3/8 cup cocoa powder
40 oz. (5 cups) 3-cheese blend (see above)
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon (5 tablespoons altogether) arrowroot
2 teaspoons vanilla
5 eggs

Wrap the pan in foil at this point. Carefully pour the batter over the crust and bake this cheesecake in a hot water tub at 300 degrees for 105 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then shut off oven and cool cheesecake down while still in it (and in tub), with door slightly ajar, for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and (at this point, add a border of chocolate chips if desired) continue to cool down at room temperature for another 105 minutes, then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Chocolate Cheesecake—Prototype 19

I used milk chocolate chips for the border of this cheesecake. The batter included Philadelphia Neufchatel cheese.

The taste, I felt, was terrific! This prototype was very well received at my cousin Joanne's place, where I went for a Rosh HaShanah (5776) lunch. There was, if I remembered correctly, nearly a dozen people present, and the cheesecake ended up being roughly halfway consumed. Before I headed home, Joanne took about half of the remainder, and I brought the rest home.

For Memorial Day Weekend of 2017, I repeated Prototype 19 with Market Basket Neufchatel cheese (instead of Philadelphia, Market Basket's version being typical for usage in my cheesecakes around that time) and two borders of chocolate chips (Trader Joe's semi-sweet for the outer, Hershey's milk for the inner)—and brought this one to The Home Depot for my fellow associates to enjoy along with the store's tasty barbecue on the holiday itself.

Chocolate Cheesecake—Prototype 19 (2017 repeat)
 
Baked Chocolate Cheesecake—Prototype 20 (7-Way Chocolate):
 
This one is an update from the loaded Prototype 17. A particular feature is a new approach to using chocolate syrup (with the hope that the swirl pattern does not sink too deeply into the batter's top surface).
 
3-Cheese Blend (1CT-1NC-4YG):
Prepare ahead of time 32 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers (that's 64 ounces altogether) of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 8 ounces of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese and 8 ounces of softened Neufchatel cheese ("light cream cheese").

Grease a 9 1/2" (or 9") pan, but do not wrap foil around it until just before the batter is added (spreading the crust in an already wrapped pan can result in greater disturbance to the foil, thus increasing leakage risks).

Chocolate Crust:
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted
3/8 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
8 oz. (1 cup) 3-cheese blend (see above)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 oz. finely ground All-Bran

Place the resulting mixture in the greased pan and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 5-10 minutes, depending on the mixture's thickness (closer to 10 minutes if thin enough to be fully distributed across the pan's bottom by gentle shaking, closer to 5 minutes if thick enough to require spreading out this mixture by pressing on it with a utensil and/or fingers), then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Chocolate Batter:
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
3/8 cup cocoa powder
40 oz. (5 cups) 3-cheese blend (see above)
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon (5 tablespoons altogether) arrowroot
2 teaspoons vanilla
5 eggs

Double-chocolate sandwich cookies (such as Newman's Own), about 2 dozen

Dark Decoration Batter (thoroughly blend these two ingredients together):
2 tablespoons chocolate syrup (such as Trader Joe's Organic Midnight Moo)
2 tablespoons chocolate batter (see above)

Expect more than 7 cups of the resulting chocolate batter (and reserve 2 tablespoons of this for the dark decoration batter), but do not add this to the pan all at once (otherwise, the cookies, which are also added here, may end up floating and/or sinking too much to a single level, due to density differences). Rather, this needs to be done in five installments. Wrap the pan in foil just before adding the first installment. Minimize the foil's disturbance in order to minimize its leakage risk.

For each of the first four installments, gently scoop about 1 1/2 cups of batter into the pan. Add about 6 cookies (don't bother breaking them up—keeping them whole is fine and, in fact, recommended), ensuring that they are fully coated and—as much as possible—immersed.

After adding an installment, bake the pan with its contents at 325 degrees for 15 minutes, in a tub filled with at least 1/4 to 1/2 inch of boiling water. To reduce spillage risks, do not fill the tub all the way at this point, because the whole tub-and-pan assembly is going to need to be removed from the oven (in order to comfortably add contents to the pan) between installments.

For the fifth (and final) installment, gently add the remaining batter to the pan, but do not add any more cookies. Instead, add the dark decoration batter on the top surface. From a beaker, pour thick, parallel stripes of this decorative batter throughout the top surface in the pan. Then pull a knife in perpendicular directions through these dark stripes in the lighter-colored batter (just deeply enough for the uppermost installment's surface) in order to produce a wavy, swirl pattern (see photo below). Do all this as neatly as possible (try to avoid cutting into the lower installments underneath).

After the fifth installment (including the dark decoration batter) is in place, return the entire pan-and-tub assembly to the oven. At this point, fill up the tub generously with boiling water. Resume baking, but with the oven temperature lowered to 300 degrees, for about another 65 minutes (based upon usage of a 9 1/2" pan).

Afterward, shut the oven off, and leave its door slightly ajar, with the cheesecake still inside—and in the tub—for an hour. Next, remove the cheesecake from the oven and tub. Now, for the final chocolate touch, add a border of chocolate chips, semi-sweet and white, around the edge of this cheesecake (see photo below). Continue to cool it down at room temperature for another two hours. After doing so, remove the cheesecake from pan and refrigerate.

Chocolate Cheesecake—Prototype 20

For some reason, the cheesecake's middle decorative swirl "line" seemed to somehow run too deep into batter, ultimately leading to a crack. I would simply have to remember in the future to take additional precautions when transferring a cheesecake like this from one surface to another.

I brought this one to my annual family reunion in July of 2016 at my cousin Robin's place, where it ended up being a great success. About 5/8 of it got taken before I brought the rest back home.

I should also mention here that this cheesecake was the very first one that I made after having heart surgery, in which my mitral valve was successfully repaired. It was only about two weeks after this surgery that I made this dessert. What a speedy recovery!
 
Baked Chocolate Cheesecake—Prototype 21:
 
A new stabilizer, xanthan gum (replacing the arrowroot), would be the primary feature of this September 2017 update.
 
3-Cheese Blend (3CT-1NC-2YG):
Prepare ahead of time 16 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from one 32-ounce container of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 16 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 24 ounces of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese and 8 ounces of softened Neufchatel cheese ("light cream cheese").

Grease a 9 1/2" (or 9") pan, but do not wrap foil around it until just before the batter is added (spreading the crust in an already wrapped pan can result in greater disturbance to the foil, thus increasing leakage risks).

Chocolate Crust:
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted
3/8 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
8 oz. (1 cup) 3-cheese blend (see above)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 oz. finely ground All-Bran

Place the resulting mixture in the greased pan and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 5-10 minutes, depending on the mixture's thickness (closer to 10 minutes if thin enough to be fully distributed across the pan's bottom by gentle shaking, closer to 5 minutes if thick enough to require spreading out this mixture by pressing on it with a utensil and/or fingers), then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Chocolate Batter:
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
3/8 cup cocoa powder
40 oz. (5 cups) 3-cheese blend (see above)
1 1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum
2 teaspoons vanilla
5 eggs

Wrap the pan in foil at this point. Carefully pour the batter over the crust and bake this cheesecake in a hot water tub at 300 degrees for 75 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then shut off oven and cool cheesecake down while still in it (and in tub), with door slightly ajar, for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and (at this point, add a border of chocolate chips if desired) continue to cool down at room temperature for another two hours, then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Chocolate Cheesecake—Prototype 21 Chocolate Cheesecake—Prototype 21 (sliced)

I formed a border of three(!) different kinds of chocolate chips—dark, milk and white—on top of this cheesecake. This one had a nice taste and texture to it, and I brought it to my cousin Joanne's house for Rosh HaShanah 5778 (that's 2017 Gregorian), where it was enthusiastically received.
 

-------------------------------------------------------

Baked Eggnog Cheesecake—Prototype 1:
 
The Baked Chocolate Cheesecake is a good starting point for this eggnog version. The crust is scaled down to what could perhaps be referred to as some kind of a "one-quarter" recipe.

However, because this is a new baked cheesecake flavor, one which I did not try back in the late 1980's (nor closely enough modeled directly after a recipe back then), the prototype number here gets off to a fresh start of "1".

Remember that this is a baked version, not a "firmed-by-refrigeration" kind.
 
Crust:
4 oz. whipped lowfat cottage cheese
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon rum extract (such as McCormick)
2 tablespoons light eggnog (such as Hood)
Thoroughly blend these above 7 ingredients together. Afterward, quickly and vigorously mix in:
2.2 oz. finely ground Bran Buds

Press this resulting mixture into the bottom of a lightly buttered 9" cheesecake pan.

Batter:
2 cups lowfat cottage cheese
2 tablespoons melted or softened butter
2 eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light eggnog (such as Hood)
1/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Blend all these ingredients together thoroughly, particularly the butter and eggs, then pour this batter into the pan, on top of the crust. Promptly place this into the oven—preheated at 300 degrees—and bake for 100 minutes (or until cake tester comes out clean). Remove from oven, cool down to about room temperature (about 1 1/2 hours), carefully remove from pan, and chill.
 
Where is the eggnog?? I could hardly taste it!
 
Baked Eggnog Cheesecake—Prototype 2:

Repeat Prototype 1, but make these changes for the batter:
Boost eggnog by 3/4 cup, to 1 1/2 cups.
Boost flour by 1/6 cup, to 1/2 cup (to help compensate for the increase in liquid).
 
I still had difficulty detecting the eggnog flavor, although at least one person mentioned that she could barely taste it.
 
Baked Eggnog Cheesecake—Prototype 3:

Repeat Prototype 2, but make these changes for the batter:
Boost eggnog by 1/2 cup, to 2 cups.
Add 1 tablespoon of rum extract (yes, that is a generous amount).
Add 1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg.

Also, let's make the crust a little tastier. Combine 1 tablespoon of brown sugar with the crust's earlier ingredients (i.e., before blending in the Bran Buds).
 
We're finally getting somewhere—adequate presence of some kind of mellow eggnog flavor! But perhaps a little more spice is needed.
 
Baked Eggnog Cheesecake—Prototype 4:

Repeat Prototype 3, but make these changes for the batter:
Boost nutmeg by 3/8 teaspoon, to 1/2 teaspoon (thus adding more spice).
Boost flour by 1 tablespoon, to 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon (for the sake of firmness, to compensate for the liquid increases in Prototype 3).
 
Good presence of eggnog, but, come to think of it, I have somehow more readily noticed some kind of harsh tinge from the rum extract. Could I get away with cutting it down by a third and still getting an adequate eggnog presence?
 
Baked Eggnog Cheesecake—Prototype 5:

Okay, repeat Prototype 4, but decrease the batter's rum extract from 1 tablespoon to only 2/3 (i.e., from 3 teaspoons to only 2).
 
The flavor was just about right—no harshness. I had contemplated using even less rum extract (than I actually did) in this prototype, but I'm glad I ended up not doing so (because I thought the flavor was diminished enough).

The result is a relatively mild (not so spicy) eggnog cheesecake.
 
Baked Eggnog Cheesecake—Prototype 6:

Spice it up a little more! Repeat Prototype 5, and boost the batter's nutmeg by 1/2 teaspoon to 1 full teaspoon.
 
The flavor was more encouraging. However, I felt that the crust could use some improvement.
 
Baked Eggnog Cheesecake—Prototype 7:

Repeat Prototype 6, but spice up the batter even more by adding 1 teaspoon of cinnamon to it. Also increase the moisture and flavor for the crust by boosting its eggnog from 2 tablespoons to 1/2 cup (with this change, the crust mixture becomes somewhat pour-able, subject to the timing of blending in the Bran Buds, so be sure to let this mixture firm up a little in the pan before adding the batter on top).
 
Too much pumpkin-like taste! Let's face it—eggnog tends to be a delicate flavor, and boosting the spice too much, particularly with cinnamon, can throw things off. Furthermore, the crust's taste and texture did not seem all that great either. Better to stick to Prototype 6.

Perhaps a good tip is to give consideration to the eggnog being used. I myself have mainly used light eggnog made by Hood (more specifically the quart-sized,
ultra-pasteurized product, as opposed to the half-gallon-sized, pasteurized counterpart, due to my preference for the product's longer shelf life). Another dairy out there is Oakhurst (from Maine, and available at least in much of New England), whose eggnog has a somewhat spicier taste (maybe it's the nutmeg, maybe it's a hint of mint, but I don't know for certain).

Inasmuch as the eggnog flavor was adequately present in Prototype 6, I have somehow lost consideration that this is supposed to be a
cheesecake as well. Perhaps the rum extract should be reduced further.
 
Baked Eggnog Cheesecake—Prototype 8:

Okay—repeat Prototype 6 again, but reduce the batter's rum extract from 2 to 1 + 1/2 teaspoons (in other words, to put it simply, 1/2 tablespoon). For this prototype, skip the crust.
 
This time, I embarked on a new baking approach. Beforehand, I would simply pour the batter into the "springform" pan, then put this straight into the oven. Typically, the cake would rise to nearly double its height during baking, only to fall back shortly after I removed the pan from the oven for the cooldown, and the outer edge of the cheesecake would end up with some kind of inferior taste and/or texture. So with Prototype 8, I took a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil and wrapped the bottom and sides of the pan, in order to resist water leakage. What water leakage?! What's water got to do with this?? It's because after I poured the batter into the foil-lined pan, I placed this into a larger pan, filled with boiling water. Then I put the whole thing into the oven. The result: no high-climbing cheesecake during baking—and the outer edge came out so much better.

However, I felt that my eggnog cheesecake needed more firmness.
 
Baked Eggnog Cheesecake—Prototype 9:

Repeat Prototype 8, and increase the batter's flour from 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon (that's 9 tablespoons) to 3/4 cup (that's 12 tablespoons—therefore the flour is getting about a 33% boost). No crust.
 
This one seemed firmer, and Lesa's friend Steve especially enjoyed this treat, which I brought to the Sports Page for New Year's Eve 2011.
 
Where are we at this point with the baked eggnog cheesecake prototypes??

Okay, I felt that at this point, I should provide the details of the ingredients so far—plus sequential info. This is batter-only (no crust).

Grease a 9" springform pan. For best results take the bath approach—wrap this pan up to the sides with foil, in order to suppress water leaks (heavy-duty aluminum is a good choice).

Mix thoroughly together:
2 tablespoons butter, softened or melted
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Then blend in:
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon rum extract

Then mix in:
2 cups (such as a 16-ounce container) of lowfat cottage cheese (such as Hood, no salt added)—whip this in a blender just until the curds no longer show, before adding to the above ingredients.
Next add:
2 cups of light eggnog (such as Hood or Oakhurst)
Follow up gradually with a dry combination of:
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg

Completely mix all of the above ingredients used so far, then finally add:
2 eggs (last ingredient here)—aim to get these at least fully mixed in (yet without overbeating, if possible).

Have enough boiling hot water available at this point if using the bath approach (if the water is cold, the baking is going to get off to a start that's too cold!), and pour some into a large pan—let's call this the "tub".

Also, the oven should be preheated to 300 degrees.

Pour the batter into the springform pan. No bath? Then put the pan directly into the oven. But for the bath approach, place this pan into the "tub", add more hot water (perhaps to the batter's height), and put the whole thing into the oven. Bake for about 100 minutes.

Afterward, take the springform pan out of the oven (and out of the "tub" if applicable) for the cooldown.
 
Don't throw away that piece of foil used for wrapping the springform pan if the bath approach was used! Save this foil to wrap the cheesecake later on.
 
Baked Eggnog Cheesecake—Prototype 10:

Okay, let's give the crust another try. Its ingredient list at this point is as follows, with the latest changes noted:

4 oz. whipped lowfat cottage cheese
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (up from 1/8 teaspoon, for more flavor)
1/4 teaspoon rum extract (up from 1/8 teaspoon, for more flavor)
1/4 cup light eggnog (that's 4 tablespoons, a reasonable compromise between 2 tablespoons and 1/2 cup)
2.2 oz. finely ground Bran Buds

For the sake of flavor, the increase in the nutmeg and rum extract seemed like a reasonable compensation for the decrease in eggnog from its 1/2 cup usage in Prototype 7.

For the batter, repeat Prototype 9, but in light of the questionable need for salt—combined with a desire to cut down what seemed to be unnecessary sodium, reduce the salt from 1/2 teaspoon to 1/4 teaspoon (seemed like a reasonable compromise, in case the recipe still needed some salt).

Use the bath approach on this one, foil and all.
 
I discovered a soggy problem with this one. Looked like the foil, even if it was "heavy duty", still could not be relied upon to keep the water out of the cheesecake's pan, as some of it appeared to leak through and wet at least the crust. So after cooldown and removal, I put the cheesecake, upside-down (that's "crust-side-up"), back in the oven—but this time I used the broiler (as opposed to baking) for a few minutes, with the oven door ajar, in an effort to reduce the crust's sogginess. Inasmuch as I did not want the crust to be too dry, I didn't want it to be too soggy (a concern I had with Prototype 7) either.
 
Baked Eggnog Cheesecake—Prototype 11:

Seems like maybe a little too much emphasis has been placed on the "eggnog" in "eggnog cheesecake" (and too little on "cheesecake"). This prototype is slightly mellower and sweeter.

So repeat Prototype 10, but make these changes for the batter:
Boost granulated sugar by 1/6 cup, to 2/3 cup.
Decrease rum extract by 1/2 teaspoon, to 1 teaspoon.
Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract (include this one when blending in the lemon juice and rum extract).

Remember that only 1/4 teaspoon of salt is to be used here (not 1/2 teaspoon).

As for the bath approach, instead of placing the springform pan directly in the hot "tub", put it immediately above it, preferably by using a grate between the two (the "tub" itself being placed close to halfway up in the oven).

Baked Eggnog Cheesecake—Prototype 11 (tub arrangement)

In order to prevent steam from rising up into the bottom of the cheesecake's pan, it is still advisable to wrap a piece of foil around its bottom.

Baked Eggnog Cheesecake—Prototype 11

Well, I somehow got the impression that the cheesecake did rise during the "above-the-tub" baking, but not as high as in the "tub-less" prototypes (and whatever resulting rise occurred, at least the top surface appeared to settle evenly—as opposed to having higher edges). I felt that the outer edge's taste and texture hopefully still turned out okay. The crust also seemed to be just right.

This prototype had a taste that was somewhat strong on the nutmeg.
 
Baked Eggnog Cheesecake—Prototype 12:
 
I have come a long way in my various cheesecake prototypes since Baked Eggnog Cheesecake—Prototype 11! What I have done with the first two baked eggnog-pumpkin combos, as well as Baked Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 4, have led me to update the eggnog-only cheesecake.

There were quite a few changes from the 11th eggnog prototype to the 12th for the batter. The lemon juice went from 1 teaspoon to 3. The rum extract went from 1 teaspoon back to 1 1/2. The cottage cheese was increased from 2 cups to 2 1/2, and the flour—previously all-purpose but now whole white wheat—got upped from 3/4 cup to a full one (in my ongoing quest for firmness). And the nutmeg's teaspoon was cut in half.

Furthermore, whereas I baked Prototype 11 above the tub, I went back to baking in the tub with Prototype 12.

A major change was made in regard to the crust. Many times, I have sought to attain one that would have a decent texture—not too soggy and not too dry—and be truly tasty. I have not always been satisfied with the outcome when trying to match the crust's flavor to its batter counterpart. Eventually, I felt that I had attained my goal for the chocolate flavor. But with other flavors, particularly with eggnog, this has been difficult. From what I best recall, I was fairly happy with the
taste, but not the still-too-soggy texture, of the crust in Baked Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 4. However, due to its hopeful taste, as well as simplification issues, I made a decision to cease pursuit of matching crust flavors (to their batter counterparts) at this point (at least for most non-chocolate flavors, including eggnog) and go instead with a regular crust, similar to that of the plain cheesecake, but with further refinements (particularly reducing the cottage cheese back to 4 ounces) in an effort to get the texture more to my liking.
 
Crust:
1.5 oz. melted, white chocolate
1/2 cup (4 oz.) lowfat cottage cheese, whipped, no salt added
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2.2 oz. Bran Buds, ground up

Batter:
2 tablespoons butter, softened or melted
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon rum extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups (20 oz.) whipped lowfat cottage cheese, no salt added
2 cups of light eggnog
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs

Bake in (not above!) a tub at 300 degrees for about 2 hours, then remove from oven, and let this cheesecake cool off for about 2 hours before removing from pan.

Eggnog Cheesecake—Prototype 12 (made with eggnog by Oakhurst—"The Natural Goodness of Maine")

I used Oakhurst ("The Natural Goodness of Maine") eggnog for this one (which was baked early in the same week commemorating the 10th anniversary of Amtrak's Downeaster, an increasingly-popular train, serving Oakhurst's home state). This cheesecake was a terrific hit at the Sports Page, and I myself was quite pleased with the taste, both the batter and the crust (which itself was not too soggy).
 
Baked Eggnog Cheesecake—Prototype 13:
 
Inasmuch as the crust was great, I thought that I would eliminate the cottage cheese from it and replace it with additional eggnog. I also felt that Prototype 12 was a little too well done.

But wait a minute! Didn't I decide to go with regular crusts back in Prototype 12? Yes, but I later on thought that I would give the eggnog flavor another try, with a simple
dairy-for-dairy swap (which, among other things, would eliminate the cottage cheese from the crust—going against my long tradition of always including cottage cheese as a minimal ingredient for this bottom part of the cheesecake).
 
Repeat Prototype 12, but replace the crust's 1/2 cup of lowfat cottage cheese with 1/2 cup of light eggnog.

Also, bake this cheesecake for about 110 minutes (instead of 120). Continue doing it "in-the-tub" style ("in" is here to stay at this point—just be careful with that foil, disturbing it as little as possible: gently wrap it onto the pan immediately before placing the cheesecake into the bath for baking, not earlier—first grease the pan, then "crust" it, then pre-bake it [if applicable—but use no tub during this phase], then cool it, then "batter" it, then "foil" it, then "tub-and-bake" it). Got it?
 
This time I used Hood eggnog (which I have been using likely the overwhelming majority of times).

However, the crust seemed to be considerably more soggy.

I brought this cheesecake to a Christmas Day get-together, but there was too much dessert competition. The host's chocolate trifle was a big hit. Even though I ate plenty of my own cheesecake, it wasn't touched much by others. A few days later, I brought what was left of this one (about half the cheesecake at this point) to the Sports Page, where it seemed to fare considerably better.
 
Baked Eggnog Cheesecake—Prototype 14:
 
How about pre-baking the crust in order to reduce its sogginess? Furthermore, because I increased the batter's cottage cheese back in Prototype 12, I was moved at that point to boost its rum extract as well. However, it wasn't long before I suspected that this extract was a little too much. Therefore, I decided to cut it back to its earlier amount (while keeping the cottage cheese at 2 1/2 cups). As with Prototype 13 (and most of my other baked eggnog cheesecake prototypes up to this point), I used Hood eggnog.
 
Repeat Prototype 13, but reduce the batter's rum extract by 1/2 teaspoon, back to only 1 teaspoon.

Also, after the crust has been placed into the pan, pre-bake it (no tub during this phase) for about 20 minutes at 300 degrees, then cool it off until it can be comfortably touched. Add the batter afterward and bake (in a tub at this point) for about 110 minutes.
 
The pre-baking paid off! The crust's texture, I felt, was decent (nice taste, too). However, I felt that the batter was a little overdone (maybe I had been getting more sensitive to overbaking lately). Indeed, there were about a couple of noticeable cracks, and the outer batter (i.e., at the circumference) seemed a little too dry at the surface. Furthermore, the taste might have been a tiny bit too acidic or tart. My eggnog plans for the future, when I get to it: only 2 teaspoons of lemon juice for the batter, which itself should have its oven time cut to only 100 minutes.

But all the refining that I have done up to this point has paid off in an eggnog cheesecake that did very well at Living Hope Church.
 
Baked Eggnog Cheesecake—Prototype 15:
 
Let's do it! Cut the batter's lemon juice and baking time. Furthermore, since a somewhat wider cheesecake pan was being used (the 9 1/2" Frieling that I got for one of my birthdays), I ended up cutting the crust's pre-bake time and the full-recipe's bake time.
 
So where are we at now?

Crust:
1.5 oz. melted, white chocolate
1/2 cup light eggnog
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2.2 oz. Bran Buds, ground up

Pre-bake, no tub, for about 15 minutes at 300 degrees, then cool (enough to touch).

Batter:
2 tablespoons butter, softened or melted
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon rum extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups (20 oz.) lowfat cottage cheese
2 cups of light eggnog
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs

Bake, with tub, for about 90 minutes at 300 degrees, then cool off for about 100 minutes, then remove from pan and refrigerate.
 
I think that this was the first time that I used the Frieling pan for my eggnog prototypes (as opposed to the somewhat smaller-diameter, all-metal pan used earlier). I also used Oakhurst eggnog.

The crust had a nice taste to it. However, I somehow sensed a little harshness in the batter's flavor. Were my taste buds changing? I wasn't sure. But a woman—Karen, from what I best recall—over at the Italian Community Center (to which Lesa's dart team recently relocated) more easily thought this cheesecake had a pumpkin taste. Both of us felt that the nutmeg should be cut back and the sweetness increased. I have already been thinking about boosting the granulated sugar to 3/4 cup and halving the nutmeg—and also the rum extract—on the next eggnog cheesecake (this woman also made some suggestions involving sour cream and powdered sugar, but that was more for red velvet purposes). I also felt that the crust's pre-bake time should be further cut to about 10 minutes.
 
Baked Eggnog Cheesecake—Prototype 16:
 
Big changes for this one! Say "Hello" to yogurt cheese (and because of its tartness, "Goodbye" to the lemon juice). I also opted to go with a plain crust as well. See the plain cheesecakes (mainly Prototypes 5 through 8) for more info on the reasons behind these changes. I also decided to replace the white whole wheat flour with all-purpose, in order to find out whether this substitution would improve the taste.
 
Crust:
1.5 oz. melted, white chocolate
8 oz. lowfat yogurt cheese
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2.2 oz. Bran Buds, ground up

Do NOT pre-bake the crust. It should be more than firm enough at this point.

Batter:
2 tablespoons butter, softened or melted
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon rum extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups (20 oz.) nonfat yogurt cheese
2 cups light eggnog
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs

Bake, with tub, for about 70 minutes at 300 degrees, then cool off for about 70 minutes, then remove from pan and refrigerate.
 
This one came out quite tasty. I felt that using all-purpose flour, as opposed to white whole wheat, did indeed have a noticeably favorable impact on the taste. In a way, I felt a little bad, because that meant sacrificing some fiber. But I had to face some kind of trade-off. If I really wanted this extra fiber, I would have to put up with the "ho-hum" tinge as well. But as long as I had that Bran-Buds-based crust, I was already getting plenty of fiber anyway. Given that, it looked like the usage of white whole wheat flour, as opposed to all-purpose, in the batter wasn't going to provide a big percentage jump in the fiber for the cheesecake overall. But using the all-purpose would likely make a big improvement in the batter's taste.

On the other hand, the Oakhurst eggnog used here also had a big role in making this cheesecake taste great. Perhaps an even better test for the all-purpose flour, particularly in conjunction with yogurt cheese, would be a plain-flavored cheesecake.

I made this prototype as, among other things, an early birthday present for Lesa. In addition to her enjoying it, her friend Steve loved it as well. As with Prototype 8 of my plain cheesecakes, Steve happily commented about a lemon presence in the flavor, even though I used no lemon juice (and I could not, from what I best recall, pick up a lemon-like flavor myself). Again, I had to explain to Steve the tart characteristic of yogurt, a type of food which he told me he (somehow) did not like. I mentioned to him my not really liking eggs. Yet those were in the cheesecake as well. If one does not like a certain food by itself, that person may still greatly enjoy a different food prepared with that disliked ingredient. Combinations of various ingredients, whether liked or not, can result in a tasty sum!
 
Baked Eggnog Cheesecake—Prototype 17:
 
After working with Prototype 10 of the plain-flavored cheesecakes, I brought some of the ideas from there into the latest eggnog prototype. A special formulation between the cottage and yogurt cheeses would be utilized (I thought that the last eggnog prototype was somewhat too tart—sorry, Steve, I meant for this to be an eggnog cheesecake, not a lemon one). Another notable change to the eggnog prototypes would be the use of arrowroot (combined with a major reduction in flour).
 
2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 16 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from one 32-ounce container of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 16 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 8 ounces (1 cup) of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Crust:
1 oz. melted, white chocolate
1/2 cup (4 oz.) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1.1 oz. Bran Buds, ground up

Pour this crust mixture into pan (9 to 9 1/2 inches) and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 5 minutes, then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
2 tablespoons butter, softened or melted
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon rum extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups (20 oz.) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 cups light eggnog
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup arrowroot
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs

Bake, with tub, for about 70 minutes at 300 degrees, then cool off for about 70 minutes, then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Eggnog Cheesecake—Prototype 17

I probably could have gotten by with only 60 minutes of baking time, but I wanted an extra "safety" margin of firmness with this prototype.

Oakhurst eggnog was used for this one. I was rather pleased about this Maine dairy making a recent change for the better in its products—no more high-fructose corn syrup! No later than the start of eggnog season 2012, sugar was being used instead.

Oakhurst eggnog labels, 2011 and 2012 versions
Oakhurst eggnog labels. Label on left is 2011 version, with high-fructose corn syrup. Label on right is 2012 version, with sugar.

Yes, some artificial flavoring was still in use. But simply changing the sweetener made me feel happy (in fact, this company stated that it was no longer using the inferior, possibly artificial, corn-based sweetner for any of its products). Way to go Oakhurst! That's another milestone. Now work on going all-natural with your flavorings. Your stance against hormones (e.g., rBST) has gotten you this far, so keep on chugging. (And Amtrak's Downeaster train recently extended its service beyond Portland, to Brunswick—another nice happening from the bushy Pine Tree State.) Goodbye (and good riddance), HFCS! Hello, sugar (and Brunswick—and L.L. Bean's own Freeport too—happy rails)!

This cheesecake had a terrific eggnog taste. The tartness level also seemed to be just about right. However, I did pick up a very faint "ho-hum" tinge, at least when the cheesecake was at about room temperature. Maybe more of the flour needed to be removed (and perhaps a slight arrowroot boost would be needed to compensate for this flour's further reduction).

Still, this cheesecake fared satisfactorily at Living Hope Church. I only brought about half of it there, because I wanted save some to bring to darts at the Beverly ICC as well. This prototype was well received there by Lesa (eggnog being her favorite cheesecake flavor). Her friend Steve responded repeatedly with comments like "Way awesome!!" (he also sensed a moisture to his liking in this cheesecake). So he was thrilled with this treat (no lemon-related concerns—glad you're happy, Steve).
 
Baked Eggnog Cheesecake—Prototype 18:
 
The batter for this one reflects what I used in my first chocolate eggnog prototype. I was furthermore moved to add a gradual in-oven cooldown to this single-sized prototype here, due to the two cups of eggnog resulting in a large amount of batter (perhaps I should have given more time in the oven for Prototype 17 as well).
 
2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 16 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from one 32-ounce container of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 16 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 8 ounces (1 cup) of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Crust:
1 oz. melted, white chocolate
1/2 cup (4 oz.) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1.1 oz. Bran Buds, ground up

Pour this crust mixture into pan (9 to 9 1/2 inches) and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 5 minutes, then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
2 tablespoons butter, softened or melted
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon rum extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups (20 oz.) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 cups light eggnog
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/8 cup arrowroot
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs

Bake, with tub, for about 90 minutes at 300 degrees. Next, turn oven off, leaving cheesecake in it (still in tub as well), with oven's door slightly ajar, for another 45 minutes. Afterwards, remove cheesecake from oven and tub, and let this cool off (cheesecake still in pan) for about 90 minutes. Then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Eggnog Cheesecake—Prototype 18

Now that looks a little more well done—and thus promising!

...and delivering! This cheesecake was delicious and well-received at darts (including, of course, by Lesa and Steve). Furthermore, I felt that the eggnog batter was easily firm enough to my satisfaction.
 
Baked Eggnog Cheesecake—Prototype 19:
 
This version gets updated, primarily with the crust, based on refinements done to other cheesecake flavors earlier in 2013.
 
2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 16 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from one 32-ounce container of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 16 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 8 ounces (1 cup) of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Crust:
1 oz. melted, white chocolate
1/2 cup (4 oz.) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Pour this crust mixture into pan (9 to 9 1/2 inches) and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 5 minutes, then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
2 tablespoons butter, softened or melted
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon rum extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups (20 oz.) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 cups light eggnog
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/8 cup arrowroot
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs

Bake, with tub, for about 90 minutes at 300 degrees. Next, turn oven off, leaving cheesecake in it (still in tub as well), with oven's door slightly ajar, for another 45 minutes. Afterwards, remove cheesecake from oven and tub, and let this cool off (cheesecake still in pan) for about 90 minutes. Then remove from pan and refrigerate. Note: See comments below for more information in regard to cooking and cooling times.

Eggnog Cheesecake—Prototype 19 (made with Oakhurst eggnog)

I made this one for Lesa's birthday in late August 2013, using Oakhurst eggnog, which had frozen well from the previous Christmas season—and that eggnog still tasted great—and so did the cheesecake itself! I got plenty of nice compliments from a number of people at the Italian Community Center, where I presented this treat to Lesa.

In December 2013 I went on to make Prototype 20, which itself featured more arrowroot—but resulted in what I felt to be too "rubbery" of a texture. So in light of my quest for yet more firmness, but hopefully without rubber concerns, I remade Prototype 19 (with its 3/8 cup of arrowroot) shortly afterward. But this time around, I boosted the oven baking time (still at 300 degrees) to 120 minutes, the in-oven cooldown time to 60 minutes, and the out-of-oven cooldown time to 120 minutes. That's 45 additional minutes (30 of them in the oven) altogether. And I was considerably more satisfied with the resulting texture.
 
Baked Eggnog Cheesecake—Prototype 20:
 
I somehow wanted some more firmness, so I took a chance on pushing up the arrowroot a bit.
 
Repeat Prototype 19, but boost the batter's arrowroot by 2 tablespoons, to 1/2 cup.
 
I made this one with Oakhurst eggnog.

This cheesecake was easily firm enough. However, I felt that the texture was sort of "rubbery". So perhaps I overdid it on the arrowroot. But the taste itself was terrific. I had given considerations beforehand to reducing or even eliminating the rum extract. But when I carefully evaluated the taste of this prototype, I ended up reasoning, "Don't reduce that rum extract!"

So I determined that it was better to stick with Prototype 19. But if I really wanted more firmness, how about taking a chance on extended oven time? See the later comments for that prototype.
 
Baked Eggnog Cheesecake—Prototype 21:
 
Sometimes, I have felt the need to use up some dairy products, such as cottage cheese, before their expiration. Here is a recipe with a new kind of cheese base. This one is batter only (no crust). It also uses a rectangular pan, rather than a round one.
 
Batter:
2 cups (16 ounces) lowfat cottage cheese, whipped
4 ounces Neufchatel cheese ("light cream cheese"), softened
5/8 cup (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon rum extract
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups light eggnog
7 tablespoons (1/2 cup less 1 tablespoon) arrowroot
2 eggs

Place into greased 13" x 9" pan (such as a "Pyrex" glass type), bake in tub at 300 degrees for 120 minutes, shut oven off, leaving door slightly ajar, for 60 minutes, remove pan containing cheesecake from tub and oven and let cool at room temperature for 120 minutes, then (with cheesecake still in pan) refrigerate.
 
The top surface of this one seemed to end up being a little too "crusty". So I felt that, in the future, I should reduce the baking time (after all, this was with a 13" x 9" rectangular pan, not a 9" round springform, thus the rectangular version was considerably thinner).

But Lesa greatly enjoyed this one and actually preferred it crust-free (due to her medical incompatibility with the crust's wheat).
 
Baked Eggnog Cheesecake—Prototype 22:
 
Changes do happen! This latest eggnog-flavored update in December of 2015 is based upon my major cheesecake batter overhaul from a few months earlier. This prototype also is a batter-only recipe, baked in a rectangular pan.
 
3-Cheese Blend (1CT-1NC-4YG):
Prepare ahead of time 16 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from one 32-ounce container of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 16 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 4 ounces of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese and 4 ounces of softened Neufchatel cheese ("light cream cheese"). All this should yield 24 ounces (about 3 cups).

Batter:
24 oz. (about 3 cups) 3-cheese blend (see above)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon rum extract
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 1/3 cups light eggnog
1/2 cup arrowroot
3 eggs

Place into greased 13" x 9" glass ("Pyrex") pan, bake in tub at 300 degrees for 90-100 minutes, shut oven off, leaving door slightly ajar, for 60 minutes, remove pan containing cheesecake from tub and oven and let cool at room temperature for 90-100 minutes, then (with cheesecake still in pan) refrigerate.

Eggnog Cheesecake—Prototype 22

In light of the reduced cooking time, I felt that this one was still baked thoroughly enough. In fact, it seemed a little crusty on top, but that did not bother me too much. The oven-baking time was about 100 minutes (room-cooling time no less than that). The taste was great, and I brought this cheesecake to darts at the Italian Community Center for Lesa and others to enjoy. My latest eggnog prototype went over quite successfully there.

The next time I made this prototype, I reduced the oven-baking and room-cooling times to about 90 minutes each. The cheesecake still came out firm enough, and the top was less crusty. This dessert was served at Living Hope Church (among a modest snack selection), where about 2/3 of it was consumed. I took the rest home.
 
Baked Eggnog Cheesecake—Prototype 23:
 
About a couple of months ago (around June of 2017), I started working on a major cheesecake overhaul, beginning with the plain flavor. Along the way, I started bringing on board a stabilizer which has been very popular for many years in the food industry—but not nearly as popular, at least in my knowledge, in home usage. This stabilizer—an alternative to arrowroot—is xanthan gum, and it has been used extensively in the production of cream cheese. Perhaps one reason why xanthan gum has not had much at-home exposure is because of the difficulty in trying to use correct amounts. I would estimate this natural ingredient to have nearly a dozen times more stabilizing power than arrowroot (and furthermore even much higher when compared to all-purpose flour).

As my working on the plain-flavored prototypes continued, I felt that I would use this latest eggnog prototype as a "stepping stone" to help me determine what would be a suitable amount of xanthan gum to use for my cheesecakes in general.

Looking back at Prototype 19 of my plain cheesecakes, I directly replaced 5 tablespoons of arrowroot with...5 quarters of a teaspoon (i.e., 1 1/4 teaspoons) of xanthan gum. Yes, I like to express my fives here, so that I can more easily say, "1/4 teaspoon of xanthan gum for every tablespoon of arrowroot!" Alright. That's a ratio of 12:1. One tablespoon = three teaspoons. So a tablespoon contains 12 quarters of a teaspoon. That means 5 tablespoons = 60 quarters of a teaspoon. So that is 60/4 teaspoons of arrowroot corresponding to 5/4 teaspoons of xanthan gum. That ratio is 60:5...simplified to 12:1.

With that plain cheesecake coming out somehow too soft, I wanted to boost the xanthan gum for next time. But I had already determined to
no more than double this ingredient (which would be to 2 1/2 teaspoons). In fact, I considered raising it more gradually, only to 2 teaspoons. That would be a 60% increase.

My previous eggnog prototype included 1/2 cup of arrowroot. That's 8 tablespoons (yes, that's more than 5, because of a number of differences compared to my plain cheesecakes, including all that liquid eggnog), i.e, 24 teaspoons. Translating that to xanthan gum would be 2 teaspoons. So this 12:1 ratio would be my starting point for my eggnog cheesecake before applying the 60% increase here. But for the sake of simplification and less risk of over-thickening the batter, I decided to settle for only 3 teaspoons (1 tablespoon)—an increase of only 50% for the eggnog version.

I also (again, for the sake of simplicity, particularly in the midst of a general cheesecake overhaul) went with just the yogurt and cottage cheeses.
 
2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese (1CT-2YG [1 part cottage cheese, 2 parts yogurt cheese]):
Prepare ahead of time 16 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from one 32-ounce container of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 16 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 8 ounces (1 cup) of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Batter:
24 oz. (about 3 cups) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon rum extract
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 1/3 cups light eggnog
1 tablespoon xanthan gum
3 eggs

Place into greased 13" x 9" glass ("Pyrex") pan, bake in tub at 300 degrees for 90 minutes, shut oven off, leaving door slightly ajar, for 60 minutes, remove pan containing cheesecake from tub and oven and let cool at room temperature for 90 minutes, then (with cheesecake still in pan) refrigerate.
 
Well, it looked like I had erred on the high side with the xanthan gum, despite the relatively cautious 50% boost. There was somewhat too much of a struggle for the blender that I was using to fully incorporate this stabilizer. This was just before I added the eggs, which I wanted to mix in as the last ingredient for the batter. The struggle continued after I added the first egg. This struggle barely started giving some way probably after the second egg. With the third egg, the blender ended up successfully mixing again, to my satisfaction. That was a close one. I was risking the possibility of a wasted cheesecake (or at least an insufficiently-blended batter). Note to my next plain prototype: Do not use any more than 1 3/4 teaspoons of xanthan gum (consider perhaps 1 1/2 teaspoons)!

But this cheesecake had a delicious eggnog taste to it, and I made this one in late August of 2017 for Lesa's birthday. I brought it to her at the Italian Community Center in Beverly, and a number of others there enjoyed it as well.
 

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Additional Eggnog Notes

HP Hood has been putting out some seasonal eggnog flavors, all of which I enjoyed, one way or another. Here are further details on how my taste buds reacted:

Vanilla: Reminded me of melted vanilla ice cream, but I furthermore could not detect a distinct eggnog taste.
Pumpkin: Nice pumpkin taste, reminding me of the pancakes I had made in the recent past by combining Trader Joe's Pumpkin Pancake and Waffle Mix with Hood Light EggNog.
Sugar Cookie: Mild, sweet eggnog taste.
Cinnamon: Very similar to regular-flavored eggnog.
Gingerbread: Nice gingerbread taste, although I likely could not easily detect a distinct eggnog taste.

Hood's Golden EggNog is its regular version. I personally prefer the Light EggNog, which has too little, if any, taste difference (at least that's my own reaction), compared to the full-fat version.

I enjoy eggnog enough to wish for its year-round availability (it's the light version I really want), but I have had to settle mainly for the Christmas season. In 2009, I spotted it in a Market Basket store shortly after mid-October, picked up a quart of the Light EggNog, and quickly made up an eggnog pie—now that's a treat with a trick (due to this eggnog treat already being enjoyed before Halloween)! I also like Hood's ultra-pasteurization of its eggnog line because of my wishes to take advantage of the longer shelf life. Unfortunately, I have seen this only for Hood's quart-sized packages (its more economical half-gallons are only "regular"-pasteurized, according to my 2009 observations).

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Baked Peanut Butter Cheesecake—Prototype 1:
 
Time for another new baked cheesecake flavor! The prototype number starts at "1" here (just like with eggnog).

I have decided to shun the crust for now, focusing on just the batter.
 
Batter:
2 tablespoons melted or softened butter
6 oz. unsalted peanut butter
1/2 cup skim milk (it is a good idea to warm this up first, at least if it is being directly added to the butter or a mixture dominated by it)
15 tbsp. (i.e., 1 cup minus 1 tbsp.) granulated sugar (note—of this one, 1/2 cup of it is specific to the cheesecake base recipe, and the other 7 tablespoons are specific to the peanut butter flavor)
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups lowfat cottage cheese, no salt added
2 eggs

Blend all these ingredients together thoroughly, particularly the butter and eggs, then pour this batter into a lightly buttered 9" cheesecake pan. Promptly place in oven—preheated at 300 degrees—and bake for 90 minutes (or until cake tester comes out clean). Remove from oven, cool down to about room temperature, carefully remove from pan, and refrigerate.
 
Nice taste, great for a first prototype! This one got firm in the oven rather quickly.
 
Baked Peanut Butter Cheesecake—Prototype 2:
 
Here is a somewhat sweeter and easier recipe.
 
Repeat Prototype 1, but increase the granulated sugar by one tablespoon, to an easier-to-manage full cup.

Bake for only 80 minutes, or until cake tester comes clean.
 
Still delicious!
 
Baked Peanut Butter Cheesecake—Prototype 3:
 
I felt that the peanut butter flavor in the previous prototype was on the strong side, at least when layering it with a baked chocolate cheesecake (perhaps Prototype 10.2 of that one?), so I considered reducing the flavor here (thus affecting the sugar as well as the peanut butter). Yet I still anticipated a decent peanut butter presence. Also, a crust has been added for this prototype. Furthermore, as I have been doing with a number of other cheesecakes lately, I cut the batter's salt in half.
 
Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
2 oz. unsalted peanut butter
4 oz. whipped lowfat cottage cheese, no salt added
1/4 cup skim milk
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (last ingredient just before the Bran Buds)
2.2 oz. Bran Buds, ground up

Batter:
2 tablespoons melted or softened butter
4.5 oz. unsalted peanut butter
1/2 cup skim milk
5/6 cup (i.e., 1/2 + 1/3 cup) granulated sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups whipped lowfat cottage cheese, no salt added
2 eggs

Bake at 300 degrees for about 95 minutes (with tub immersion), or until cake tester comes clean.
 
Cooking this cheesecake in a "tub" of water produced nice results (see Baked Orange Cheesecake—Prototype 4 for more details on this successful "in-the-tub" approach). I felt that the crust's taste turned out well. However, when I brought this cheesecake to the Sports Page, Steve quickly commented that the peanut butter was too strong. But Lesa (a big peanut butter fan) loved it a lot. I myself felt that this flavor was still somewhat too dominant for the batter, in light of the fact that this was supposed to be a cheesecake as well as a peanut-butter-flavored treat.
 
Baked Peanut Butter Cheesecake—Prototype 4:
 
Peanut butter has got to be one of the strongest flavors that I have used in my cheesecake prototypes. With Prototype 4, this ingredient (as used in the batter) was down to half of what I started with back in Prototype 1!
 
Repeat Prototype 3, but reduce the batter's peanut butter by 1.5 ounces, to 3 ounces, and also reduce the batter's granulated sugar by 1/12 cup (i.e., 4 teaspoons) to 3/4 cup (i.e., 1/2 + 1/4 cup).

Bake for about 100 minutes (with tub immersion), or until cake tester comes clean.
 
I was concerned about slashing the peanut butter for this prototype. No problem! The flavor was still plentiful (in fact, at least one person at my church, Living Hope, somehow commented about the peanut butter still being on the strong side). In fact, I still could hardly pick up the "cheese-i-ness" flavor in the cheesecake batter. But I still decided for now that the peanut butter flavor was reduced enough. Perhaps this particular flavor was rather a bit too tricky (maybe I needed to not focus so much on the "cheese" flavor, but rather on the texture of the batter). But this peanut butter cheesecake was absolutely delicious, including the crust. Perhaps when combined with my chocolate cheesecake, the reduced peanut butter flavor involved here would not overwhelm the chocolate.
 
Internal Tweaking Notes

Peanut Butter: (A) 4 oz. :: (B) 3.5 oz. :: (C) 3oz.?
Granulated Sugar: 1/2 cup plus (A) 5.333 tbsp. to 4.667 tbsp. :: (B) 4.667 tbsp. to 4.08333 (that's 4 + 1/12) tbsp. :: (C) 4 tbsp. to 3.5 tbsp.?
 
Baked Peanut Butter Cheesecake—Prototype 5:
 
It has been quite a while (probably about a few years) since I last made a peanut-butter-only cheesecake. From that time, I have done many refinements on other flavors. So the latest peanut butter prototype presented here features many changes. In particular, the batter is the same mixture as what was used in Prototype 6 of my chocolate peanut butter cheesecake.
 
2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 32 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers (that's 64 ounces altogether) of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine one 16-ounce container of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Grease a 9 1/2" (or 9") pan, but do not wrap foil around it until just before the batter is added (spreading the crust in an already wrapped pan can result in greater disturbance to the foil, thus increasing leakage risks).

Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
4 oz. unsalted peanut butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
8 oz. (1 cup) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Pour this crust mixture into pan (9 to 9 1/2 inches) and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 10 minutes, then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
4 tablespoons melted/softened butter (unsalted recommended)
8 oz. unsalted peanut butter
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons arrowroot
40 oz. (5 cups) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
4 eggs

Pour on top of crust. Bake in tub at 300 degrees for 100 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then cool down while still in oven (with this oven shut off) and in tub with door slightly ajar for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub (right after doing so, add a border of peanut butter—or other flavor—chips around the cheesecake's top edge, if desired). Then continue to cool down at room temperature for another 100 minutes, then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Peanut Butter Cheesecake—Prototype 5

This was a really delicious peanut butter dessert. The updated crust was very tasty with a decent amount of sweetness. And the batter was great as well. Nearly all the cheesecake was gone within about an hour at Living Hope Church on a Sunday in early December of 2014.
 

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Baked Maple Cheesecake—Prototype 1:
 
Vermont was on my mind for this one. Shopping for maple sugar, unlike maple syrup, wasn't exactly an easy task, but I wanted a high enough concentration of maple flavor for this recipe, without using too much liquid (hence my preference for maple sugar over maple syrup). I was able to pick up some of this sugar at what seemed like a specialty store in the Green Mountain State.
 
Crust:
4 oz. whipped lowfat cottage cheese (such as Hood, no salt added)
1/4 cup maple sugar
1/4 cup skim milk
Thoroughly blend these above 3 ingredients together. Afterward, quickly and vigorously mix in:
2.2 oz. finely ground Bran Buds

Grease a springform pan, 9". For best results take the bath approach—wrap this pan up to the sides with foil, in order to suppress water leaks (heavy-duty aluminum is a good choice).

Mix thoroughly together:
2 tablespoons butter, softened or melted
1/2 cup maple sugar
Then blend in:
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Then mix in:
2 cups (such as a 16-ounce container) of lowfat cottage cheese (such as Hood, no salt added)—whip this in a blender just until the curds no longer show, before adding to the above ingredients.
Next add:
1/2 cup skim milk
Follow up gradually with a dry combination of:
1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Completely mix all of the above ingredients used so far, then finally add:
2 eggs (last ingredient here)—aim to get these at least fully mixed in (yet without overbeating, if possible).

Make sure that the oven is preheated to 300 degrees. If using the bath approach, have enough boiling hot water available, and fill a large "tub" with it and place this in the oven, close to halfway up.

Pour the batter into the springform pan. Next, put this pan into the oven. If using the bath approach, place the springform pan immediately above the "tub" (not into it!). Bake for about 90 minutes. Afterward, take the springform pan out of the oven, and let the cheesecake cool off. After it has cooled down to about room temperature, carefully remove it from the pan, and refrigerate.
 
Nice presence of maple flavor for a first prototype, at least for the batter, although I felt that the crust could use more sweetness and flavor.
 
Baked Maple Cheesecake—Prototype 2:

Repeat Prototype 1, but boost the crust's maple sugar by 1/4 cup, to 1/2 cup.
 
The crust had a decent, maple taste this time.
 
Baked Maple Cheesecake—Prototype 3:
 
A lot of time elapsed between this maple prototype and the one before it. So I decided to bring some things up to date. One of them was for more batter—but not more crust. Therefore the cottage cheese, maple sugar, lemon juice and flour would get boosted here. Another feature involved pre-baking the crust, due to it being very wet at the start.

This is also the first maple prototype to be baked in the Frieling pan (nearly 9 1/2" big) that I received as a gift.
 
Crust:
1/2 cup (4 oz.) whipped lowfat cottage cheese
1/2 cup maple sugar
1/4 cup skim milk
2.2 oz. finely ground Bran Buds

Pour this into pan and pre-bake at 300 degrees for 10 minutes, then allow to cool to touch.

Batter:
2 tablespoons butter, softened or melted
2/3 cup maple sugar
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
2 1/4 cups (20 oz.) whipped lowfat cottage cheese
1/2 cup skim milk
1/3 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs

Pour batter on top of crust in pan, and bake in hot tub at 300 degrees for about 100 minutes (if using a pan almost 9 1/2 inches big). Cool off in pan afterward, then remove from pan, and refrigerate.
 
Still delicious—the taste reminded me of pancakes with maple syrup—and another terrific hit at Living Hope Church in Beverly.
 
Baked Maple Cheesecake—Prototype 4:
 
This one's a Fall 2012 update, yogurt cheese, arrowroot and all.
 
2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 16 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from one 32-ounce container of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 16 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 8 ounces (1 cup) of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Crust:
1 oz. melted, white chocolate
4 oz. (1/2 cup) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
1/4 cup maple sugar
1/4 teaspoon maple flavoring
1.1 oz. Bran Buds, ground up

Pour this crust mixture into pan (9 to 9 1/2 inches) and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 5 minutes, then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
2 tablespoons melted or softened butter
5/8 cup maple sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/3 tablespoons arrowroot
1/4 teaspoon salt
20 oz. (2 1/2 cups) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
1 teaspoon maple flavoring
2 eggs

Pour on top of crust. Then bake in tub at 300 degrees for 60 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan), cool (outside of oven and tub) for an hour, remove from pan and refrigerate.
 
This one had a great balance of maple flavor and "cheesey" taste with (at least what I have felt to be) the right amount of tartness!

And it fared nicely at Living Hope.

I also brought some of this cheesecake to Lesa and her dart team at Beverly's Italian Community Center, where it was well-received. Rick, from another ICC-based team, seemed to especially enjoy this dessert.
 
Baked Maple Cheesecake—Prototype 5:
 
With this one, maple finally gets the double-size treatment for the first time—and also a few updates (reflecting what was recently done with other flavors such as pumpkin) for Fall 2013.
 
2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 2 pounds of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 16 ounces (1 pint) of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
8 oz. (1 cup) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
1/2 cup maple sugar
1/2 teaspoon maple flavoring
2 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Pour this crust mixture into pan (9 to 9 1/2 inches) and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 10 minutes, then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
4 tablespoons melted or softened butter
1 1/4 cups maple sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons arrowroot
40 oz. (5 cups) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 teaspoons maple flavoring
4 eggs

Pour the batter over the crust and bake this cheesecake in a tub at 300 degrees for 100 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then cool the cheesecake down while still in oven (with this oven shut off) and in tub with door slightly ajar for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down at room temperature for another 100 minutes, then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Maple Cheesecake—Prototype 5

I initially made this one with the intention of serving it at my church, Living Hope. But, due to the death and funeral of one of my relatives, I had to cancel my church plans. However, I got the idea of serving this cheesecake at a post-funeral meal which took place at my cousin Joanne's home. So I brought the cheesecake there, and my relatives and others ended up enjoying this cheesecake much more than I anticipated. A little more than 3/4 of it was gone by the time I left—that was even better than my "loaded" chocolate cheesecake (Prototype 17), which I brought to our annual cousins' summer reunion (at my cousin Robin's house) a few months ago, in the summer of 2013.

I brought some of the leftover to darts. However, Steve (Lesa's friend) commented that this cheesecake was "too heavy" on the maple flavor. I personally felt that the taste had just the right balance. Maybe Steve had a far better ability than me to pick up the maple's presence. But perhaps this could also reflect individual preferences. I personally like a very generous amount of maple syrup on my pancakes, because I really want to pick up that maple flavor. However, others like Steve may prefer a very light amount. Anyway, I felt no real urge for the future to "tone down" the maple, which I tended to regard as a relatively mellow flavor.

About a year later (October 2014 to be more specific), I made this prototype again and this time served it at Living Hope. The cheesecake was gone in about half an hour, among a somewhat small selection of snacks (but also with many women away on a church-related retreat).
 
Baked Maple Cheesecake—Prototype 6:
 
Another flavor gets updated in the fall of 2015! This latest maple prototype is based upon my major cheesecake batter overhaul earlier that year.
 
3-Cheese Blend (1CT-1NC-4YG):
Prepare ahead of time 32 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers (that's 64 ounces altogether) of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 8 ounces of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese and 8 ounces of softened Neufchatel cheese ("light cream cheese").

Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
8 oz. (1 cup) 3-cheese blend (see above)
1/2 cup maple sugar
1/2 teaspoon maple flavoring
2 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Place the resulting mixture in a greased 9 1/2" (or 9") pan and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 5-10 minutes, depending on the mixture's thickness (closer to 10 minutes if thin enough to be fully distributed across the pan's bottom by gentle shaking, closer to 5 minutes if thick enough to require spreading out this mixture by pressing on it with a utensil and/or fingers), then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
40 oz. (5 cups) 3-cheese blend (see above)
1 1/4 cups maple sugar
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon (5 tablespoons altogether) arrowroot
2 teaspoons maple flavoring
5 eggs

Pour the batter over the crust and bake this cheesecake in a tub at 300 degrees for 110 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then cool the cheesecake down while still in oven (with this oven shut off) and in tub with door slightly ajar for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down at room temperature for another 110 minutes, then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Maple Cheesecake—Prototype 6

This one had a nice maple-and-cheese taste to it. Well over 3/4 of it was gone within about an hour at Living Hope Church (the cheesecake was served among a modest selection of other snacks).
 
Baked Maple Cheesecake—Prototype 7:
 
This one gets a 2017 update, featuring xanthan gum as a replacement for arrowroot.

However, I also thought that I would try a little experiment involving another ingredient for this particular prototype. I added a sixth egg to the batter. One reason was to find out how this would affect the cheesecake's firmness and texture. Another reason was that, if 6 eggs worked out better than 5, this would be helpful in my buying eggs, which have been available for sale primarily in multiples of 6.
 
3-Cheese Blend (3CT-1NC-2YG):
Prepare ahead of time 16 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from one 32-ounce container of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 16 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 24 ounces of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese and 8 ounces of softened Neufchatel cheese ("light cream cheese").

Grease a 9 1/2" (or 9") springform pan, but do not wrap foil around it yet (see below).

Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
8 oz. (1 cup) 3-cheese blend (see above)
1/4 cup maple sugar (see comments below)
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon maple flavoring
2 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Place the resulting mixture in the greased pan and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 5-10 minutes, depending on the mixture's thickness (closer to 10 minutes if thin enough to be fully distributed across the pan's bottom by gentle shaking, closer to 5 minutes if thick enough to require spreading out this mixture by pressing on it with a utensil and/or fingers), then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
1 1/4 cups maple sugar
40 oz. (5 cups) 3-cheese blend (see above)
2 teaspoons maple flavoring
1 1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum
6 eggs

Wrap the pan in foil just before adding the batter (to minimize the foil's disturbance and therefore its leakage risk, do not put it on any earlier).

Next, carefully pour the batter over the crust and bake this cheesecake in a hot water tub at 300 degrees for 90 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then shut off oven and cool cheesecake down while still in it (and in tub), with door slightly ajar, for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down at room temperature for another two hours, then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Maple Cheesecake—Prototype 7

I was originally planning to use 1/2 cup of maple sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of maple flavoring—and no brown sugar—for the crust. But I ended up not having enough maple sugar on hand. What I had available barely amounted to 1 1/2 cups. And maple sugar was, as far as I knew, tough to come by in my area. I had typically bought it while traveling in Vermont (in recent years, I have been getting it in my cousin Rachel's hometown of Jericho, at End-O-Road Maple, whose owners I had more recently become friendly with, particularly Jennifer, whose daughter has been attending the same school with Rachel's son). So I settled for a little compromise with the crust, which included using an additional 1/4 teaspoon of maple flavoring to help compensate for the maple sugar reduction. Fortunately, no compromises were carried out on the batter, which would get a full 1 1/4 cups of maple sugar as I originally intended.

This cheesecake was served in early October of 2017 (on the Sunday just before Columbus Day) at Living Hope Church, among a modest selection of snacks...and was wiped out in nearly 5 minutes! I could not remember an earlier treat from me being devoured this quickly.

As for increasing the amount of eggs from five to six, the results were encouraging. This addition seemed to hardly affect the taste at all (which itself was great), but I felt that the texture and firmness have indeed improved. So I decided that my basic cheesecake batter plans would include the sixth egg from this point on. Not only would this make it easier for me when buying eggs, but I would not have to deal with splitting the contents of one egg when trying to evenly distribute an odd number of eggs between batters in cases of 2-flavor cheesecakes (such as Prototype 7 of my chocolate peanut butter cheesecakes). Furthermore, another idea has been on my mind lately, although I have never done this yet—but I have been contemplating it: 3-flavor cheesecakes!!! I would be able to easily split 6 eggs into 2 whole ones for each batter flavor, should I exercise this option in the future.
 

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Baked Lemon Cheesecake—Prototype 3:
 
Prototype 3?? Whatever happened to 1 and 2?

Back in the late 1980's, I experimented with a number of cottage-cheese based cheesecakes, ultimately with a quest for a decent, chocolate one, among others (see
Baked Chocolate Cheesecake—Prototypes 10.1 and 11, for more info). I came up with a couple of somewhat unintended lemon-flavored ones along the way as I was aiming for a plain flavor. In fact, these lemon cheesecakes were my very first two cottage cheesecake prototypes, officially referred to as simply "Prototype 1" and "Prototype 2" (as opposed to "Baked Lemon Cheesecake—Prototype 1" or "Baked Lemon Cheesecake—Prototype 2"), at that time. No crust was involved back then. With my introducing the crust in this more recent 21st century recipe, perhaps I could have called this one "Baked Lemon Cheesecake—Prototype 2.1". However, due to my diminished interest in using this decimal-style notation (like I did for my first few 21st century baked chocolate cheesecakes)—combined with minor changes in the lemon batter from the late 1980's "Prototype 2" (e.g., salt reduction)—I decided to go with the number "3" here.
 
Crust:
1.5 oz. melted, white chocolate
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon grated lemon peel
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 oz. lowfat cottage cheese, whipped (such as Hood, no salt added)
Fully blend the above ingredients before adding:
2.2 oz. finely ground Bran Buds
Blend the Bran Buds into the above mixture as fast and "furiously" as possible and then pour quickly into a greased, 9" springform pan.

Mix thoroughly together:
2 tablespoons butter, softened or melted
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Then blend in:
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Then mix in:
2 cups (such as a 16-ounce container) of lowfat cottage cheese (such as Hood, no salt added)—whip this in a blender just until the curds no longer show, before adding to the above ingredients.
Next add:
1/2 cup skim milk
Follow up gradually with a dry combination of:
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Completely mix all of the above ingredients used so far, then finally add:
2 eggs (last ingredient here)—aim to get these at least fully mixed in (yet without overbeating, if possible).

Make sure that the oven is preheated to 300 degrees. If using the bath approach, have enough boiling hot water available, and fill a large "tub" with it and place this in the oven, close to halfway up.

Pour the batter into the springform pan. Next, put this pan into the oven. If using the bath approach, place the springform pan immediately above the "tub". Bake for about 90 minutes. Afterward, take the springform pan out of the oven, and let the cheesecake cool off. After it has cooled down to about room temperature, carefully remove it from the pan, and refrigerate.
 
Nice lemon flavor, even in the crust. When I brought this cheesecake to the Sports Page, inasmuch as this recipe was lemon-flavored, its popularity rating was "un-lemon"—in other words, it was a huge success (Steve was wild about it, and even Lesa liked it a lot)!
 
Baked Lemon Cheesecake—Prototype 4:
 
This one is based to a large degree on Baked Orange Cheesecake—Prototype 5, but the lemon ingredients are measured differently here, and minor adjustments are made to the sugar.
 
Yogurt Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 3 pounds of yogurt cheese, derived from three 32-ounce containers of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 48 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference.

Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
1 tablespoon lemon juice (tip: microwave this juice a little, then add it directly to the melted white chocolate, and mix thoroughly)
8 oz. (1 cup) yogurt cheese (see above)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
2 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Gently pour this crust mixture into bottom of pan (9 to 9 1/2 inches) and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 10 minutes, then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
4 tablespoons melted or softened butter
1 3/8 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons arrowroot
40 oz. (5 cups) yogurt cheese (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs

Pour the batter over the crust and bake this cheesecake in a tub at 300 degrees for 100 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then cool the cheesecake down while still in oven (with this oven shut off) and in tub with door slightly ajar for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down at room temperature for another 100 minutes, then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Lemon Cheesecake—Prototype 4

This one was a great Labor Day Weekend success at Living Hope. Nearly the entire cheesecake was gone within about half an hour. The taste was already great, but I had some kind of feeling that perhaps a little more sweetness could be used to bring out a "brighter" lemon flavor. Maybe I could have used a tiny amount more lemon juice as well, but I had to keep in mind that this was a cheesecake too, not just a lemon dessert.
 
Baked Lemon Cheesecake—Prototype 5:

Repeat Prototype 4, but make this change for the batter:
Boost the granulated sugar by 1 tablespoon, to 1 7/16 cups (1 3/8 cups + 1 tablespoon).
 
My tongue was easily able to "feel" the tartness with this one, and the taste had a hopefully sufficient cheese flavor to it. But for some reason, I wanted to pick up more sweetness—and a little livelier lemon. Maybe that was just me.

I served this cheesecake at a pastor appreciation meal, at Living Hope Church. The primary dessert emphasis was on ice cream (somewhat like a "social"), with so many kinds—and plenty of toppings to choose from. Maybe that's at least one reason why only about 2/3 of my lemon cheesecake got eaten (I took home whatever was left). Another factor may have been related to the time of year (a summer-oriented flavor served in November).
 
Baked Lemon Cheesecake—Prototype 6:
 
In an effort to better enhance the lemon flavor, I increased the sugar and lemon juice for this cheesecake. The question especially was how much sugar?

I ended up considering Prototype 18 of my chocolate cheesecake as a reference. The batter of that one included 6 tablespoons of cocoa powder. In an effort to correspond this to the lemon cheesecake, I would start off by bringing the lemon juice to 3 tablespoons. I have somehow felt that 2 teaspoons of lemon peel, in its own right, would be a reasonable equivalent of 3 tablespoons of lemon juice. Thus, in adding this peel to the initial 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, the result would be a 6-tablespoon lemon juice equivalency (and still a decent juice/peel combination), whose strength was, according to a strong guess on my part, hopefully close enough to that of the cocoa powder. Since the chocolate cheesecake's batter called for 1 3/4 cups of sugar, I contemplated going with that same amount for the lemon as well.

But I had also given thought to some other research efforts (including considerations that, given a measure of lemon juice or cocoa powder, the ideal amount of sugar called for was not necessarily the same for both flavors) that lead to the idea of using as little as 1 1/2 cups of sugar. Ultimately, I arrived at 1 5/8 cups as a reasonable compromise.
 
Yogurt Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 3 pounds of yogurt cheese, derived from three 32-ounce containers of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 48 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference.

Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
1 tablespoon lemon juice (tip: heat up or microwave this juice a little, then add it directly to the melted white chocolate, and mix thoroughly)
8 oz. (1 cup) yogurt cheese (see above)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
2 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Place this crust mixture into bottom of pan (9 to 9 1/2 inches) and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 10 minutes, then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
4 tablespoons melted or softened butter
1 5/8 cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons arrowroot
40 oz. (5 cups) yogurt cheese (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs

Pour the batter over the crust and bake this cheesecake in a tub at 300 degrees for 100 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then cool the cheesecake down while still in oven (with this oven shut off) and in tub with door slightly ajar for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down at room temperature for another 100 minutes, then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Lemon Cheesecake—Prototype 6

I made this cheesecake especially for my cousin in Vermont, Rachel, who enjoyed it, as well as others in her house. And I felt that this prototype had a decent lemon taste to it.
 
Baked Lemon Cheesecake—Prototype 7:
 
It seemed like more than two years have passed since I last updated my lemon prototypes. The latest lemon presented here in mid-2016—which makes this flavor a great summer choice—reflects my major cheesecake overhaul of 2015.
 
3-Cheese Blend (1CT-1NC-4YG):
Prepare ahead of time 32 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers (that's 64 ounces altogether) of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 8 ounces of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese and 8 ounces of softened Neufchatel cheese ("light cream cheese").

Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
1 tablespoon lemon juice (tip: heat up or microwave this juice a little, then add it directly to the melted white chocolate, and mix thoroughly)
8 oz. (1 cup) 3-cheese blend (see above)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
2 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Place the resulting mixture in the greased pan and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 5-10 minutes, depending on the mixture's thickness (closer to 10 minutes if thin enough to be fully distributed across the pan's bottom by gentle shaking, closer to 5 minutes if thick enough to require spreading out this mixture by pressing on it with a utensil and/or fingers), then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
1 5/8 cups granulated sugar
40 oz. (5 cups) 3-cheese blend (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon (5 tablespoons altogether) arrowroot
5 eggs

Pour the batter over the crust and bake this cheesecake in a tub at 300 degrees for 120 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then cool the cheesecake down while still in oven (with this oven shut off) and in tub with door slightly ajar for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down at room temperature for another 120 minutes, then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Lemon Cheesecake—Prototype 7

This one was served at Living Hope Church and was gone in probably about half an hour.

It was sort of a struggle for me to detect a good lemon presence in the batter (but the crust was fine).
 

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Baked Orange Cheesecake—Prototype 3:
 
Another 21st century cheesecake with a "Prototype 3" start?? Yes, for the same reasons as its lemon counterpart (see Baked Lemon Cheesecake—Prototype 3, for more details).

Just like the lemon cheesecakes I made back in the late 1980's, I made two orange ones as well. No crust was involved. However, I did make these two cheesecakes with orange flavor intentions. The salt usage for the batter of both of them was higher compared to that of this more recent 21st century recipe below.
 
Crust:
1.5 oz. melted, white chocolate
3 tablespoons orange juice
1/2 tablespoon grated orange peel
3 tablespoons sugar
4 oz. lowfat cottage cheese, whipped (such as Hood, no salt added)
Fully blend the above ingredients before adding:
2.2 oz. finely ground Bran Buds
Blend the Bran Buds into the above mixture as quickly as possible and then pour quickly into a greased springform pan, 9".

Mix thoroughly together:
2 tablespoons butter, softened or melted
1/2 cup sugar
Then blend in:
1/4 cup orange juice
Then mix in:
2 cups (such as a 16-ounce container) of lowfat cottage cheese (such as Hood, no salt added)—whip this in a blender just until the curds no longer show, before adding to the above ingredients.
Next add:
1/2 cup skim milk
Follow up gradually with a dry combination of:
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Completely mix all of the above ingredients used so far, then finally add:
2 eggs (last ingredient here)—aim to get these at least fully mixed in (yet without overbeating, if possible).

Make sure that the oven is preheated to 300 degrees. If using the bath approach, have enough boiling hot water available, and fill a large "tub" with it and place this in the oven, close to halfway up.

Pour the batter into the springform pan. Next, put this pan into the oven. If using the bath approach, place the springform pan immediately above the "tub". Bake for about 90 minutes. Afterward, take the springform pan out of the oven, and let the cheesecake cool off. After it has cooled down to about room temperature, carefully remove it from the pan, and refrigerate.
 
The Living Hope Church in Beverly was my "taste lab" for this one on an Easter Sunday. I asked a number of people who tasted this prototype about how much orange flavor they could detect. A typical response was that this flavor was somehow adequate. However, I personally sensed that the orange was still a bit weak. I could barely taste it in the batter, although it was slightly more present in the crust. I also felt that the crust should be a little sweeter.
 
Baked Orange Cheesecake—Prototype 4:

Repeat Prototype 3, but...

Make these changes for the crust:
Boost white chocolate by 1/2 oz., to 2 oz.
Boost orange juice by 1 tablespoon, to 1/4 cup.
Boost sugar by 1 tablespoon, to 1/4 cup.

And make this change for the batter:
Boost grated orange peel by 1 teaspoon, to 2 teaspoons.
 
This time, I was considerably more satisfied with the orange flavor, in both the batter and the crust. This cheesecake was a terrific hit at the Sports Page when I brought it there, just like the third prototype of its lemon counterpart.

With this fourth orange prototype, I felt that I would go back to giving the "in-the-tub" (as opposed to "above-the-tub") approach another try. Inasmuch as baking the cheesecake above the water produced results that were okay, I still felt that this method wasn't quite the same as placing the pan directly into the water. But this time I took two defensive measures against water leakage. One was to use
two pieces of heavy duty foil, instead of one. The other was to "disturb" the foil as little as possible. That meant taking the two pieces of foil, placing one on top of the other, keeping them flat, and not wrapping the pan until it was ready to go into the oven. So I carefully put the foil on immediately after pouring the batter, gently pressing the foil up the sides of the pan, then I put the wrapped pan into the "tub", which was promptly placed into the oven. The outcome was an awesome cheesecake with no water leaks.

I think one of my past mistakes was "disturbing" the foil too much, likely in wrapping the pan even before I
greased it. Pressing the crust into it would add to the potential disturbance. From what I best recall in my Internet research, somebody reported triple-wrapping a cheesecake pan and still had leakage problems. My guess: too much disturbance of the foil before baking.

The moral of the story—"Do not disturb!" Adhere to this rule
as much as possible with the foil, until the baking is done and the pan is taken out of the water. Grease the pan, press in the crust and pour the batter first. Afterward, wrap the pan carefully, then place it into the "tub" and bake.
 
Baked Orange Cheesecake—Prototype 5:
 
It was probably about a couple of years since I last made an orange cheesecake. The latest one presented here gets a major update, particularly with yogurt cheese, and a size upgrade. This cheesecake is also the first one for which I used regular All-Bran, rather than Bran Buds (click here for more information on this change).
 
Yogurt Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 3 pounds of yogurt cheese, derived from three 32-ounce containers of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 48 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference.

Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
1/4 cup orange juice (tip: microwave this juice a little, then add it directly to the melted white chocolate, and mix thoroughly)
8 oz. (1 cup) yogurt cheese (see above)
5 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons grated orange peel
2 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Gently pour this crust mixture into bottom of pan (9 to 9 1/2 inches) and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 10 minutes, then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
4 tablespoons melted or softened butter
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
4 teaspoons grated orange peel
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons arrowroot
40 oz. (5 cups) yogurt cheese (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs

Pour the batter over the crust and bake this cheesecake in a tub at 300 degrees for 100 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then cool the cheesecake down while still in oven (with this oven shut off) and in tub with door slightly ajar for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down at room temperature for another 100 minutes, then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Orange Cheesecake—Prototype 5

The art of breaking an egg has been an elusive skill to me. Sometimes the breaking turns out nicely. Sometimes it's not all that great. Many times I have had to draw out egg shell pieces. But for this cheesecake, I broke one of the eggs so badly that I lost much of its white. I cracked it likely too harshly, with a butter knife. Nevertheless, this did not stop the cheesecake from coming out firm enough, so the egg white's loss hopefully did not amount to an awful lot.

I picked up a decent orange taste in this prototype. The crust, in particular, had a nice zing to it. This "rise and shine" cheesecake went over well at a Living Hope Father's Day (2013) brunch. Many other items were served (including shoo-fly pie!), and there was about a fourth of the cheesecake remaining when the leftover foods were retrieved into the kitchen. But by the time I got my springform pan bottom—which also functioned as a serving dish—back (probably about a half hour later), I was informed about the last slices being taken. So I had none to take back home.
 

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Baked Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake—Prototype 1:
 
I felt that at some point, I would make a combination cheesecake involving two popular flavors—chocolate and peanut butter. Due to my not recording this prototype here until long after I had made it, I cannot fully remember all the details.

However, my best guess is that I built this cheesecake based on the batters of Prototype 10.2 of my chocolate cheesecakes and Prototype 1 or 2 (more likely 2) of my peanut butter cheesecakes, combined with the crust of Prototype 10.2 of my chocolate cheesecakes. Furthermore,
this crust was not baked. It was prepared and then topped by the baked peanut butter batter layer, followed in turn by the baked chocolate batter layer.
 
(No tub used at all in baking the batter layers.)

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake—Prototype 1

Many people, including myself, felt that the peanut butter flavor overwhelmed the chocolate. However, this cheesecake was still delicious.
 
Baked Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake—Prototype 2:
 
It had been more than half of a year since I made Prototype 1. Since then, I had done many refinements to the "chocolate only" and "peanut butter only" cheesecakes. It was now time to try another "Resse's" prototype.

I built this one based on my latest recipes at this point, Prototype 12 of my chocolate cheesecakes and Prototype 4 of my peanut butter cheesecakes. However, I felt moved to include more cheese-like flavor. So not only did I increase the cottage cheese for the two batters (by 4 ounces for each batter), but I added some lemon juice as well (1 teaspoon for each batter) for some tartness. In light of this "liquid" increase, I also boosted the flour (from 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup for each batter). I did not increase the sugar, because I felt that the batters of the aforementioned cheesecakes were easily sweet enough. Another thing worth noting is that—thanks to my chocolate crust refinements—the crust, this time, was baked as well.

Three 16-ounce containers of cottage cheese were used in this entire recipe!
 
Use a tub when baking.

Chocolate Batter:
1/2 cup skim milk
2 tablespoons melted or softened butter
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
7/8 cup sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/3 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups (20 oz.) lowfat cottage cheese, whipped (no-salt-added recommended)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs

Place this batter into a lightly buttered 9" cheesecake pan, and bake at 300 degrees (batter only, no crust), for about 100 minutes (or until cake tester comes out clean). Cool down, and remove from pan.

Chocolate Crust (bake this one together with the peanut butter batter, below):
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted
1 1/3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 cup (8 oz.) lowfat cottage cheese, whipped (no-salt-added recommended)
3/8 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla (next to last ingredient here)
2.2 oz. finely ground Bran Buds

Promptly pour/press this crust mixture into the bottom of a lightly buttered 9" cheesecake pan.

Peanut Butter Batter:
2 tablespoons melted or softened butter
3 oz. unsalted peanut butter
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 cup skim milk
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups (20 oz.) lowfat cottage cheese, whipped (no-salt-added recommended)
2 eggs

Add this batter on top of the chocolate crust in the pan, and bake at 300 degrees (batter only, no crust), for about 100 minutes (or until cake tester comes out clean). After removing the pan from the oven, very carefully transfer the cooled chocolate batter layer into the pan, on top of the peanut butter layer. Then cool down, and afterwards remove entire cheesecake from pan.
 
It's a frustratingly hard art to place a (cooled-off) whole batter layer on top of another one that is sitting in a hot pan! Somehow, I made out alright in my previous chocolate-peanut-butter prototype. But not this time! The chocolate batter layer broke on me during the insertion, and I had to make the best of re-assembling it inside the still-hot pan. So I got cheesecake cracked in about 5 places as a result (at least this hopefully would not affect the overall flavor, just the appearance).

So why not just bake both batters in the same pan at the same time? Because I had unfavorable experiences with this kind of arrangement back in the 1980's—from a couple of flavored batters combining to my dissatisfaction—to difficulties in getting the cheesecake to cook thoroughly.

I somehow felt that the peanut butter flavor was now too weak in comparison with the chocolate. I also felt that the chocolate flavor was somewhat "sickly sweet" (or too sweet). There was hopefully some tartness, at least in the peanut butter batter, but I wanted more—in both batters.

Despite my personal assessments, this cheesecake went over very well at Living Hope Church, and I got quite a few favorable comments.
 
Baked Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake—Prototype 3 (introduction):
 
Okay, it was time to look around on the Internet for some helpful advice in preparing multi-layered cheesecakes! I also took a good look at what I did back in the 1980's. This has led to my giving another try at baking both batter flavors together.

I also felt that my taste buds had gotten rather "moody" over (in the sense of being too sensitive to) the chocolate sweetness in the previous prototype. But I also felt that more tartness was needed (which I felt would eliminate a need for sugar reduction). So I decided to increase the lemon juice in both batters. I slightly increased the flour with the hope that this now thickly-baked cheesecake would still come out firm enough. Finally, I raised the peanut butter back up a little bit.

Up to this point (from what I best recall), I had always been baking my cheesecake prototypes at 300 degrees. This latest prototype would get off to a 325-degree start, then revert to 300.
 
Repeat Prototype 2, but...

Make these changes for each of the two batters:
Boost lemon juice by 2 teaspoons, to 1 tablespoon.
Boost flour by 2 teaspoons, to 3/8 cup.

And make this change for the peanut butter batter only:
Boost peanut butter by 1 oz., to 4 oz.

And carefully follow these steps below, many of which are new:

Pour/press the crust mixture into the bottom of a lightly buttered 9" cheesecake pan.

Next, add the chocolate (not peanut butter!) batter on top of this crust. Then carefully wrap foil around this pan.

Next, place this pan into a tub of boiling hot water, and put this into an oven, preheated to 325 degrees (not 300 at this point).

Bake this only for about 30 minutes.

Now comes the tricky part! WARNING: Use plenty of caution at this point, due to the pan being very hot! Carefully place the peanut butter batter on top of the chocolate one. How?? Instead of dumping the whole thing all at once on the chocolate, try this delicate approach. Start off by scooping small amounts of the peanut butter batter out of its bowl (or whatever container is being used). A small measuring cup (1/2-cup size is good) or ladle is useful here. Pour these small amounts around the edge of the pan, not the middle (but rather allow the batter to flow there on its own, if possible). This should reduce the likelihood of the peanut butter batter breaching the chocolate one. When the bowl of the peanut butter batter is almost empty, it is probably safe to more directly dump the rest of this right onto what just got poured, which itself should be deep enough by then. Still, it is a good idea to do this gently enough to avoid the chocolate breach.

Next, reduce the temperature to 300 degrees, and return the pan to the oven. Resume baking for about 80 minutes (or until cake tester comes out clean).

The usage of the oven isn't done yet! Now, turn off the oven, but keep the cheesecake in it (along with its tub), with the oven's door slightly ajar. Allow one hour for this gradual cooldown. Afterwards, take the cheesecake out of the oven and out of the tub, but keep the cheesecake in its 9" pan.

Next, cool the cheesecake off, at room temperature, for another two hours. Finally, remove it from its pan and refrigerate.
 
So what was this thick cheesecake like when I finally removed it from the pan? The peanut butter layer was easily firm, but the chocolate one was somewhat "jiggly". The cake tester at this point showed mixed results—some of them clean, others just slightly wet. But after more than 24 hours of refrigeration, I did not detect any jiggle in the chocolate layer. Then I cut the first slice, and the whole cheesecake was firm enough.

Not only did I get a bunch of favorable comments at Living Hope Church on this one (including "not too tart, not too sweet"), but the cheesecake's side appearance in particular was awesome (the whole thing seemed to look, at least to me, "professionally done"—look out, Cheesecake Factory)!

This prototype was so successful that I repeated it a second time, but I made a minor adjustment: Give the chocolate an additional 10 minutes for its baking head start. In other words, in the earlier phase of baking the chocolate batter and crust at 325 degrees, do so for 40 minutes, instead of just 30. I figured that this would give some more firmness to the chocolate batter. With the peanut-butter-related phase—at 300 degrees—unchanged, the total baking time would now amount to two solid hours. Combined with the one-hour cooling inside the oven and the two hours of cooldown outside of it, all this would amount to 5 hours altogether for the "pan heat" phases! Of course, scooping the peanut butter batter onto the chocolate one was going to add some time as well.

But this time, the chocolate batter did not seem to jiggle as much as before. Although there was still some jiggle, the refrigeration that followed would sufficiently reduce it.

Due to the aforementioned 10-minute adjustment being the only change, and this being but an extremely simple correction, I retained the prototype number, 3 (there were certainly no changes to the ingredients).

I brought this masterpiece to my annual family reunion party in July of 2011. One of my relatives, Jodi, used the word "professional" (or some form of this word) in assessing my cheesecake. I'd have to agree on that one. This same word had been on my mind beforehand (probably because of the "tub"). This prototype was well-received at this event.

Of all the culinary efforts that I have undertaken up to this point in my life, I consider this recipe to be one of my best ones yet (if not
the best). It's also one of my most time-consuming ones. In light of all this, I felt that I would present this latest chocolate peanut butter cheesecake's recipe in full, below.
 
Baked Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake—Prototype 3 (full recipe presentation):

For the cottage cheese, no-salt-added is recommended.

Chocolate Crust:
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted
1 1/3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 cup (8 oz.) lowfat cottage cheese, whipped
3/8 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla (next to last ingredient here)
2.2 oz. finely ground Bran Buds

Promptly pour/press this crust mixture into the bottom of a lightly buttered 9" cheesecake pan.

Chocolate Batter:
1/2 cup skim milk
2 tablespoons melted or softened butter
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
7/8 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3/8 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups (20 oz.) lowfat cottage cheese, whipped
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs

Pour this chocolate batter on top of the crust. Carefully wrap foil around the pan afterwards. Remember to not put the foil on any earlier than this! The goal is to disturb it as little as possible, as a preventative measure against water leakage. Then place the wrapped pan into a tub of boiling hot water, and bake all this at 325 degrees (make sure oven is preheated) for about 40 minutes only.

Peanut Butter Batter:
2 tablespoons melted or softened butter
4 oz. unsalted peanut butter
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup skim milk
3/4 cup sugar
3/8 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups (20 oz.) lowfat cottage cheese, whipped
2 eggs

After the initial baking is done with the chocolate crust and batter, carefully place the peanut butter batter on top by scooping small amounts of it around the edge of the pan (try to let this batter flow towards the middle on its own), in order to minimize the likelihood of breaching the chocolate batter below.

Lower the oven temperature to 300 degrees, and resume baking for about 80 minutes.

Afterwards, turn the oven off, but keep the cheesecake in it (along with its tub), with the door slightly ajar. Allow one hour for this gradual cooldown. Next, take the cheesecake out of the oven and out of the tub, but keep the cheesecake in its 9" pan.

Cool the cheesecake off, at room temperature, for another two hours. Finally, remove it from its pan and refrigerate.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake—Prototype 3 (in finished form, made with Hood low fat cottage cheese, no salt added—"Always good. Always Hood") Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake—Prototype 3 (with Hershey's, Hood, Market Basket and Trader Joe's ingredients)
 
Baked Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake—Prototype 4:
 
Seemed like over a year had passed since I last baked Prototype 3. Since then I got a roughly 9 1/2" size Frieling springform pan, which would finally get its multiple-cheesecake-flavor-layer debut with the latest prototype here—after many single-layered uses. But would this pan be tall enough for this double-layered attempt? I trusted that it would. Other new developments coming into Prototype 4 would include yogurt cheese and other changes associated with it (see the baked plain cheesecakes for more info).
 
2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 32 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers (that's 64 ounces altogether) of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine one 16-ounce container of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Chocolate Crust:
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted
1 1/3 tablespoons cocoa powder
8 oz. (1 cup) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
3/8 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2.2 oz. finely ground Bran Buds

Place resulting mixture in 9 1/2" (or 9") pan.

Chocolate Batter:
2 tablespoons melted or softened butter
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
7/8 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour, all-purpose
1/4 teaspoon salt
20 oz. (2 1/2 cups) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs

Pour on top of crust. Wrap pan in foil and place in tub. Bake all this at 325 degrees for about 40 minutes.

Peanut Butter Batter:
2 tablespoons melted or softened butter
4 oz. unsalted peanut butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour, all-purpose
1/4 teaspoon salt
20 oz. (2 1/2 cups) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 eggs

Carefully scoop this on top of the chocolate batter and return to oven, this time at only 300 degrees. Bake for about 60 more minutes.

Turn oven off, leaving cheesecake in it (still in tub as well), with the door slightly ajar, for another 50 minutes.

Remove cheesecake from oven and tub and let cool in its pan at room temperature for another 100 minutes. As an option, immediately after removal from oven, decorate this cheesecake with chocolate chips (or peanut butter cup candies such as miniature size cups or broken pieces of larger cups) around its edge.

Afterwards, remove cheesecake from pan and refrigerate.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake—Prototype 4 (with a border of chocolate chips) Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake—Prototype 4 (made with Market Basket yogurt and Hood cottage cheese)

The 9 1/2" Frieling worked out nicely in regard to having enough capacity for the two layers (and, of course, the crust).

My memory made a minor mistake along the way. When I began baking the chocolate batter, I had the oven's temperature set at 350 degrees. It wasn't until about 10 minutes into the baking that I realized that this setting was incorrect. So to compensate for this 25-degree error, I quickly dropped the temperature down to 300 for the next 10 minutes. After that, I raised the temperature to a rightful 325 degrees for the remaining 20 minutes of the chocolate layer phase (fortunately, I remembered to resume baking at 300 after adding the peanut butter batter on top).

I brought this cheesecake to the homes of two of my cousins, Joanne and Lauren, on Rosh HaShanah 5773, and I got a number of happy compliments. In particular, when I was at Joanne's, a number of cousins there not only expressed a great appreciation for my latest work, but they particularly liked this one better than the chocolate-only cheesecake that I served a few weeks back during a cousins reunion at my brother Eric's place in Tahoe (see
Baked Chocolate Cheesecake—Prototype 14, for more details). This was somewhat expected, because I myself thought that the one in Tahoe was somewhat too tart. Only yogurt cheese was used for that one—no cottage cheese at all. But I also felt that the California yogurt used there did not strain well either. At least one guest at Joanne's suggested altitude as a factor (the elevation at Tahoe being somewhere around 6000 feet). As for my more recent, made-in-Massachusetts, chocolate peanut butter combo presented here, I felt that the taste certainly was not too tart. The flavor, in my opinion, was decent, with a hopeful balance of chocolate, peanut butter and "cheese". The tartness seemed to be just about right. Maybe the Market Basket brand simply worked better. Could it be the cultures?

Let's take a look at the ingredient list for Market Basket Nonfat Yogurt:
Cultured Pasteurized Grade A Nonfat Milk and Nonfat Milk Solids.
Contains Active Yogurt Cultures including L. Bulgaricus, S. Thermophilus, Bifidus, L. Acidophilus and L. Casei.

Market Basket (aka "DeMoulas"): The store where you always get
"More for Your Dollar" (and more for your cheesecake!)—I, and many of my cousins, really like this supermarket. Sorry, no formal web site for this store. Looks like it wants to keep things simple (and that reduces the costs). No loyalty card to drag around (hooray!), and (aside from grand opening celebrations) one edition of its weekly sale flyer for the whole chain (what is advertised on sale at a given price at one store is on sale at the same price at all the other 65+ locations—none of this narrow-segmented, prices-effective-only-in-such-and-such-city annoyance). But if you are starving for Market Basket on the Internet, may I suggest a great fan site? MyDemoulas.com (aka MyDemoulas.net)—check it out!

I would estimate that more than 50% of the ingredients, at least by weight, of what I have been using altogether in my cheesecakes (and in my entire recipe scrapbook) are purchased from Market Basket. I also like Trader Joe's, another major ingredient contributor to my cheesecakes. This store is very big on natural and organic foods at decent prices, leading me to consider it the "Market Basket of natural food stores", at least with respect to pricing.

I froze what was left of this latest chocolate peanut butter cheesecake (about a quarter of it) not long after Rosh HaShanah. Probably close to one and a half weeks passed afterward, before I thawed it out and brought it to a darts event where Steve and Lesa were playing. Steve enthusiastically raved about this prototype. When I pointed out the border of chocolate chips, he was impressed that I was getting "fancy schmancy" (his words) with my creation. Lesa enjoyed my cheesecake as well. She also told me that her cats had somehow snatched some of the leftover eggnog cheesecake that I made for her a number of weeks back (see
Baked Eggnog Cheesecake—Prototype 16 for more info). Inasmuch as I was informed by her about lactose in dairy products not quite being feline-friendly, it was interesting to know that the results of my cheesecake efforts had somehow become "the cat's meow".
 
Baked Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake—Prototype 5:
 
This one is essentially an arrowroot update.
 
Repeat Prototype 4, but make these changes for each of the two batters:
Cut the all-purpose flour in half (i.e., reduce the flour by 2 tablespoons, to only 2 tablespoons).
Add 1 1/3 tablespoons of arrowroot.
Remember, this is for each batter (i.e., the chocolate gets 1 1/3 tablespoons of this "new" ingredient, and the peanut butter also gets 1 1/3 tablespoons of it—so altogether for both batters, a total of 2 2/3 tablespoons of arrowroot is directly replacing 4 of the flour's tablespoons, while the other 4 tablespoons of this "older" ingredient are retained)! To summarize these updates...

Chocolate Batter:
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/3 tablespoons arrowroot

Peanut Butter Batter:
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/3 tablespoons arrowroot
 
This was probably the first chocolate peanut butter cheesecake that I brought to Living Hope in more than one and a half years (and the very first cheesecake—regardless of flavor—with a decorative border of chocolate chips that I ever brought there). The dessert was served at one of the church's lunches and fared nicely. Pastor Kim (the senior pastor himself) personally enjoyed it. Gaynell could not resist this one. Unfortunately, she could not stay for the meal. So I cut and served, in advance, the first slice to her, and that cheered her up. Another person, who I think was able to stay for lunch, got an advance slice for herself before this meal began. I guess she wanted to ensure against missing out on this attractive-looking cheesecake.
 
Baked Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake—Prototype 6:
 
For my visit to California around Thanksgiving of 2013, I asked my relatives there to select a cheesecake flavor/variety for me to make for them during my time with them. That choice has led to this latest prototype.
 
2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 32 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers (that's 64 ounces altogether) of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine one 16-ounce container of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Grease a 9 1/2" (or 9") pan, but do not wrap foil around it until just before the batter is added (spreading the crust in an already wrapped pan can result in greater disturbance to the foil, thus increasing leakage risks).

Chocolate Crust:
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
8 oz. (1 cup) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
3/8 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 oz. finely ground All-Bran

Place resulting mixture in the greased pan and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 10 minutes, then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Chocolate Batter:
2 tablespoons melted/softened butter (unsalted recommended)
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
7/8 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons arrowroot
20 oz. (2 1/2 cups) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs

Wrap the pan in foil at this point. Carefully pour the batter on top of the crust and bake all this in a hot water tub at 325 degrees for about 40 minutes. Afterwards, take the tub-and-pan assembly out of the oven and promptly add the batter indicated below.

Peanut Butter Batter:
2 tablespoons melted/softened butter (unsalted recommended)
4 oz. unsalted peanut butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons arrowroot
20 oz. (2 1/2 cups) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 eggs

Carefully scoop this on top of the chocolate batter (it is best to do this around the edge of the pan and let the peanut butter batter flow towards the middle) and return the tub-and-pan assembly to the oven, this time at only 300 degrees. Bake for about 60 more minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then shut off the oven and cool the cheesecake down while still in it (and in tub), with the oven door slightly ajar, for about an hour. Afterwards, remove the cheesecake (still in its springform pan) from the oven and tub and continue to cool it down at room temperature for another 100 minutes. As an option, immediately after removal from the oven, decorate this cheesecake with chocolate chips (or peanut butter cup candies such as miniature size cups or broken pieces of larger cups) around its edge.

After cooling down at room temperature, remove the cheesecake from its pan and refrigerate.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake—Prototype 6 Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake—Prototype 6 (sliced)

This dessert was well received by my extended family in the San Francisco/Oakland Bay area. I made this cheesecake at my brother Eric's house in this part of California and served it among the desserts at our Thanksgiving dinner there.

Due to my being in that part of the country, I had to find different dairy products that would "fit the bill" for my recipe. Back home in the Boston area, I would normally use Market Basket nonfat yogurt and Hood no-salt-added lowfat cottage cheese. I ended up settling for a regular-salted cottage cheese, because I could not find a no-salt-added version. Of greater concern, I struggled when looking for a trustworthy (particularly
without added thickeners), plain, nonfat yogurt. But I ultimately managed to locate one that satisfied my shopping criteria. This yogurt was organic, and the brand was Nancy's, a product of Springfield Creamery of Eugene, Oregon. It ended up straining "okay" over a period of probably about 40 hours (and I did not find the taste to be excessively tart like a chocolate cheesecake—Prototype 14 on that one—that I made about 15 months earlier, at my brother's Tahoe house).

Nancy's Yogurt Thanksgiving desserts at Eric's house

In late May of 2015 I repeated Prototype 6, this time using the usual Market Basket yogurt and Hood cottage cheese—and adding an
inner border of peanut butter chips inside a semi-sweet chocolate one! Both kinds of chips were from Trader Joe's. This serious masterpiece was not only a work of my "Home Depot cooking" due to my preparing this cheesecake with a new oven that I recently purchased from this store, but also because I baked this dessert for the Memorial Day cookout taking place there—for my fellow associates to enjoy. Depot-licious!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake—Prototype 6 (2015 repeat)
 
Baked Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake—Prototype 7:
 
This prototype, prepared in September of 2016, was very likely my very first two-flavor-layer cheesecake made since my major cheesecake batter overhaul that I had done about a year earlier. A particular challenge with this latest chocolate-peanut-butter combo was to divide an egg evenly—not separate the white and yolk, but rather divide the already-blended, white-and-yolk mixture into two halves. This was due to the total "basic" batter (which itself was being prepared in two halves) calling for an odd number of eggs.
 
3-Cheese Blend (1CT-1NC-4YG):
Prepare ahead of time 32 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers (that's 64 ounces altogether) of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 8 ounces of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese and 8 ounces of softened Neufchatel cheese ("light cream cheese").

Grease a 9 1/2" (or 9") pan, but do not wrap foil around it until just before the batter is added (spreading the crust in an already wrapped pan can result in greater disturbance to the foil, thus increasing leakage risks).

Chocolate Crust:
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted
3/8 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
8 oz. (1 cup) 3-cheese blend (see above)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 oz. finely ground All-Bran

Place the resulting mixture in the greased pan and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 5-10 minutes, depending on the mixture's thickness (closer to 10 minutes if thin enough to be fully distributed across the pan's bottom by gentle shaking, closer to 5 minutes if thick enough to require spreading out this mixture by pressing on it with a utensil and/or fingers), then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Chocolate Batter:
20 oz. (2 1/2 cups) 3-cheese blend (see above)
1 teaspoon vanilla
7/8 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 1/2 tablespoons arrowroot
2 1/2 eggs *

Wrap the pan in foil at this point. Carefully pour the batter on top of the crust and bake all this in a hot water tub at 325 degrees for about 40 minutes. Afterwards, take the tub-and-pan assembly out of the oven and promptly add the batter indicated below.

Peanut Butter Batter:
20 oz. (2 1/2 cups) 3-cheese blend (see above)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 oz. unsalted peanut butter
2 1/2 tablespoons arrowroot
2 1/2 eggs *

Carefully scoop this on top of the chocolate batter (it is best to do this around the edge of the pan and let the peanut butter batter flow towards the middle) and return the tub-and-pan assembly to the oven, this time at only 300 degrees. Bake for about 65-70 (but see comments below) more minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then shut off the oven and cool the cheesecake down while still in it (and in tub), with the oven door slightly ajar, for about an hour. Afterwards, remove the cheesecake (still in its springform pan) from the oven and tub and continue to cool it down at room temperature for another 105-110 minutes. As an option, immediately after removal from the oven, decorate this cheesecake with chocolate and/or peanut butter chips (or peanut butter cup candies such as miniature size cups or broken pieces of larger cups) around its edge.

After cooling down at room temperature, remove the cheesecake from its pan and refrigerate.

* For more information on half-egg usage, see "Measuring Half Of An Egg" in Cheesecake Tips.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake—Prototype 7

I initially planned to do the second installment of baking (i.e., after adding the peanut butter batter on top of the chocolate one) at 60 minutes, and perhaps this could have been sufficient, but I added another 10 minutes as extra insurance for a decently firm outcome (I tacked on an additional 10 minutes to the initially-planned, 100-minute, room-cooling time as well).

I made this cheesecake in Pastor Kim's honor. The flavor was selected by this leader of Living Hope Church, where I had been serving many of my cheesecakes over the last few years leading up to this point. I served this latest one there as well, alongside a modest selection of other sweets brought by others. The cheesecake was over 80% gone by the time I took the rest home.

Less than a month later, as the new Jewish year, 5777, arrived, I repeated this prototype (maybe I should have referred to this one as "Prototype 5777"—emphasize the 7's), but this time, the outer border of chips were
milk chocolate (more in keeping with the classic Reese's Peanut Butter Cup tradition), as opposed to semi-sweet (which I used on the previous cheesecake). The inner border of chips remained peanut butter. Yum! I also reduced the second installment of baking time to 65 minutes and the room temperature cooling time to 105 minutes. I still had no problems with a lack of firmness.

Prototype 7 with milk chocolate chips

I brought this sweet treat to my cousin Joanne and Jerry's house for Rosh HaShanah, where it fared nicely for a small party (I brought the rest—a little under half left over—home).
 

-------------------------------------------------------

Baked Banana Cheesecake—Prototype 1:
 
A major challenge to this one was in the flavoring. I wanted real banana flavor, not artificial. While banana puree seemed like a great idea for the crust, I was concerned that if I used enough of this puree to get a sufficient flavor in the batter that this batter would end up being too wet. I needed a higher banana concentration with less water. I found a package of freeze-dried banana slices at Trader Joe's (nothing but bananas for the ingredients—what more could I ask for?) and used a blender to ground the contents to "banana powder" (which I then felt needed to be put to use immediately—refrigerating whatever was left over).
 
Crust:
2 oz. banana puree
1.5 oz. melted, white chocolate
4 oz. lowfat cottage cheese (such as Hood, no salt added), whipped
4 teaspoons skim milk
4 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2.2 oz. finely ground Bran Buds (blend in last, do it fast)

Batter:
2 tablespoons butter, softened or melted
2 oz. ground banana powder (see intro comments above for more info)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 1/2 cups (20 oz.) of lowfat cottage cheese (such as Hood, no salt added), whipped
1/2 cup skim milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Follow up gradually with a dry combination of:
1/3 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Completely mix all of the above ingredients used so far, then finally add:
2 eggs (last ingredient here)—aim to get these at least fully mixed in (yet without overbeating, if possible).

Make sure that the oven is preheated to 300 degrees. Use a bath. Bake for about 110 minutes. Cool off afterward. Then carefully remove from pan, and refrigerate.
 
Somehow, this was a reasonably decent banana cheesecake. The banana flavor could be detected.
 
Baked Banana Cheesecake—Prototype 2:
 
I sought an alternative to banana powder, due at least to the high cost of the freeze-dried slices. So I pureed a few bananas and then concentrated the resulting puree over very low heat to about half the original weight, hence a "2X" concentrate. I then froze this until I was ready to use it. This concentrate was used in the crust as well as the batter.
 
Repeat Prototype 1, but make these changes:
For the crust, replace the 2 ounces of banana puree with 1 ounce of banana concentrate (see intro comments above for more info), and boost the skim milk by 8 teaspoons, to 1/4 cup.
For the batter, replace the 2 ounces of banana powder with 3 ounces of banana concentrate.
 
It seemed like the banana concentrate was not such a great idea. I had difficulty blending it in with the other ingredients (whether preparing the crust or the batter). Furthermore, when I mixed the Bran Buds in with the crust's other ingredients, the resulting mixture immediately became extremely thick (perhaps going back to the regular-strength puree while keeping the milk at 1/4 cup seemed like a good idea).

But what about using the (relatively thin!) banana puree in the batter (maybe about 6 ounces of it)? Perhaps the flour needs to be increased (maybe to 1/2 cup)

Nevertheless, the taste of this prototype was still decent, and it fared well at Living Hope Church in Beverly (although the second prototype of my baked
pumpkin cheesecake did even better—much better—as I brought that one as well to the same event).
 
Baked Banana Cheesecake—Prototype 3:
 
Okay, let's go with the aforementioned ideas. However, some reconsiderations have entered my mind since Prototype 2's immediate aftermath. I felt that the flour would need an even bigger boost than what I thought earlier. This seemed to be particularly important since I would be going bigger on the batter's banana puree as well (I had concerns about the puree otherwise being too weak). Due to liquid concerns here, I reasoned that the batter's milk should be reduced a little, in deference to the puree. As for the crust, I decided to swap out its milk for more cottage cheese (for a greater cheese-like flavor).

This one was a niece's request—the latest banana prototype for Rebecca.
 
Repeat Prototype 2, but make these changes:
For the crust, revert the 1 ounce of banana concentrate to 2 ounces of banana puree, and replace the 1/4 cup of skim milk with 1/4 cup of additional cottage cheese—thus the cottage cheese is boosted from 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup (6 ounces).
For the batter, eliminate the banana concentrate there as well, replacing it with 8 ounces of banana puree, and double the flour, from 1/3 cup to 2/3 cup. Also, cut the milk here from 1/2 cup to only 1/3 cup.

Bake in a tub at 300 degrees for about 110 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan).

Banana Cheesecake—Prototype 3

This was my first banana prototype that was baked in my new 9 1/2" Frieling pan (discussed elsewhere in this recipe scrapbook). I was initially going to pre-bake the crust before adding the batter to it. However, the crust stiffened up so quickly after my stirring in the Bran Buds, that I determined that the pre-baking was unnecessary.

Rebecca enjoyed this one. I myself could very easily taste the banana flavor. (Was it, in fact, a little too strong? I had earlier considered using 6 ounces of banana puree, rather than 8, in the batter.)
 
Baked Banana Cheesecake—Prototype 4:
 
There are quite a few changes from Prototype 3 for the crust, based on refinements done to other cheesecake flavors earlier in 2013.

The batter has greatly changed as well, as reflected in Prototype 1 of my chocolate banana cheesecake. But I reasoned that the batter's banana flavor in that one was somehow overpowering. So I would repeat its banana batter, but reduce the puree and arrowroot for the latest banana-only prototype presented here.
 
2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 16 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from one 32-ounce container of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 16 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 8 ounces (1 cup) of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Crust:
2 oz. banana puree (note: the puree here is optional—use it if a banana-flavored crust is desired)
1 oz. melted, white chocolate
1/2 cup (4 oz.) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Pour this crust mixture into pan (9 to 9 1/2 inches) and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 5 minutes, then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
2 tablespoons melted or softened butter
5/8 cups granulated sugar
6 ounces of banana puree
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 2/3 tablespoons arrowroot
20 oz. (2 1/2 cups) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs

Pour on top of crust. Then bake in tub at 300 degrees for 90 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan), cool (outside of oven and tub) for another 90 minutes, remove from pan and refrigerate.

Banana Cheesecake—Prototype 4

I opted for including banana puree in the crust.

The batter had a nice banana taste which was not too dominant—it was just about right, along with a slight tang. The crust had a delicious banana flavor as well. The whole cheesecake, served among a modest selection of refreshments, was gone in about half an hour at Living Hope Church.
 
Baked Banana Cheesecake—Prototype 5:
 
This one is almost identical to a double version of Prototype 4's recipe. However, the arrowroot is slightly increased to a more workable amount, and the oven time is increased.
 
2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 2 pounds of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 16 ounces (1 pint) of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Crust:
4 oz. banana puree
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
1 cup (8 oz.) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Pour this crust mixture into pan (9 to 9 1/2 inches) and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 10 minutes, then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
4 tablespoons melted or softened butter
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
12 ounces of banana puree
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/8 cup arrowroot
40 oz. (5 cups) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs

Pour on top of crust. Bake in tub at 300 degrees for 120 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then cool down while still in oven (with this oven shut off) and in tub with door slightly ajar for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down at room temperature for another 120 minutes, then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Banana Cheesecake—Prototype 5

One crust option was to omit its banana puree, but I chose to still include it for this prototype. The banana flavor itself was terrific, both in the crust and in the batter. But I was hard-pressed in seeking more of a cheesecake-like presence. However, I felt that the amount of banana puree used in this prototype was just right—not excessive. Instead, I reasoned that perhaps a bit more tartness was needed (think: all yogurt cheese next time, instead of the 2-to-1 cottage combo).

There was an interesting coincidence in my making this one. The day that I selected—in working around my work schedule—to make it, January 16th of 2015, happened to be my niece's—Rebecca's—birthday! About three years earlier, my brother Eric, his wife Jean and their daughter "Becca" came out to visit me, and beforehand I asked them to pick a cheesecake flavor for their enjoyment upon arrival. That decision was ultimately left with Rebecca, who chose banana. So I baked my third banana prototype back then.

Although my niece could not make it to my place for this more recent prototype, it was still my wish to, somehow, dedicate this cheesecake in her honor.

This one was actually served at Living Hope Church, among a modest snack selection. Although attendance was fairly high, there remained about 1/4 of the cheesecake left after what was probably close to an hour (maybe not too many people were in the mood for banana). I later saw someone leave with the last few slices (I was guessing that these would be given to those who could not make it to the church on that day).
 
Baked Banana Cheesecake—Prototype 6:
 
This mid-2016 update is largely modeled after my third strawberry prototype, but for the banana prototype presented here, I have carefully increased the baking time in an effort to get this one to end up more firm.
 
3-Cheese Blend (1CT-1NC-4YG):
Prepare ahead of time 32 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers (that's 64 ounces altogether) of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 8 ounces of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese and 8 ounces of softened Neufchatel cheese ("light cream cheese").

Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
8 oz. (1 cup) 3-cheese blend (see above)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Place the resulting mixture in the greased pan and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 5-10 minutes, depending on the mixture's thickness (closer to 10 minutes if thin enough to be fully distributed across the pan's bottom by gentle shaking, closer to 5 minutes if thick enough to require spreading out this mixture by pressing on it with a utensil and/or fingers), then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
40 oz. (5 cups) 3-cheese blend (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
12 ounces of banana puree (tip: about 18 ounces of whole bananas, i.e., with the outer peels included—hopefully two large bananas—should yield a sufficient amount of the inner fruit)
1/2 cup arrowroot
5 eggs

Original Baking Procedure:
Expect about 8-9 cups of the resulting batter, but do not add this to the pan all at once. Rather, this needs to be done in three installments. Wrap the pan in foil just before adding the first batter installment (to minimize the foil's disturbance and therefore its leakage risk, do not put it on any earlier).

For each of the first two installments, gently scoop about 3 cups of batter into the pan. After adding an installment, bake the pan with its contents for 30 minutes. For the first installment, bake at 325 degrees. For the second installment, continue baking at 325, but only for the first 15 minutes here—for the remaining 15 minutes, reduce the temperature and bake at 300 degrees. For both installments here, bake with the pan in a tub filled with at least 1/4 to 1/2 inch of boiling water, but (to reduce spillage risks) do not fill the tub all the way at this point, because the whole tub-and-pan assembly is going to need to be removed from the oven (in order to comfortably add contents to the pan) between installments.

After these first two installments are done, there should be about 2-3 cups of batter left, with 60 minutes of baking time reached at this point (30 minutes for each of the first two installments). Now comes the third installment—carefully add the last of this batter on top of the pan's earlier installments (the entire surface should be fully coated). Next, return the entire pan-and-tub assembly to the oven. At this point, fill up the tub generously with boiling water. Resume baking at 300 degrees for another 120 minutes (based upon usage of a 9 1/2" pan).

Afterward, shut the oven off, and leave its door slightly ajar, with the cheesecake still inside—and in the tub—for an hour. Next, remove the cheesecake from the oven and tub. Continue to cool it down at room temperature for another two hours. After doing so, remove the cheesecake from pan and refrigerate.

Banana Cheesecake—Prototype 6

Looks like the increased baking time—per the original baking procedure, indicated above—has indeed paid off. The improved firmness seemed to show up best in the lower installments (which had longer baking times). Perhaps I should make the last installment thinner in the future? Maybe, maybe not (I was concerned about the top surface becoming a little too hard or "crusty").

But the flavor seemed to be right on target with an undeniable banana taste and a reasonable cheese presence as well. The cheesecake was served at Living Hope Church, among a generous selection of other baked sweets, and not much of this prototype was left afterward. A young person there, Michael, gave it a very great review (he often rated my other cheesecakes as well.

I repeated this prototype in March of 2017, but with a new baking approach. It was based somewhat on my fifth strawberry prototype, but with considerably more baking time, as shown below.
 
New 2017 Baking Procedure:
Expect close to 8 1/2 cups of the resulting batter, but do not add this to the pan all at once. Rather, this needs to be done in four installments. Wrap the pan in foil just before adding the first batter installment (to minimize the foil's disturbance and therefore its leakage risk, do not put it on any earlier).

For each of the first three installments, gently scoop about 2 1/2 cups of batter into the pan, fully covering the surface (here's a tip—scoop small amounts of batter around the edge of the pan, letting this batter flow towards the middle on its own), and then bake this pan with its contents for 25 minutes, at 325 degrees. However, at the end of the third installment's 25 minutes, add on another 30 minutes of baking time, but only at 300 degrees (that's a 55 minute "baking installment"—the first 25 minutes at 325 degrees and the next 30 at 300). For these three installments here, bake with the pan in a tub filled with at least 1/4 to 1/2 inch of boiling water, but (to reduce spillage risks) do not fill the tub all the way at this point, because the whole tub-and-pan assembly is going to need to be removed from the oven (in order to comfortably add contents to the pan) between installments.

After these first three installments are done, there should be about 1 cup of batter left, with 105 minutes of baking time reached at this point (25 minutes for each of the first two installments, and 55 for the third one). Now comes the fourth installment—carefully add the last of this batter on top of the pan's earlier installments, fully coating the entire surface. Next, return the entire pan-and-tub assembly to the oven, with the temperature remaining at 300 degrees. At this point, fill up the tub generously with boiling water. Resume baking for another 105 minutes (based upon usage of a 9 1/2" pan).

Afterward, shut the oven off, and leave its door slightly ajar, with the cheesecake still inside—and in the tub—for an hour. Next, remove the cheesecake from the oven and tub. Continue to cool it down at room temperature for another two hours. After doing so, remove the cheesecake from pan and refrigerate.

Banana Cheesecake—Prototype 6 (remake)

The firmness was terrific, even throughout the upper installments! And the top wasn't too brown either. I was very satisfied with the outcome.

This time I made this cheesecake especially for my cousin Rachel and happily presented it to her during my late March visit to her home in Vermont. This latest banana prototype was well received by her family, and it seemed like I got the most enthusiastic compliments from Rachel and her daughter Mya.
 

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Baked Pumpkin Cheesecake—Prototype 1:
 
This one had been on my mind for a long time. I finally got around to making a baked cheesecake involving what I felt to be a popular October flavor. This first prototype was done, of course, in that very month.
 
Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
2 oz. pumpkin butter (such as from Trader Joe's)
4 oz. whipped lowfat cottage cheese, no salt added
1/4 cup skim milk
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2.2 oz. Bran Buds, ground up

Batter:
2 tablespoons melted or softened butter
3 oz. pumpkin butter
1/2 cup skim milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups whipped lowfat cottage cheese, no salt added
2 eggs

Bake at 300 degrees for about 110 minutes (with tub immersion), or until cake tester comes clean.
 
It looks like I have somehow overestimated the strength of the pumpkin flavor. I had the tendency to think that it was about as strong as peanut butter, so the batter got only 3 ounces of pumpkin butter, just like the 4th prototype of Baked Peanut Butter Cheesecake (the latest peanut butter prototype as of the making of this first pumpkin prototype here) got this same amount of peanut butter. Back when I made a dessert combining the pumpkin flavor with eggnog (see Chilled Pumpkin Eggnog Pie—Prototype 1 for more details), the pumpkin was overwhelming, at least compared to the eggnog. It was likely this pie (at least) which led to my thinking of pumpkin as being a very strong flavor. Perhaps a better reasoning would have been to consider that the eggnog was much too weak in that dessert.

Nevertheless, this
pumpkin cheesecake was a "smashing" success at an early October "potluck" lunch at Living Hope Church in Beverly.
 
Baked Pumpkin Cheesecake—Prototype 2:

Repeat Prototype 1, but boost the batter's pumpkin butter by 1 ounce, to 4 ounces.
 
The taste had a somewhat improved pumpkin presence, and this cheesecake went very fast at Living Hope Church.
 
Baked Pumpkin Cheesecake—Prototype 3:
 
After doing a combination cheesecake involving pumpkin and eggnog flavors (see Baked Eggnog Pumpkin Cheesecake—Prototype 1 for more details), I wanted to make a deeper pumpkin cheesecake. Two 16-ounce containers of cottage cheese altogether are used for the prototype presented here. The flour used here was white whole wheat, as opposed to all-purpose. I also did some pre-baking of the crust in an effort to reduce excessive sogginess. In my desire to better ensure firmness for the batter, I used a somewhat large amount of flour and opted to bake this cheesecake for a good two hours.
 
Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
2 oz. pumpkin butter (such as from Trader Joe's)
1 cup (8 oz.) whipped lowfat cottage cheese, no salt added
1/4 cup skim milk
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2.2 oz. Bran Buds, ground up

Pour this crust mixture into a 9" pan and pre-bake this at 300 degrees (without tub) for 20 minutes. Then cool this off until the pan is comfortable enough to touch.

Batter:
2 tablespoons melted or softened butter
5/8 cup granulated sugar
6 oz. pumpkin butter
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup skim milk
1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups (24 oz.) whipped lowfat cottage cheese, no salt added
2 eggs

Bake at 300 degrees (with tub) for 2 hours.

Pumpkin Cheesecake—Prototype 3 Pumpkin Cheesecake—Prototype 3 (sliced)

The batter seemed to come out hopefully firm enough, and the crust did not seem too soggy either. When I pre-baked the crust earlier, however, it seemed that 20 minutes was a little too long, as the crust rose probably about 1/4", then fell back and left its outer edge running up about that amount against the inside of the pan. The two hours of baking time for the batter resulted in it having some small cracks, but I reasoned that this was okay, signifying a sufficiently baked cheesecake.

I brought this one to a couple of my cousins' homes on Thanksgiving, Joanne's and Lauren's, and some guests there complimented on this cheesecake. But I myself had difficulty tasting a sufficient presence of pumpkin flavor.
 
Baked Pumpkin Cheesecake—Prototype 4:
 
With the arrival of October (to me the pumpkin month), it was time for me to update my pumpkin prototypes with some yogurt cheese, just like I had done on other flavors earlier in 2012. In light of the popularity of whipped cream being served with pumpkin pies, I made a late decision to add vanilla to the pumpkin cheesecake's batter.

It has also more recently come to my attention that the crust's layer for many of my cheesecakes was too thick, relative to the batter's layer. So for this prototype, I cut the amount of crust nearly in half.
 
2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 16 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from one 32-ounce container of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 16 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 8 ounces (1 cup) of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Crust:
1 oz. melted, white chocolate
2 oz. pumpkin butter (such as from Trader Joe's)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
4 oz. (1/2 cup) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
1.1 oz. Bran Buds, ground up

Pour this crust mixture into pan (9 to 9 1/2 inches) and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 5 minutes, then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
2 tablespoons melted or softened butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
7 oz. pumpkin butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups (20 oz.) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs

Pour on top of crust. Then bake in tub at 300 degrees for 60 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan), cool (outside of oven and tub) for an hour, remove from pan and refrigerate.
 
This pumpkin cheesecake got devoured so fast at Living Hope Church that I almost missed out on an opportunity to try and (importantly) evaluate the taste of this latest prototype myself. However, I noticed that there were almost no sweet alternatives (at least by the time I got to the food table) for that Sunday, which was the first one in, of all months, October, which itself may have been an additional reason (it was that pumpkin-oriented time of year) for the cheesecake's quick disappearance.

But I did get to taste it after all, and I felt that this one was great. I could indeed taste the pumpkin. The tartness seemed just about right. So Prototype 4 was ultimately a "smashing pumpkin" success.
 
Baked Pumpkin Cheesecake—Prototype 5:
 
The last pumpkin prototype was so good that I was moved to double the recipe for a later Living Hope event. Meanwhile, I had made a terrific improvement on my plain cheesecakes (see Baked Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 10 for more info), and my usage of arrowroot, as a partial alternative to flour, in the plain-flavored ones is reflected in the latest, "pumped-up" pumpkin provided here.
 
2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 2 pounds of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 16 ounces (1 pint) of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
4 oz. pumpkin butter (such as from Trader Joe's)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
8 oz. (1 cup) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2.2 oz. Bran Buds, ground up

Pour this crust mixture into pan (9 to 9 1/2 inches) and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 10 minutes, then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
4 tablespoons melted or softened butter
1 cup granulated sugar
14 oz. pumpkin butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons arrowroot
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 cups (40 oz.) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs

Pour on top of crust. Bake in tub at 300 degrees for 105 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then cool down while still in oven (with this oven shut off) and in tub with door slightly ajar for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down at room temperature for another 105 minutes, then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Pumpkin Cheesecake—Prototype 5 Pumpkin Cheesecake—Prototype 5 (sliced)

Because of this being a double-sized recipe, longer cooking times were involved here. What would be a good suggestion for a single-size? Halve the ingredient list for starters. But what about baking? Even though I have not tried it with the very first instance of Prototype 5, perhaps using Prototype 4's baking methods would be the way to go. In other words:

1. Pre-bake the crust mixture for only 5 minutes.
2. Bake the cheesecake for only 60 minutes, then remove from oven and tub—skip the in-oven, door-ajar cooldown.
3. Cool at room temperature for only an hour, then refrigerate.

For the sake of convenience, the single-sized recipe is available here.

Okay, so I made a double-sized cheesecake compared to Prototype 4, which itself did not have enough competition. In light of my serving Prototype 5 at one of the bigger Living Hope food events—a pastor appreciation potluck—thus competing with plenty of other sweet treats, I had some second thoughts about going with the bigger size.

I ended up not regretting this size. With the main course at this church meal hardly even being halfway over (and likely more than half the people still being lined up for this course), this cheesecake was already more than halfway gone from the dessert table! Maybe some of the congregants opted for a head start due to concern about missing out on this dessert after what happened with Prototype 4 (perhaps one could hardly blame them, especially those who never got a piece of that earlier cheesecake). Back then I felt particularly bad for Gaynell, so I let her enjoy a little bit of my Prototype 4 slice. But this time, she was able to get a decent serving of Prototype 5, for which she had a very enthusiastic reaction (a display of two-thumbs up, if I remembered correctly).

This pumpkin cheesecake may have gotten off to a fast start (which got me concerned about a repeat blowout like with Prototype 4), but it slowed down later in the meal. But with only one slice left of this big cheesecake, I felt that this one was another "smashing pumpkin". The timing (late October, in 2012) may have been a factor as well.

I got so many favorable comments, and I myself felt that there was hardly any reason to keep on changing the formula. The presence of the tartness seemed to be more "feel" than taste, at least to me personally. However, although this thick cheesecake was stable enough, I thought that it probably could have been a little more firm. More specifically, I reasoned that an additional 15 minutes at 300 degrees—and another 15 minutes at room-temperature cooldown—should be considered for next time if going big like this. That's 2 solid hours apiece to bake and to room-cool, plus an intervening hour of door-ajar cooling in the oven—a five-hour stretch! Inasmuch as I ended up going with the 105 minutes indicated above for this recent prototype, I made that choice after some wavering.
 
Pumpkin Cheesecake—Prototype 5, at dessert table ("For Your Information"/"Scan me!")
 
Baked Pumpkin Cheesecake—Prototype 6:
 
Not much has changed for this latest prototype. There is an All-Bran-related change, and the salt is omitted. This October 2013 update reflects what I have done with other cheesecake flavors earlier in that year.
 
2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 2 pounds of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 16 ounces (1 pint) of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
4 oz. pumpkin butter (such as from Trader Joe's)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
8 oz. (1 cup) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Pour this crust mixture into pan (9 to 9 1/2 inches) and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 10 minutes, then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
4 tablespoons melted or softened butter
1 cup granulated sugar
14 oz. pumpkin butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons arrowroot
5 cups (40 oz.) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs

Pour on top of crust. Bake in tub at 300 degrees for 105 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then cool down while still in oven (with this oven shut off) and in tub with door slightly ajar for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down at room temperature for another 105 minutes, then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Pumpkin Cheesecake—Prototype 6

This cheesecake was one smashing pumpkin, although there was not a big snack selection (hence not much food competition) at Living Hope. But the crowds were small (hence less people to feed), due to many women being away on a church-related retreat. Because of that getaway, I myself had to cut the cheesecake and bring it into the fellowship hall, a time-consuming process (if I wanted to do the slicing right) which I did not carry out until after services. But despite the late arrival at the serving table (thus giving other treats an earlier start) and the small crowds, this one was gone in what seemed to be less than half an hour. Happy October!
 
Baked Pumpkin Cheesecake—Prototype 7:
 
Fall has arrived in 2015! This latest pumpkin update is based upon my major cheesecake batter overhaul earlier that year.
 
3-Cheese Blend (1CT-1NC-4YG):
Prepare ahead of time 32 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers (that's 64 ounces altogether) of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 8 ounces of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese and 8 ounces of softened Neufchatel cheese ("light cream cheese").

Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
4 oz. pumpkin butter (such as from Trader Joe's)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
8 oz. (1 cup) 3-cheese blend (see above)
2 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Place the resulting mixture in a greased 9 1/2" (or 9") pan and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 5-10 minutes, depending on the mixture's thickness (closer to 10 minutes if thin enough to be fully distributed across the pan's bottom by gentle shaking, closer to 5 minutes if thick enough to require spreading out this mixture by pressing on it with a utensil and/or fingers), then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
1 cup granulated sugar
14 oz. pumpkin butter
40 oz. (5 cups) 3-cheese blend (see above)
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon (5 tablespoons altogether) arrowroot
2 teaspoons vanilla
5 eggs

Wrap the pan in foil at this point (no earlier, for the sake of minimal foil disturbance), then pour the batter on top of the crust. Bake in hot water tub at 300 degrees for 105 to 115 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan—also see comments below). Then cool down while still in oven (with this oven shut off) and in tub with door slightly ajar for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down at room temperature for another 105 to 115 minutes (see comments below), then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Pumpkin Cheesecake—Prototype 7

Another one with a smashing, great taste! I served this one at my Home Depot workplace, where it went over well. For that one, I went with 105 minutes for both the oven baking and room cooling times. I somehow ended up sensing that the batter could use more firmness.

So in repeating this prototype, I decided to oven-bake and room-cool at 115 minutes apiece (in addition to, of course, the 60 minutes of in-the-oven cooling). The outcome was fine (not "rubbery"), and I served this cheesecake at Living Hope Church, where about 3/4 of it got taken. I then brought the rest home. A few days later, I took it to a darts event where my friend Lesa's team was shooting, and Dawne (one of the members of this team) enjoyed it extensively.

In October of 2016, I made this prototype again, but this time I spotted some pumpkin chips (Nestlé Pumpkin Spice Morsels) at a local supermarket and ended up using them for a decorative border (by adding these chips around the top surface at its outer edge shortly after taking the cheesecake out of the oven).

Pumpkin Cheesecake—Prototype 7 (2016 repeat, with chips border)

This chipped version ended up being a "smashing pumpkin" at Living Hope. At least 7/8 of this cheesecake was gone within about 10 minutes. There were just two slices left at that point, when I needed to head off to a meeting. So I did not know about the outcome on the remainder of this pumpkin treat. I could only guess that it was promptly finished off.
 
Baked Pumpkin Cheesecake—Prototype 8:
 
Happy Thanksgiving! This pumpkin update of November 2017 is based primarily upon a major cheesecake overhaul that I performed earlier that year.
 
3-Cheese Blend (3CT-1NC-2YG):
Prepare ahead of time 16 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from one 32-ounce container of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 16 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 24 ounces of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese and 8 ounces of softened Neufchatel cheese ("light cream cheese").

Grease a 9 1/2" (or 9") springform pan, but do not wrap foil around it yet (see below).

Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
4 oz. pumpkin butter (such as from Trader Joe's)
8 oz. (1 cup) 3-cheese blend (see above)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Place the resulting mixture in the greased pan and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 5-10 minutes, depending on the mixture's thickness (closer to 10 minutes if thin enough to be fully distributed across the pan's bottom by gentle shaking, closer to 5 minutes if thick enough to require spreading out this mixture by pressing on it with a utensil and/or fingers), then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
1 cup granulated sugar
40 oz. (5 cups) 3-cheese blend (see above)
14 oz. pumpkin butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum
6 eggs

Wrap the pan in foil just before adding the batter (to minimize the foil's disturbance and therefore its leakage risk, do not put it on any earlier).

Next, carefully pour the batter over the crust and bake this cheesecake in a hot water tub at 300 degrees for 90 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then shut off oven and cool cheesecake down while still in it (and in tub), with door slightly ajar, for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and (at this point, add a border of chips—such as pumpkin-flavored—if desired) continue to cool down at room temperature for another two hours, then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Pumpkin Cheesecake—Prototype 8

To be served at my cousin's on Thanksgiving.
 

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Baked Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 4:
 
My first three prototypes, in my quest for a plain-flavored cheesecake, were done back in the 1980's—and did not contain any crusts. The latest prototype presented here not only improves on the third batter back then, but adds a crust (with some cinnamon flavor, which I felt would complement the batter nicely).
 
Crust:
1.5 oz. melted, white chocolate
8 oz. lowfat cottage cheese, whipped, no salt added
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2.2 oz. Bran Buds, ground up

Batter:
2 tablespoons melted or softened butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup skim milk
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/3 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups (20 oz.) lowfat cottage cheese, whipped, no salt added
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs

Bake at 300 degrees for about 100 minutes (i.e., with a 9" pan—but if using a 9 1/2" pan, make that about 90 minutes), or until cake tester comes clean (use a tub).

Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 4 (in-tub arrangement) Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 4

The taste was great, crust and all, for this plain one, which I brought to my cousin Rachel's house on one of my weekend getaways. One of her daughters, Mya, was especially delighted with it (likely having much more of it than anybody else in her family).
 
Baked Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 5:
 
This is the very first cheesecake that I have made with a relatively new ingredient—yogurt cheese! I felt that I would directly replace the cottage cheese with this one. It was easy to make. Place some yogurt, such as lowfat or nonfat, into a coffee-filter-lined strainer, positioned over a bowl that's not too shallow. Put all this into the refrigerator for about 24 hours. A yellowish liquid, whey, drains out of the strainer and into the bowl during this time. Afterward, discard this whey or use it for some other purpose. What is left in the strainer at this point is a nicely thick, cream-cheese-like food. This is yogurt cheese, and its size is close to half of that of the yogurt used at the beginning. Pretty neat, huh? Just make sure that you avoid using a yogurt containing the likes of gelatin or guar gum, which can hinder the whey drainage process (for those of you in Eastern Massachusetts or Southern New Hampshire, try a plain, all-natural yogurt like Market Basket's).

With this new arrangement, another ingredient has made its debut in my recipe scrapbook with this particular cheesecake—arrowroot, a thickener which I felt that I should use together with the yogurt cheese. Because of the yogurt's tangy, tart taste, I decided to eliminate the lemon juice as well. Here, then, is a repetition of Prototype 4, but with the aforementioned changes (Prototype 5 is also the first
plain-flavored cheesecake that I baked in my relatively new, "9 1/2 inch" Frieling springform pan).
 
Crust:
1.5 oz. melted, white chocolate
8 oz. lowfat yogurt cheese
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2.2 oz. Bran Buds, ground up

Batter:
2 tablespoons melted or softened butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup skim milk
1 1/4 tablespoons arrowroot
1/3 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
20 oz. lowfat yogurt cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs

Remember, no lemon juice is needed. The tartness is provided here by the yogurt cheese.

Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 5, with Market Basket plain all natural lowfat yogurt, 1 1/2% milkfat

Bake at 300 degrees for about 85 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan), in a tub.
 
The lowfat yogurt that I used here (for making the yogurt cheese) came from Market Basket, with the milkfat being 1 1/2% (as opposed to only 1%).

Unfortunately, I was personally dissatisfied with the taste of the new batter. I could hardly find any cheese-like flavor in it. I was wondering if my cooking this "cheesecake" too long may have caused this. Perhaps this may have been too destructive to the yogurt cultures (maybe these were a good possible source of the cheese effect as long as they were alive?).

The taste was not bad. It just wasn't exciting. This prototype did go fast, however, at Living Hope (but probably due to too little food competition and a very big crowd on the day that this dessert was served).
 
Baked Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 6:
 
Okay, I wanted to know at this point if my lower-fat cheesecakes tasted too inferior (if at all) compared to their more traditional, "full-fat" counterparts. So Prototype 6 was a "bite the bullet" test (yikes!). I could not recall ever using regular cream cheese, with its full amount of fat, in any of my experimental recipes beforehand. But I proceeded with this unusual prototype and reasoned that if the "fattening" taste was still similar enough to my lower-fat attempts, maybe the changes that I needed to do for a more exciting taste were dependent upon other ingredients used, or even upon preparation methods (e.g., baking).
 
Repeat Prototype 5, but replace the yogurt cheese with regular ("full fat") cream cheese (both crust and batter). Bake the same way as well (i.e., 300 degrees, about 85 minutes, with a 9 1/2" pan and a tub).
 
I used the Cabot brand (instead of Philadelphia) for the cream cheese, because it was on sale at a decent price. I also felt that this Vermont-based brand had an excellent reputation.

After 85 minutes of baking time, I took this cheesecake out, and its appearance gave me the impression that maybe I cooked it too long (it was not burnt—it just looked somewhat too dry). When I prepared the crust earlier, the mixture took on a thick, cement-like texture immediately after I blended in the Bran Buds. That was because the cream cheese mixture, before the Bran Buds addition, was already thick—compared to its cottage cheese counterpart (from what I best recall, it was even thicker than the yogurt cheese version). So, reasoning that cream cheese itself was much thicker than cottage cheese (and thicker than yogurt cheese as well), I ended up suspecting that the cream cheese prototype could have been baked for a lesser amount of time.

I smelled an aroma that easily had a noticeable cheese presence (especially as I took the cheesecake out of the oven). However, when I finally tasted this "full-fat" cream cheese prototype after hours of refrigeration, the batter's flavor—to my surprise—hardly seemed to be any more exciting than its Prototype 5 counterpart. In fact, the taste of this cream cheese cake (at least its batter) greatly reminded me of that yogurt cheese version. While my nose may have exclaimed "Cheese!" earlier, my tongue responded "Uh, not quite...not all that much so" (were my taste buds perhaps getting too old?).

So on a positive note, I reasoned that my earlier, healthier versions had a taste that, very hopefully, were hardly inferior to their fatter counterpart after all. On the other hand, if I still wasn't all that enthusiastic about the taste, even despite the higher fat, what else could I do to liven up the flavor more? I ended up considering that perhaps some more sweetness needed to be added. I also thought about sticking with the cottage cheese. Another option was giving the yogurt another try, but with less baking time. Other ideas: reduce eggs and/or arrowroot.

Although I reasoned that there was no significant difference in the taste, I felt that the texture was firmer for this cream cheese version, compared to its healthier counterparts.

I made Prototype 6 for a car wash event at Living Hope Church (whatever was left over was served after church services the next day), which was a fundraising event to help send kids to a camp associated with this church.
 
Baked Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 7:
 
I decided to go with a considerably sweeter batter. I also felt that the crust should be a little sweeter. Instead of regarding arrowroot as unfavorably affecting the taste, not only did I refrain from cutting it down, but I furthermore increased it just a little bit, for the sake of simplicity.

I switched back over to yogurt cheese. For this prototype I also changed the yogurt composition. In Prototype 5, the yogurt utilized was strictly the lowfat, 1 1/2% variety. For Prototype 7, I used a 50-50 mix of this lowfat yogurt and
nonfat yogurt.

Out of concern about giving the yogurt cultures a better chance to survive, I greatly cut down on the baking time, hoping that this cheesecake would not end up being undercooked.
 
Repeat Prototype 6, but make these changes:
For the crust, boost the granulated sugar by 1 tablespoon, to 1/4 cup.
For the batter, boost the granulated sugar by 1/4 cup, to 3/4 cup, and increase the arrowroot by 1/4 teaspoon (1/12 tablespoon) to 4 teaspoons (1 1/3 tablespoons).
Also, for both the crust and the batter, switch back to yogurt cheese, directly replacing all of the cream cheese. Furthermore, use a half-half combination of lowfat and nonfat yogurt. This means using 4 ounces of lowfat and 4 ounces of nonfat yogurt cheese for the crust, and 10 ounces of lowfat and 10 ounces of nonfat yogurt cheese for the batter.
Bake all this only for about 60 minutes.
 
Well, the cheesecake ended up being sufficiently firm under the 1-hour baking attempt, and the taste was hopefully more lively. It seemed like the sugar boost made a difference. However, I felt that there was still some kind of inferiority with the taste. I was moved to pick up a slice of a more established traditional cheesecake for comparison. I did something similar to this back around the late 1980's when I compared my chocolate prototypes of that time to Alden Merrell's chocolate cheesecake. This would be repeated in a plain-flavored way, but would the store-bought cheesecake still be Alden Merrell for the more recent test? The slice that I picked up was at a Market Basket, and the individually-sized packaging contained a label, supposedly store-printed, with the wording "Fine Dessert".

What happened was that Market Basket sold Alden Merrell products for many years. In later times the Alden Merrell brand presented itself as "Alden Merrell Fine Desserts" (sometime earlier it was "Alden Merrell Cheesecake Company"). More recently, the Alden Merrell name seemed to disappear from the packaging sold at Market Basket. Yet the desserts still looked identical. And although the labeling would now say "Market Basket Fine Desserts", it looked like the fancy font style used for the wording "Fine Desserts" remained unchanged as well—as long as the package contained an entire (multiple-servings) cake (plainer-looking print labels would remain in use on the individually-packaged items, just like in the past). Furthermore, I could not detect a change in the taste. All this led me to suspect that Market Basket was still selling Alden Merrell products—but now bearing the "Market Basket" name (perhaps under a recent agreement between this grocer and Alden Merrell).

So I compared this supposed "Alden Merrell" cheesecake, under the "Market Basket" name, to my prototype cheesecake. And what did I discover?

I felt that my cheesecake tasted sort of bitter, tart and less sweet (as well as perhaps having a paper and/or chalky tinge), compared to the store-bought counterpart.

A few weeks later, I decided to make the cottage-cheese-based Prototype 4 for my annual family reunion party, now that I had a more recent perspective on my cheesecakes. I wanted to know at this point if using cottage cheese would make a favorable difference, but I did
not keep my hopes up.

Indeed, as things turned out, I felt that this version hardly tasted better compared to its yogurt cheese or cream cheese counterparts. It still had that somewhat bitter, too tart, under-sweetened taste. This same old "ho-hum" did not surprise me. Furthermore, this cheesecake fared unsatisfactorily (at least in my opinion) at this party. In fact, a ricotta cheese pie (close to the size of my cheesecake) was fully gone within about one or two hours after it was served. I myself tried it. This pie had a sweet, somewhat lemon taste to it. But this ricotta treat certainly was no "lemon" in regard to its success—and this dessert seemed to be (at least to me) a fairly modest-looking supermarket bakery item, not some kind of high-end gourmet creation. Yet my treat looked like a sad loser compared to it.

So where to now? I have recently become more keenly aware that many cheesecake recipes did not call for milk (especially) or flour. Why was I using milk in particular? Perhaps this was simply rooted in the American Heart Association recipe that I started with. Anyway, I felt that drastic changes were warranted at this point.
 
Baked Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 8:
 
Okay, the time had finally come to really shake things up. The flour—which was white whole wheat at this point—as well as the skim milk and arrowroot, would be outright omitted. Because this was largely a trial-and-error effort for the batter here, I held off the usual inclusion of the crust.
 
Repeat Prototype 7's batter only (omit the crust), but make these changes:
Fully exclude the flour, milk and arrowroot. Use only nonfat yogurt cheese at this point, and (out of simplification here) cut it by 4 ounces, to 16. More specifically, start with 32 ounces of nonfat yogurt, and strain it for at least 24 hours. If less than 16 ounces remains, add back enough of the whey strained out to make up the difference.

The resulting new ingredient list for the batter follows:
2 tablespoons melted or softened butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
16 oz. nonfat yogurt cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs

Bake in a tub at 300 degrees for 90 minutes, cool in oven (and still in tub as well, of course) with heat shut off and door slightly ajar for another 60 minutes, then cool outside of oven (and tub) for 60 more minutes before refrigerating.
 
I initially was going to bake this one for a much shorter time, starting at (from what I could best remember) about 50 minutes. However, I noticed that the top of the cheesecake looked too runny, so I kept adding time in perhaps 10-minute increments. Finally, with the top still appearing unstable after 90 minutes, I shut the oven off but left the cheesecake in the oven for another hour.

After another hour of cooldown at room temperature, I proceeded to remove this prototype from its bottom. Although the cheesecake was now hopefully firm enough to hold its shape, it still had a tendency to easily fall apart. Its height was also very low. While this now thin cheesecake was extremely fragile, its taste was a different story—a much different story!

If using a tub revolutionized my cheesecake making, the elimination of flour—which I had been using in nearly all my cheesecakes up to this point—has turned my cheesecake prototyping upside-down. That annoying "ho-hum" tinge was gone!!

At last this cheesecake tasted like a terrific, fattening, commercial gourmet one. I was blown away, and so was Lesa's friend Steve, who raved about this cheesecake as (if I could remember correctly) the best (or one of the best) desserts that I brought to him. He gladly made mention of a lemon presence, even though I added no lemon juice or flavoring. I cited the tartness of the yogurt as the likely cause.

While I also left out the milk and arrowroot in this recipe, I strongly felt that it was mainly the flour's omission that made this awesome difference (and Karen at the Beverly ICC, one of the people present at Steve's 60th birthday party—see
Baked Cookies+Creme Cheesecake—Prototype 5, for more info—strongly suggested cutting it down).

So now I had a truly terrific-tasting batter for a cheesecake. But it was too soft. How could I make it more firm? That was the next challenge.
 
Baked Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 9:
 
In light of some recent concerns about my yogurt cheesecakes being perhaps a little too tart (especially with Prototype 14 of my chocolate cheesecakes), I felt that I would try a compromise. This would bring back the cottage cheese in part. I also brought back the flour. But this time, I used all-purpose, instead of white whole wheat.
 
50/50 Cheese Blend:

Start with 32 ounces of nonfat yogurt, and strain it for at least 24 hours, thus producing yogurt cheese. The goal here is to attain 16 ounces of this cheese. If less than 16 ounces of it remains, add back enough of the whey strained out to make up the difference. If, however, more than 16 ounces remains, exclude the extra remaining cheese. Combine the 16-ounce yogurt cheese result with 16 ounces of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Only 28 ounces of this blend is required for what follows, so save the extra 4 ounces for another purpose (alternatively, you could combine 14 ounces of yogurt cheese with 14 ounces of cottage cheese, depending on what you have available).

Crust:
1.5 oz. melted, white chocolate
8 oz. 50/50 cheese blend
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2.2 oz. Bran Buds, ground up

Pour this crust mixture into pan and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 10 minutes, then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
2 tablespoons melted or softened butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
20 oz. 50/50 cheese blend
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs

Bake in tub at 300 degrees for 60 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan), cool (outside of oven and tub) for an hour, remove from pan and refrigerate.
 
The Market Basket yogurt strained out well enough for me to add back some whey in order to get to the 16-ounce weight.

This cheesecake got served at Living Hope Church. There were so many other desserts as well at a Sunday lunch (during Labor Day weekend of 2012) that also included Christian Renewal Church, a congregation using the same facility as Living Hope. My cheesecake ended up being about 2/3 used up, and I took the rest back home.

There was a hopefully reduced "ho-hum" tinge in this prototype, probably due to the change in flour. But I also felt the taste was now too sweet and sort of lacking in tartness. But it looked like I had still come a long way in my plain prototypes. I still needed to perform some additional tweaking.
 
Baked Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 10:
 
Modify the cheese blend. Cut the flour further, and bring back the arrowroot. Cut the amount of crust in half, making some minor adjustments along the way.

These were some highlights of the changes for this plain prototype, following a smashing success from the 4th prototype of my pumpkin cheesecakes.
 
2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 16 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from one 32-ounce container of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 16 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 8 ounces (1 cup) of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Crust:
1 oz. melted, white chocolate
4 oz. (1/2 cup) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1.1 oz. Bran Buds, ground up

Pour this crust mixture into pan (9 to 9 1/2 inches) and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 5 minutes, then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
2 tablespoons melted or softened butter
5/8 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/3 tablespoons arrowroot
1/4 teaspoon salt
20 oz. (2 1/2 cups) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs

Pour on top of crust. Then bake in tub at 300 degrees for 60 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan), cool (outside of oven and tub) for an hour, remove from pan and refrigerate.
 
The taste was terrific! This was, in a way, a flashback to Prototype 8, but without the excessive fragility. Prototype 10 had the firmness that I was more accustomed to, plus the tartness and sweetness seemed just about right on target. And the height wasn't too short either. This one already seemed very promising before I baked it. It looked like I utilized what was hopefully just the right amount of all-purpose flour and arrowroot. I hardly found any "ho-hum" tinge in this prototype.

Some of my relatives had the opportunity to enjoy this cheesecake, and the reception was quite enthusiastic. A few weeks earlier, some of them also experienced the fourth prototype of my chocolate peanut butter cheesecake. But at least one of my cousins (Fran) told me about liking even better this latest plain-flavored prototype presented here. I also brought this cheesecake to darts. While Lesa wasn't "in the mood" that night, perhaps for any desserts, Steve raved about it. He even felt that the tartness was just right (even though he particularly loved lemon-flavored cheesecake).

I hardly felt any reason at this point to improve upon the baked, plain-flavored cheesecake—give Prototype 10...a TEN! The basic formulation here would set the trajectory for many other flavored cheesecakes to come.
 
Baked Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 11:
 
I did not know if my taste preferences have shifted, but I was somehow seeking more tartness at this point (even despite my being very happy with Prototype 10). Maybe the "cheese base", i.e., the cottage cheese and/or yogurt cheese "foundation", needed to be varied, depending on the flavor of the cheesecake that I was making. For some flavors, such as chocolate, not much tartness was needed, hence a 2-to-1 yogurt cheese/cottage cheese mixture would suffice. But for some other flavors such as plain and citrus (e.g., orange, lemon), I felt that more tartness was worth a try. Furthermore a woman commented about one of my 2-to-1-cheese-blend prototypes (see Baked Cookies+Creme Cheesecake—Prototype 7 for more details) lacking a sufficient cheesecake taste. Perhaps that was due to a sandwich cookie dominance. But I more recently felt that insufficient tartness may have been a considerable reason. So for my latest plain-flavored prototype, I opted to go all the way with yogurt cheese (in fact, the batter ingredients for this plain one are the same as those for Prototype 7 of the Cookies+Creme, except that the plain cheesecake's "cheese base" is all yogurt and no cottage—and, of course, no cookies are used).
 
Yogurt Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 3 pounds of yogurt cheese, derived from three 32-ounce containers of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 48 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference.

Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
8 oz. (1 cup) yogurt cheese (see above)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2.2 oz. Bran Buds, ground up

Pour this crust mixture into bottom of pan (9 to 9 1/2 inches), spreading the crust evenly (no pre-baking is needed with this one).

Batter:
4 tablespoons melted or softened butter
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons arrowroot
1/2 teaspoon salt
40 oz. (5 cups) yogurt cheese (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs

Pour the batter over the crust and bake this cheesecake in a tub at 300 degrees for 100 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then cool the cheesecake down while still in oven (with this oven shut off) and in tub with door slightly ajar for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down at room temperature for another 100 minutes, then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 11, with Market Basket plain all natural nonfat yogurt

Both the crust mixture and batter were substantially thicker with the all-yogurt base, compared to their 2-to-1 yogurt-cottage counterparts. But I also used an electric mixer for this prototype, rather than a blender, an appliance that I have used extensively in the past in order to fully liquefy the cottage cheese's curds. However, for large cheesecakes, I needed a mixer with a big enough bowl as well. Due to my not using any cottage cheese in this prototype, along with the blender pitcher's slightly insufficient capacity, I put the mixer and its adequately-sized bowl to work. Would extensive use of a blender made a thinner difference for the yogurt cheese? I did not know. But using just the mixer would mean not having to wash the blender's components after use. That was one less appliance that I had to deal with.

After all those earlier prototypes, Prototype 11 is the first plain-flavored one that I have made in a large ("double") size.

And this cheesecake was a success at Living Hope Church—including not being too tart (and I received tartness comments from about two other people, and they agreed with me)! That was a concern that I had in going all-yogurt-cheese, but both the tartness and sweetness worked out well. I myself was very pleased with the taste, especially the batter's.

I also brought a couple of leftover slices to Lesa and Steve, who were shooting darts at the Beverly ICC. Steve, who had an immediate opportunity to eat, used the word "perfect" in commenting on this cheesecake and somehow signified that no further changes to the recipe were needed.
 
Baked Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 12:
 
It had been a long while since my previous plain-flavored prototype. Although it was terrific back then, I wanted to update it with a few rather minor tweaks, based upon what I had recently done with other cheesecake flavors (in particular, omitting the salt from the batter).
 
Yogurt Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 3 pounds of yogurt cheese, derived from three 32-ounce containers of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 48 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference.

Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
8 oz. (1 cup) yogurt cheese (see above)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Place this crust mixture into the bottom of a greased springform pan (9 to 9 1/2 inches), spreading the crust evenly (no pre-baking is needed with this one).

Batter:
4 tablespoons melted or softened butter
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
40 oz. (5 cups) yogurt cheese (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons arrowroot
4 eggs

Wrap the pan in foil just before adding the batter (to minimize the foil's disturbance and therefore its leakage risk, do not put it on any earlier).

Next, pour the batter over the crust and bake this cheesecake in a hot water tub at 300 degrees for 100 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then cool the cheesecake down while still in oven (with this oven shut off) and in tub with door slightly ajar for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down at room temperature for another 100 minutes, then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 12

I have been making the overwhelming majority of cheesecakes for my church, Living Hope. But this latest cheesecake presented here was one which I prepared especially for a bake sale at The Home Depot, where I have been working lately. This is not, however, the first time I brought any of my cheesecakes to this store. Not long beforehand, I had brought in leftovers from a Living Hope event in which it turned out that the food was primarily meant to be "host provided"—as opposed to the usual "potluck" (i.e., when attendees are encouraged to bring their own items to share) arrangement (see Baked Cherry Cheesecake—Prototype 6 for more information). But this more recent cheesecake marked the first time that I baked anything specifically for a Home Depot event.

This one was provided alongside a modest selection of baked goods. Hot dogs and potato chips were also provided for this fundraiser. There remained one slice of the cheesecake after nearly nine hours (yes, this cheesecake still tasted great after all that time at room temperature, as I ate the next-to-last slice).
 
Baked Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 13:
 
For late June 2015, I decided to make a major change in my basic batter composition, starting with this latest prototype. More information can be found here.
 
Yogurt Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 3 pounds of yogurt cheese, derived from three 32-ounce containers of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 48 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference.

Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
8 oz. (1 cup) yogurt cheese (see above)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (but see comments below)
2 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Place the resulting mixture in the greased pan and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 5-10 minutes, depending on the mixture's thickness (closer to 10 minutes if thin enough to be fully distributed across the pan's bottom by gentle shaking, closer to 5 minutes if thick enough to require spreading out this mixture by pressing on it with a utensil and/or fingers), then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
40 oz. (5 cups) yogurt cheese (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon (5 tablespoons altogether) arrowroot
4 eggs

Wrap the pan in foil just before adding the batter (to minimize the foil's disturbance and therefore its leakage risk, do not put it on any earlier).

Next, pour the batter over the crust and bake this cheesecake in a hot water tub at 300 degrees for 110 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then cool the cheesecake down while still in oven (with this oven shut off) and in tub with door slightly ajar for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down at room temperature for another 110 minutes, then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 13

I had planned at the start to use only 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla in the crust, but my mind slipped up, so I ended up accidentally using a whole teaspoon. However, that did not bother me too much, as I was much more concerned about the batter's outcome.

This one was probably my most successful cheesecake to date at Living Hope Church. Prototype 13 was gone in what was probably less than 10 minutes. Someone placed fresh strawberries on top of my cheesecake before it was served among a not-so small selection of other snacks, particularly sweet ones. It looked like a number of people (including myself) removed the strawberries from their slices, while others kept them. I myself was fortunate enough to get a slice so that I could evaluate this new batter. The taste was at least very good and not highly tart (I was content with the crust as well).

In light of this particular prototype being an unusually phenomenal hit, I decided to repeat it about a week later—and
this time successfully remembered to use only 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla in the crust!

However, whereas the first plain-flavored Prototype 13 that I served at Living Hope was an overwhelming success, the second one was largely the opposite. Just over half of it remained (no strawberries on top this time). The selection of other refreshments seemed to be about as big as the previous one a week earlier. I took the rest of the cheesecake home, had a slice later and froze the rest.

About a couple of weeks later, I thawed the remaining cheesecake and served it at a family reunion hosted by a cousin of my friend Darren's. It wasn't very long before the last slice was taken.
 
Baked Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 14:
 
The great cheesecake overhaul of 2015 continues! This one features an additional egg. So the typical basic formulation is now 1 egg and 1 tablespoon of arrowroot for every 8 ounces of the batter's cheese base (at this point consisting of cottage cheese and/or yogurt cheese, depending on the flavor)—simple!
 
Yogurt Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 3 pounds of yogurt cheese, derived from three 32-ounce containers of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 48 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference.

Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
8 oz. (1 cup) yogurt cheese (see above)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Place the resulting mixture in the greased pan and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 5-10 minutes, depending on the mixture's thickness (closer to 10 minutes if thin enough to be fully distributed across the pan's bottom by gentle shaking, closer to 5 minutes if thick enough to require spreading out this mixture by pressing on it with a utensil and/or fingers), then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
40 oz. (5 cups) yogurt cheese (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon (5 tablespoons altogether) arrowroot
5 eggs

Wrap the pan in foil just before adding the batter (to minimize the foil's disturbance and therefore its leakage risk, do not put it on any earlier).

Next, pour the batter over the crust and bake this cheesecake in a hot water tub at 300 degrees for 110 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then cool the cheesecake down while still in oven (with this oven shut off) and in tub with door slightly ajar for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down at room temperature for another 110 minutes, then remove from pan and refrigerate.
 
This one was about 3/4 gone in perhaps close to an hour at Living Hope Church. The taste seemed to have somewhat of an "okay", tart "feel" to it. I also felt that this reformulated cheesecake could use some more firmness.
 
Baked Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 15:
 
Continuing with my major cheesecake overhaul for 2015, I have made a particularly bold move here by mixing a type of "cream cheese" into the "cheese base". But this newcomer is actually Neufchatel cheese, which many call "light cream cheese" (Kraft Foods, as of 2015, utilizes the "1/3 less fat" reference for its version).

Also, for some reason, I felt that the plain cheesecake may have been somewhat too tart. So I included the old prototype standby, cottage cheese, as well.

Due to the probability of future, additional combinations of 3-cheese blends, I have added an abbreviated identifier for the cheese blend presented below. 1CT = 1 part cottage cheese, 1NC = 1 part Neufchatel cheese and 4YG = 4 parts yogurt cheese.
 
3-Cheese Blend (1CT-1NC-4YG):
Prepare ahead of time 32 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers (that's 64 ounces altogether) of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 8 ounces of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese and 8 ounces of softened Neufchatel cheese ("light cream cheese").

Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
8 oz. (1 cup) 3-cheese blend (see above)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Place the resulting mixture in the greased pan and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 5-10 minutes, depending on the mixture's thickness (closer to 10 minutes if thin enough to be fully distributed across the pan's bottom by gentle shaking, closer to 5 minutes if thick enough to require spreading out this mixture by pressing on it with a utensil and/or fingers), then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
40 oz. (5 cups) 3-cheese blend (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon (5 tablespoons altogether) arrowroot
5 eggs

Wrap the pan in foil just before adding the batter (to minimize the foil's disturbance and therefore its leakage risk, do not put it on any earlier).

Next, pour the batter over the crust and bake this cheesecake in a hot water tub at 300 degrees for 120 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then cool the cheesecake down while still in oven (with this oven shut off) and in tub with door slightly ajar for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down at room temperature for another 120 minutes, then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 15

I felt that the batter taste was very likely right on target. More specifically, I did not sense any need to increase or decrease the tartness. However, I felt that the crust's cinnamon was somehow too strong.

I used Kraft/Philadelphia "1/3 less fat" Neufchatel cheese, and the stabilizers (xanthan, carob bean and guar gums) in this "light cream cheese" product seemed to make a good, noticeable difference in the firmness. Not only was this prototype sufficiently firm, but I felt that the texture was nearly bordering on "rubbery". Perhaps I shouldn't have baked this cheesecake for so long.

This one was served in early September of 2015 at Living Hope Church, which had a combined service with Christian Renewal Church earlier that morning. During the joint barbecue lunch that followed, a large assortment of desserts were available along with my cheesecake, which itself ended up being almost 3/4 gone. I took the rest home, had a slice later and brought what was left of it the next day to my workplace—and a Labor Day cookout there—where some of my fellow Home Depot associates quickly finished the dessert off. For me personally, this was a double barbecue weekend.
 
Baked Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 16:
 
This one closely repeats Prototype 15. However, I bought a box of graham crackers for the crust in Prototype 4 of my s'mores cheesecake and had plenty of leftover grahams as a result. So I felt that I would put them to good use here. Thus the plain cheesecake presented here features the same crust as the s'mores one, but without the marshmallows.
 
3-Cheese Blend (1CT-1NC-4YG):
Prepare ahead of time 32 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers (that's 64 ounces altogether) of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 8 ounces of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese and 8 ounces of softened Neufchatel cheese ("light cream cheese").

Grease a 9 1/2" (or 9") springform pan, but do not wrap foil around it yet (see below).

Graham Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
8 oz. (1 cup) 3-cheese blend (see above)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Completely blend the above ingredients first, then continue with the last one below.
4 oz. cinnamon graham crackers, ground up

Place resulting crust mixture into bottom of the springform pan and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 15 minutes, then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
40 oz. (5 cups) 3-cheese blend (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon (5 tablespoons altogether) arrowroot
5 eggs

Wrap the pan in foil just before adding the batter (to minimize the foil's disturbance and therefore its leakage risk, do not put it on any earlier).

Next, pour the batter over the crust and bake this cheesecake in a hot water tub at 300 degrees for 115 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then cool the cheesecake down while still in oven (with this oven shut off) and in tub with door slightly ajar for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down at room temperature for another 115 minutes, then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 16

This time, the brand of "1/3 less fat" Neufchatel cheese that I used was Cabot (a well-known cheese "cooperative" from Vermont).

This cheesecake was only slightly more than half consumed at Living Hope (I took the rest home), among a good selection of baked goods. Maybe this was also because a lunch was to follow soon after the church's regular, post-service "coffee hour".
 
Baked Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 17:
 
At times I revisit the taste of "mainstream" (predominantly cream-cheese-oriented) cheesecake. When this happens, I may be moved to try a reformulation for my own, lower-fat alternatives. Less than a few weeks ago, I tried a nice New-York-style cheesecake from Trader Joe's (which I brought to the home of a couple of friends for a Shavuot/Shabbat dinner). Some kind of mellow or sweet taste of the batter, as well as a sweet, not-too-spicy crust flavor, prompted me to give my own basic cheesecake a mid-2017 update: less tartness on the batter (switch some of the yogurt cheese over to cottage), less cinnamon and—hopefully for tastier results—more sweetness on the crust. Here we go!
 
3-Cheese Blend (3CT-1NC-2YG [3 parts cottage cheese, 1 part Neufchatel cheese, 2 parts yogurt cheese]):
Prepare ahead of time 16 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from one 32-ounce container of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 16 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 24 ounces of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese and 8 ounces of softened Neufchatel cheese ("light cream cheese").

Grease a 9 1/2" (or 9") springform pan, but do not wrap foil around it yet (see below).

Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
8 oz. (1 cup) 3-cheese blend (see above)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Place the resulting mixture in the greased pan and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 5-10 minutes, depending on the mixture's thickness (closer to 10 minutes if thin enough to be fully distributed across the pan's bottom by gentle shaking, closer to 5 minutes if thick enough to require spreading out this mixture by pressing on it with a utensil and/or fingers), then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
40 oz. (5 cups) 3-cheese blend (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon (5 tablespoons altogether) arrowroot
5 eggs

Wrap the pan in foil just before adding the batter (to minimize the foil's disturbance and therefore its leakage risk, do not put it on any earlier).

Next, pour the batter over the crust and bake this cheesecake in a hot water tub at 300 degrees for 120 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then cool the cheesecake down while still in oven (with this oven shut off) and in tub with door slightly ajar for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down at room temperature for another 120 minutes, then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 17

This one, which was served on Father's Day 2017 at Living Hope Church (among a modest selection of other refreshments, including a good cake variety), was gone within about ten minutes—perhaps except for one slice, which itself was gone easily within the next five.

So how was this new formulation? The batter seemed to have a hopeful, mellow flavor, except that I sort of picked up a slight, possibly acidic (due to some tartness?) aftertaste. Was I loosing my desire for tartness? As for the crust, it seemed to have an encouraging, mellow taste as well, with the amount of cinnamon being about right (certainly without being overwhelming). I had contemplated increasing the crust's vanilla with this prototype, but I wanted to reduce the cinnamon and boost the sugar (brown, in this case) and try that first—before making any further changes (maybe next time).
 
Baked Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 18:
 
Okay, so I had some concern about the aftertaste in the previous prototype. And my quest to get much closer to that "Trader Joe's" taste would not easily go away. But instead of further reducing the yogurt, I ended up revisiting a particular move that I made with Prototype 8. I remember that its taste was un-disappointingly delicious, but there was a catch—the cheesecake was much too soft!

Since that way-back prototype, I had become more knowledgeable about stabilizers—but Prototype 8 had none! No flour. Not even any arrowroot.

But that prototype did not have any cottage or Neufchatel cheese either—the only cheese used was yogurt.

At least the cottage cheese that I generally had been using in my more recent prototypes, Hood lowfat/no-salt-added—as well as the Neufchatel cheese, primarily Market Basket—contained some stabilizers, which would ultimately compliment the arrowroot I added for the batter.

With that in mind, I decided to take a dare at leaving the arrowroot completely out, leaving the firmness work strictly to the "gum" stabilizers already included in the cottage and Neufchatel cheeses (carob/locust bean, guar and xanthan gums). Due to this being a high-risk test for instability, I have chosen to omit the crust and utilize a pan with a larger area, more specifically the same kind that I used in Prototype 22 of my eggnog cheesecakes.
 
3-Cheese Blend (3CT-1NC-2YG):
Prepare ahead of time 16 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from one 32-ounce container of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 16 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 24 ounces of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese and 8 ounces of softened Neufchatel cheese ("light cream cheese").

Batter:
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
40 oz. (5 cups)* 3-cheese blend (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
5 eggs

Pour the batter into a greased 13" x 9" glass ("Pyrex") pan and bake this cheesecake in a hot water tub at 300 degrees for 100 minutes. Then cool the cheesecake down while still in oven (with this oven shut off) and in tub with door slightly ajar for an hour. Afterwards, remove pan containing cheesecake from tub and oven and let cool down at room temperature for another 100 minutes, then (with cheesecake still in pan) refrigerate.

* Find some other use for the roughly 8 ounces of leftover cheese blend—or otherwise discard (but also see comments below).

Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 18

This Prototype was meant to only be a one-time experiment with a high instability risk. Because of this, the crust was omitted for this one, and a rectangular pan with a much larger surface area than the normal round one (itself at 9 to 9 1/2 inches in diameter) was utilized—in order to reduce the batter's height, thus facilitating the baking. The long-term plan was to reinstate the crust, thus putting the surplus eight ounces of cheese blend back to work. I could have proportionally boosted the three other ingredients for the batter, but this would have increased its height which, in turn, would lead to risking more hindrance in the baking. I wanted to start off this non-arrowroot experimentation with a relatively low thickness.

Fortunately, those eight excess ounces of cheese blend did not go to waste. A great idea entered my mind: Conduct a xanthan gum experiment! I used this stabilizer on a number of recipes in the past, but nearly always with unsatisfactory results (such as for a pecan pie-related concoction). My problem was that I generally underestimated (greatly!) the thickening power of xanthan gum. I would learn that this was one very potent stabilizer—it had overwhelmingly more firming power than wheat-type flours and arrowroot!

So I was cautiously wondering just how low I should go with this thickener. After a little checking around on the Internet, I decided to start off with just 1/4 of a teaspoon of this powerful stabilizer added to my nearly eight ounces of cheese blend, using a blender in the process. I watched for results. The resulting mixture did not yet seem all that thick. Next, I pushed further with a second 1/4 teaspoon. Maybe some signs of thickness were then starting to show (but I could not exactly remember). Finally, I added 1/2 teaspoon more, supposedly with the intent at that point of calling it quits for any further xanthan gum—now at one whole teaspoon altogether. Now I was noticing substantially thick results—in fact, a little too thick, but not disastrously so. I ultimately also added in proportional amounts of granulated sugar (1/4 cup) and vanilla (as reasonably close to 2/5 of a teaspoon as I could get). Due to my plans to taste-test this experimental creation without baking it, I did not add any eggs here (proportionally, one egg would have been called for). I had some regret along the way for not allowing larger intervals of time between my xanthan gum additions (in case of delayed reactions).

But the taste seemed to work out okay, and the thickness, while being (at least what I felt) excessive for baking purposes, was not a disaster in the end. The results would pass for a decent refrigerated dessert, hopefully akin to pudding.

In conclusion for this experiment, I reasoned that I should only use about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of xanthan gum for every 8 ounces of the 3-cheese blend that I was currently working with. That translates to 1 1/4 to 2 1/2 teaspoons of this stabilizer in conjunction with 40 ounces of this cheese blend. That would set up the plans for my next plain prototype (19), with the normal approach—inclusion of the crust and usage of the regular round pan—reinstated.

But how did the
baked Prototype 18 itself fare? I felt that the taste was within a reasonable window between tart and mellow (probably closer to mellow). And I did not pick up any unwanted aftertaste either! This cheesecake was indeed soft, but not as badly as Prototype 8—the already-included stabilizers in the cottage and Neufchatel cheeses did make a difference. Lifting slices out of the rectangular pan was a little sloppy, but hardly runny. However, when I served this one at Living Hope in early July of 2017, this particular cheesecake ended up being one of my relatively "underperforming" ones. A couple of reasons seemed likely. The crowds that gathered there did not seem to be in much of a non-chocolate cake mood (a small, roughly 7- or 8-inch, chocolate-candy-laden one got finished off completely)—there were a couple of decorative (if I remember correctly) white/yellow/vanilla ones that fared even worse than my nearly two-fifths-left cheesecake. The other probable reason was that I already brought another plain cheesecake (i.e., Prototype 17) to this church just two weeks earlier (yawn?).
 
Baked Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 19:
 
Okay, this is it. After my having conducted some thickness experiments with the leftover 3-cheese blend in Prototype 18, the time had come to move on to a new stabilizer for Prototype 19. Looking back at my stabilizer usage history for my cheesecakes, I've come a long way.

I began my cheesecake prototypes with "regular" flour—often known as "white" or "all-purpose" (or perhaps even "white wheat"—but NOT whole wheat). And this flour was probably bleached as well, at least in the earlier days, but hopefully not in later ones. Then I gave "white whole wheat" a try (perhaps "red" was the better known whole wheat, but I could not recall using any red whole wheat flour in any of my cheesecakes). Then I started using arrowroot, while still holding on to whatever "wheat" flour I was using. At some point I reverted to "all-purpose", and by around then, the flour was indeed more on the natural side—no bleaching! I still used the arrowroot alongside the all-purpose flour. Then I retired the wheat-type flour altogether and focused exclusively on arrowroot.

But now would begin a new era in my stabilizer usage for cheesecakes. Arrowroot would be replaced with xanthan gum, the same kind of stabilizer used in many grocery products, including cream cheese. This gum-type powder seemed to be at least six times (perhaps up to twelve times) more powerful than arrowroot. So I had to be careful, lest this latest prototype end up being too rubbery.
 
3-Cheese Blend (3CT-1NC-2YG):
Prepare ahead of time 16 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from one 32-ounce container of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 16 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 24 ounces of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese and 8 ounces of softened Neufchatel cheese ("light cream cheese").

Grease a 9 1/2" (or 9") springform pan, but do not wrap foil around it yet (see below).

Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
8 oz. (1 cup) 3-cheese blend (see above)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Place the resulting mixture in the greased pan and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 5-10 minutes, depending on the mixture's thickness (closer to 10 minutes if thin enough to be fully distributed across the pan's bottom by gentle shaking, closer to 5 minutes if thick enough to require spreading out this mixture by pressing on it with a utensil and/or fingers), then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
40 oz. (5 cups) 3-cheese blend (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/4 teaspoons xanthan gum
5 eggs

Wrap the pan in foil just before adding the batter (to minimize the foil's disturbance and therefore its leakage risk, do not put it on any earlier).

Next, pour the batter over the crust and bake this cheesecake in a hot water tub at 300 degrees for 120 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then cool the cheesecake down while still in oven (with this oven shut off) and in tub with door slightly ajar for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down at room temperature for another 120 minutes, then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 19

So what was the outcome with this new stabilizer? Upon removing the cheesecake from the oven, I noticed a particular jiggle that I could not recall with the other stabilizers used in my earlier cheesecakes. And upon further handling of this prototype and noticing a bit more softness than I wished for, I reasoned that I should aim higher on the xanthan gum for next time (as for Prototype 19, I aimed for a relatively minimal amount).

But the taste was superb (or certainly at least in my own opinion)! It seemed to have that "commercial", "fattening" tinge to it, not the subtle inferior tinge(s) that I could best recall having typically picked up in my earlier flour/arrowroot-containing plain prototypes. (Hey, what can you expect with a stabilizer that has been a staple in commercial cream/Neufchatel cheeses?) This cheesecake, served in early August of 2017 among a modest selection of desserts and other snacks at Living Hope Church, was gone in what seemed to be less than ten minutes.
 
Baked Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 20:
 
So I reasoned that I needed more stabilizer—xanthan gum in this case. I considered increasing this substantially—to a good two teaspoons, until my experience with Prototype 23 of my eggnog cheesecakes moved me to back down a little.

I also noticed that the top surface of my last plain-flavored prototype seemed to have a slightly overdone appearance on it. Okay, that was my take with some scattered brownish spots. But that prompted me to reduce the baking time, and I felt that this would be okay since I was planning to raise the xanthan gum by 40% in the latest prototype presented here.

I also decided that it would be a reasonably safe idea to stick with a room temperature cooldown time of two hours as a frequent standard, even if the cheesecake was to be baked for a shorter time than that (beforehand, I often matched the room cooldown time to the oven-turned-on baking time).
 
Repeat Prototype 19, but for the batter, boost the xanthan gum by 1/2 teaspoon, to 1 3/4 teaspoons.
Also, bake this cheesecake in tub for only about 110 minutes, rather than 120 (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then cool it down in the oven (shut off at this point), door slightly ajar, for an hour—just like the previous prototype. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down at room temperature. But do this for 120 minutes (instead of only 110), then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 20

Upon removal from the oven, this cheesecake seemed to have hopefully less jiggle than its previous plain prototype, although brown spots still showed up. Maybe that came with my usage of xanthan gum. Or perhaps I could get away with even less baking time when using this relatively new stabilizer. I wasn't sure at this point.

But the taste was great, and so was the texture, which itself was not too soft. It seemed to be firm enough, yet hardly "rubbery". I brought this treat to the 2017 Labor Day cookout ("babbecue" as I sometimes like to call it) at The Home Depot, where a number of my fellow associates (including the store manager, Christina, and at least one assistant store manager, Jim, and probably another, Travis) had some of it. Upon my checking about three hours after bringing this cheesecake into the staff area, it was about 2/3 gone. I headed home while leaving the rest for others to enjoy later on.
 
Baked Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 21:
 
The careful fine-tuning with the xanthan gum continues! I wanted to do what would hopefully be the final plain cheesecake of my 2017 basic overhaul that I began back in the spring with Prototype 17. Perhaps 1 1/4 teaspoons of this stabilizer came up a little too short, but 1 3/4 teaspoons turned out to be sufficient—but in this case I had to really crank up the blender that I was using in order to fully incorporate the xanthan gum. I had fears about burning out the motor by maxing out the blender too much.

So how about a compromise at 1 1/2 teaspoons?

But I also wanted to get rid of those somewhat unappealing brown spots on top of the cheesecake. Could I get away with greatly reducing the baking time?

Let's give this a try!
 
Repeat Prototype 20, but for the batter, reduce the xanthan gum by 1/4 teaspoon, to 1 1/2 teaspoons.
Also, bake this cheesecake in tub for only about 90 minutes, rather than 110 (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then cool it down in the oven (shut off at this point), door slightly ajar, for an hour—just like the previous prototype. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down at room temperature, doing so for 120 minutes (not 90), then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 21

The brown spots were greatly diminished on this one, hopefully even to my satisfaction.

As expected, Prototype 21 had a nice taste to it. And I felt that the batter was still firm enough as well. This cheesecake ended up being nearly 5/6 gone perhaps close to an hour after it was served at Living Hope Church (among a small selection of snacks, mainly Munchkins from Dunkin' Donuts). But I ended up heading out of the church while leaving the remaining cheesecake for others to enjoy later on.

With this mid-September cheesecake turning out as best as I could hopefully make it, this would wrap up my basic cheesecake overhaul of 2017. Next: Apply the results to other cheesecake flavors—starting with chocolate (coincidentally, Prototype 21 on that flavor).
 

-------------------------------------------------------

Baked Eggnog Pumpkin Cheesecake—Prototype 1:
 
This one combines a couple of popular late autumn flavors. It was after doing some backtrack research, including on the third prototype of my combination Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake, that my plans came together for the eggnog-pumpkin combo provided here. The highlights included relatively large amounts of cottage cheese, flour and lemon juice (in many ways similar to the chocolate-peanut butter counterpart). Some adjustments were made to the brown sugar, rum extract and nutmeg as well.

In light of my being concerned about the crust being too soggy, I tried a new approach with it—I "pre-baked" it a little, before adding any batter on top.
 
Eggnog Crust:
1/2 cup (8 oz.) whipped lowfat cottage cheese, no salt added
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon rum extract
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 cup light eggnog
2.2 oz. finely ground Bran Buds

Pour (or press) into the pan, getting this crust evenly distributed. Next, refrigerate for about half an hour, or until slightly firm. Afterwards, bake at 300 degrees for 10 minutes (no bath at this point—just put the pan directly on the rack), then remove from oven and cool down slightly (until the pan is no longer too hot to the touch—about 5 minutes).

Pumpkin Batter:
2 tablespoons melted or softened butter
4 oz. pumpkin butter
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup skim milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/8 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups (20 oz.) whipped lowfat cottage cheese, no salt added
2 eggs

Turn oven up to 325 degrees. Add the pumpkin batter on top of the crust. Then put the foil on the pan (no earlier—less foil disturbance means less leakage risk) and place into a hot bath. Bake for about 30 minutes. Tip: When handling the pan-foil assembly at this point, lift it by the pan's rim, not by the foil (let the foil cling to the pan's rim—optionally, you can also position your fingers to hold the foil in place, but do not put pressure on it to lift the entire pan—otherwise, the foil may tear).

Eggnog Batter:
2 tablespoons butter, softened or melted
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon rum extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups (20 oz.) whipped lowfat cottage cheese, no salt added
2 cups of light eggnog
7/8 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs

Carefully scoop this on top of the pumpkin batter, turn oven down to 300 degrees and resume baking for about 100 minutes.

Eggnog Pumpkin Cheesecake—Prototype 1 (whole) Eggnog Pumpkin Cheesecake—Prototype 1 (slice)

When I added the eggnog batter on top of the pumpkin, I was already suspecting a problem. As I scooped the eggnog batter, it seemed to be sinking into the partially-baked pumpkin batter, leading me to reason that a 30-minute head start was too short. Because of this "sinkage" concern, I suspected the eggnog batter to be too dense compared to its pumpkin counterpart (I took a chance, after careful consideration beforehand, on the densities being the other way around). Nevertheless, the batters came out separated (hopefully) the way I intended, at least visually, when the slices were cut.

To my surprise, however, I felt that the pumpkin flavor was too weak overall for this combination cheesecake—but the eggnog presence was fine (its strength easily blew away the pumpkin's).

Furthermore, despite a total batter cooking time of a record 130 minutes (30 minutes head start for the pumpkin batter, another 100 minutes after adding the eggnog batter), the whole thing turned out what I felt to be too soft (hopefully not runny, but still too limp).

Ideas quickly came into my mind for the next prototype. Should I make the crust pumpkin-flavored instead of eggnog? Should I increase the baking time? How about more of a head start for the pumpkin batter? Should I use more flour in both batters? To add more flour would be somewhat tricky, because the overall height of this combo cheesecake was already within about 1/4" of the top of the pan (and this ended up as one heavy cheesecake). Thanks mainly to the two cups of eggnog for the batter, the height of its resulting layer was considerably higher than that of the pumpkin batter's.

Still, this combination was another big hit during a November "potluck" at Living Hope Church.

Starting with this prototype, I began switching over my flour, from all-purpose to whole white wheat (which has been said to be about as good nutritionally—or at least have about as much fiber—as the more traditional whole red wheat, yet have a taste about as mild as the oh-so familiar all-purpose). All-purpose was actually in the majority for the recipe here, as I simply finished this flour off and then used the whole white wheat to "close the gap". For those who are curious about more details, I went from Pillsbury all-purpose (in my earlier cheesecakes) to King Arthur organic (!) all-purpose (for a small handful of cheesecakes) to King Arthur organic whole white wheat.
 
Baked Eggnog Pumpkin Cheesecake—Prototype 2:
 
Yes, switch the crust from eggnog to pumpkin. In fact, increase the pumpkin's batter and reduce the eggnog's, because the eggnog itself has made the height of its respective batter very high in the previous prototype (close to double that of the pumpkin batter). So let's get these layers more balanced. Yes, also increase the baking time for the whole cheesecake, as well as the head start for the pumpkin batter. However, the overall height of this recipe has gotten too close to the top of the pan. So instead of adding more flour, let's see if the increased cooking time can firm up the batter a little (due to batter re-allocation, let's shift some of the flour as well). Add more pumpkin flavor. Exclude the milk from the crust (I probably should have already done this in the first prototype, due to the high amount of cottage cheese there, but I do not think that the idea grasped my mind at that point).

Much of the pumpkin-related plans for this prototype is derived from
Baked Pumpkin Cheesecake—Prototype 3, while the eggnog batter gets a few small tweaks.

Overall, there are quite a few changes. Just follow the directions below.
 
Pumpkin Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
2 oz. pumpkin butter (such as from Trader Joe's)
1 cup (8 oz.) whipped lowfat cottage cheese, no salt added
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2.2 oz. Bran Buds, ground up

Pour (or press) into the pan, refrigerate for about half an hour (at least), then bake at 300 degrees for 15 minutes (no bath), then remove from oven and cool to touch.

Pumpkin Batter:
2 tablespoons melted or softened butter
5/8 cup granulated sugar
8 oz. pumpkin butter
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup skim milk
1/2 cup flour (whole white wheat, such as King Arthur)
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups (24 oz.) whipped lowfat cottage cheese, no salt added
2 eggs

Turn oven up to 325 degrees. Add pumpkin batter on top of crust. Put on foil, place into hot bath. Bake for about 40 minutes.

Eggnog Batter:
2 tablespoons butter, softened or melted
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon rum extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups (16 oz.) whipped lowfat cottage cheese, no salt added
2 cups of light eggnog
3/4 cup flour (whole white wheat, such as King Arthur)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs

Carefully scoop this on top of the pumpkin batter, turn oven down to 300 degrees and resume baking for about 120 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool for 3 hours before removing from pan, then refrigerate (at least for a few hours, allowing the cheesecake to get more firm).

Eggnog Pumpkin Cheesecake—Prototype 2 ("For Your Information"/"Scan me!")

This prototype, I feel, came out hopefully a little more firm, but still not as firm as I really wanted. Still, I do not think the cheesecake limped too much. I still had doubts about the eggnog batter staying on top after I scooped it over the pumpkin at the end of its "head start". At least I could taste the pumpkin flavor better this time around. This was still not easy for me to do, probably because my taste buds were losing some sensitivity. But a friend close to my age could pick up both flavors more easily. Maybe I was getting too old. Nevertheless, I felt that I should leave this combination cheesecake unchanged at this point. Maybe someday I'll retry this recipe with more flour if I get a taller cheesecake pan.

As usual, this recipe was a big hit at Living Hope.
 
Baked Eggnog Pumpkin Cheesecake—Prototype 3:
 
Nearly a year had passed since I prepared Prototype 2 of this cheesecake. For Prototype 3, there would be plenty of changes. Among them would be usage of the 9 1/2" Frieling pan (but would it have enough capacity?) and a blend of yogurt cheese. More specifically, this 2012 update would be largely influenced by the latest pumpkin and eggnog prototypes up to this point (Prototype 5 and Prototype 17, respectively). I also chose to go with a plain crust (same formulation as used in Prototype 10 of my plain cheesecakes, but with the size and pre-bake time doubled). Furthermore, the pumpkin batter would go on top of the eggnog one.
 
2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 2 pounds of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 16 ounces (1 pint) of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
1 cup (8 oz.) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 2/3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2.2 oz. Bran Buds, ground up

Pour this crust mixture into pan (9 to 9 1/2 inches) and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 10 minutes, then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Eggnog Batter:
2 tablespoons butter, softened or melted
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 cups (16 oz.) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup arrowroot
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon rum extract
2 cups light eggnog
2 eggs

Turn oven up to 325 degrees. Add eggnog batter on top of crust. Put on foil, place into hot bath. Bake for about 40 minutes.

Pumpkin Batter:
2 tablespoons melted or softened butter
5/8 cup granulated sugar
3 cups (24 oz.) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons arrowroot
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 oz. pumpkin butter
2 eggs

Carefully scoop this on top of the eggnog batter, turn oven down to 300 degrees and resume baking for about 120 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then cool down while still in oven (with this oven shut off) and in tub with door slightly ajar for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down at room temperature for another 3 hours, then remove from pan and refrigerate (at least for a few hours, allowing the cheesecake to get more firm).

Eggnog Pumpkin Cheesecake—Prototype 3

Just as I feared, the Frieling pan's height fell short of providing the capacity that I needed for this huge cheesecake (the older pan that I used the previous year, while somewhat smaller in diameter, was considerably taller). But things weren't way too bad. I ended up with about 1/3 of a cup of extra pumpkin batter (perhaps I should have had a cupcake wrapper or two handy). But this was the first time that I maxed out on the 9 1/2" Frieling.

Frieling pan's capacity maxed out
9 1/2" Frieling springform pan, all maxed out. Got height?

At least the entire eggnog batter, 16 ounces of eggnog and all, was able to fit (sort of tightly) into one of the smaller (6" diameter) metal mixer bowls that I had, but that was with only 16 ounces of the yogurt-cottage cheese blend (rather than 20 ounces). But that still spared me from having to settle for a much bulkier (at least for the dishwasher), large-sized mixer bowl (about 8 1/4" in diameter).

The cheesecake was very delicious, and I was able to pick up both the eggnog and pumpkin flavors (the eggnog more easily). However, it looked like the pumpkin batter sunk lower into, and displaced, quite a bit of the eggnog batter, pushing it upwards. So while the outside of this prototype looked the way that I intended, it was somewhat "marbled" inside, at least in some places. Somebody at Living Hope Church thought
that was my intent (maybe it was Eric, i.e., Mary Beth's husband—this is the same couple who gave me some cookie dough from the previous Christmas, and I used that gift to make a chocolate chip cookie dough cheesecake).

Eggnog pumpkin cheesecake slice, more marbled Eggnog pumpkin cheesecake slice, less marbled
The slices varied, some more "marbled" than others.

I served this prototype at this church on the Sunday before Thanksgiving 2012. The gathering in the fellowship hall was not one of those nearly once-every-month-or-two luncheons (read: big dessert competition), but there was still at least a good handful of alternatives (including sweet ones) to my cheesecake. Despite that, Pastor Gene gave me the news probably about 15-20 minutes after my dessert was served. The cheesecake was
gone...already (and this was one of my biggest)! This Beverly Nazarene church has been loving my cheesecakes more and more lately. Thank you, all! Living Hope has been my favorite taste test lab for a long time at this point.
 
Baked Eggnog Pumpkin Cheesecake—Prototype 4:
 
Flip the two batters—go back to putting the eggnog on top of the pumpkin, just like in the first two prototypes. It seemed like the pumpkin batter was denser than the nog's.

Furthermore, reasoning that the pumpkin flavor was somewhat lagging behind, I decided to bump up the pumpkin butter by an extra ounce as well.

But what about the excessive amount of batter?

Got cupcake wrappers? See below.
 
2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 2 pounds of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 16 ounces (1 pint) of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
1 cup (8 oz.) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 2/3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2.2 oz. Bran Buds, ground up

Pour this crust mixture into pan (9 to 9 1/2 inches) and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 10 minutes, then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Pumpkin Batter:
2 tablespoons melted or softened butter
5/8 cup granulated sugar
3 cups (24 oz.) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons arrowroot
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
9 oz. pumpkin butter
2 eggs

Turn oven up to 325 degrees. Add pumpkin batter (all of it) on top of crust. Put on foil, place into hot bath. Bake for about 40 minutes.

Eggnog Batter:
2 tablespoons butter, softened or melted
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 cups (16 oz.) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup arrowroot
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon rum extract
2 cups light eggnog
2 eggs

Carefully scoop this on top of the pumpkin batter, filling up the springform pan within its capacity (set aside any remaining eggnog batter). Then turn oven down to 300 degrees and resume baking for about 120 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Next, cool down while still in oven (with this oven shut off) and in tub with door slightly ajar for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down at room temperature for another 3 hours, then remove from pan and refrigerate (at least for a few hours, allowing the cheesecake to get more firm).

As for any remaining eggnog batter (which will probably not be much), grab a few baking cups, pour the batter into them, bake these cupcake-style eggnog cheesecakes at 300 degrees for about 50 minutes (go ahead, put them in the same oven as the big cheesecake, but don't bother immersing them in a tub), cool for about 50 minutes afterward, chill for a least a few hours—and enjoy!

Eggnog Pumpkin Cheesecake—Prototype 4

There were some new lessons to be learned from this prototype.

Carefully scoop, as much upper batter as you can, onto the lower batter, before "dumping" (or pouring, with greater pressure) the rest of the upper onto the lower. It looks like I took the suspected higher density of the pumpkin batter too much for granted. I started off by scooping small amounts of the eggnog batter until the entire pumpkin surface was coated. Then, because of the oven's heat—and my desire to avoid "baking" my skin—I ditched the scoop and outright poured the remaining destined-for-the-pan (i.e., to capacity) eggnog batter on top. Unfortunately, the deceptively gentle-looking stream of batter burst the pumpkin surface, causing much of it to erupt and float upward. There's got to be a better way—without burning myself! Up to this point, the upper batter layer addition has been done at the oven (rack pulled somewhat forward for easier access), because I felt that pulling the whole assembly out (tub, hot water, springform pan, etc.) would be too much of a hassle (bulky, heavy, big risk of boiling hot water spill). Instead, how about wearing an oven mitt? Too clumsy, I feared—too much risk of dropping the scoop. And I was more used to reaching bare-handedly into the blender's pitcher. I did not want to accidentally touch its inside with a bulky, possibly dirty mitt.

Tentative future proposal: Take the whole thing out of the oven anyway, and carefully get it to a comfortable place. With the hot tub water that's a tough task! I would simply have to start off with a shallower bath when beginning the baking with the lower batter layer. After scooping on at least a "safe buffer" amount of the upper batter (but allowing for a safe "anti-spill/carry-back-to-oven" margin from the top of the springform pan) in a comfortable place—and carefully transferring the entire bath assembly back to the oven—I could fill the hot water bath to the max. At that point, I would hopefully also be able to, still with some care (not too fast now!), pour (not scoop at this point) any remaining upper batter to fill the pan, the pitcher being held at its handle at this point by a mitt-covered hand. But would the batter dribble back along the pitcher on me if I poured it too slowly? I would have to be on the lookout for that one.

The other lesson learned was that I had enough leftover eggnog batter for 4 cupcakes.

One particularly surprising outcome was that despite the amount of changes from the previous prototype among the two batters being supposedly very small, the pumpkin batter greatly exceeded the eggnog on this prototype—whereas the opposite was true in the previous prototype. In other words, the shift between the two batter amounts was much more than I expected (I was anticipating a result much closer to a 50/50 split). Better break out the ruler for next time!

This cheesecake fared okay at Living Hope. There was about a quarter of it left. But there were plenty of other refreshments served, particularly pastries, and the crowds were not so big.

While I felt that the taste was good, the cheesecake seemed to be too soft. Cutting this one into wedge-shaped slices resulted in too many messy tips. The eggnog batter in particular was too "mooshy". It wasn't that this layer turned out to be badly unstable. But I felt that in the future I should go back to putting the eggnog layer on the bottom and giving it a lot more baking time (perhaps an hour before scooping on the pumpkin). Other considerations: Increase overall cooking? Increase arrowroot (at least for the eggnog batter)? Use a different stabilizer, such as xanthan gum (after all, the "store bought" cream cheeses seemed to typically include this ingredient, often with guar gum and locust bean gum—but
not arrowroot)?
 
Baked Eggnog Pumpkin Cheesecake—Prototype 5:
 
The outcome of Prototype 1 of my chocolate eggnog cheesecake, plus other cheesecake refinements throughout 2013, would influence the latest eggnog pumpkin prototype presented here.
 
2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 2 pounds of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 16 ounces (1 pint) of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
8 oz. (1 cup) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Pour this crust mixture into pan (9 to 9 1/2 inches) and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 10 minutes, then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Eggnog Batter:
2 tablespoons melted or softened butter
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon rum extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups (20 oz.) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 cups light eggnog
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/8 cup arrowroot
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs

Wrap the pan in foil, and pour the eggnog batter on top of the crust, no higher than halfway from the crust's surface to the top of the pan (if there is any excess batter, use it to make "cupcakes", baking these at 300 degrees for 50 minutes using a bath arrangement—or use this batter together with a good pancake mix to make pancakes). Then place this pan in a tub—filled only about halfway, or about half an inch, with boiling water. Bake all this at 325 degrees for about 60 minutes. Then take the whole pan-and-tub setup out of the oven, and carefully get it to a comfortable place. Promptly add the pumpkin batter as indicated below.

Pumpkin Batter:
2 tablespoons melted or softened butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups (20 oz.) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
7 oz. pumpkin butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons arrowroot
2 eggs

Carefully scoop this on top of the eggnog batter and return the pan-and-tub setup to oven, this time at only 300 degrees, and add more hot water to the tub (at this point, go ahead and fill it all the way). Bake for about 120 more minutes.

Turn oven off, leaving cheesecake in it (still in tub as well), with the door slightly ajar, for another 60 minutes.

Remove cheesecake from oven and tub and let cool in its pan at room temperature for another 120 minutes.

Afterwards, remove cheesecake from pan and refrigerate.

Eggnog Pumpkin Cheesecake—Prototype 5

The top ended up being very dry and cracked. Note for next time—cut the pumpkin batter's baking time!

But this cheesecake went very fast. About 90% of it seemed to be gone in roughly 10 minutes, the rest about half an hour later. It was served among a modest selection of sweets and other snacks at Living Hope.
 
Baked Eggnog Pumpkin Cheesecake—Prototype 6:
 
The changes for this December 2014 update are nearly trivial, compared to the previous prototype (just a little more vanilla in the crust and re-adjusted baking times for the two batters).
 
2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 2 pounds of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 16 ounces (1 pint) of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
8 oz. (1 cup) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Pour this crust mixture into pan (9 to 9 1/2 inches) and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 10 minutes, then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Eggnog Batter:
2 tablespoons melted or softened butter
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon rum extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups (20 oz.) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 cups light eggnog
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/8 cup arrowroot
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs

Wrap the pan in foil, and pour the eggnog batter on top of the crust, no higher than halfway from the crust's surface to the top of the pan (for suggestions on what to do with any excess batter, see Prototype 5 of this cheesecake). Then place this pan in a tub—filled slightly more than halfway, or about 3/4 of an inch, with boiling water. Bake all this at 325 degrees for about 60 minutes. Next, lower the temperature to 300 degrees and continue baking for another 15 minutes. Then take the whole pan-and-tub setup out of the oven, and carefully get it to a comfortable place. Promptly add the pumpkin batter as indicated below.

Pumpkin Batter:
2 tablespoons melted or softened butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups (20 oz.) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
7 oz. pumpkin butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons arrowroot
2 eggs

Carefully scoop this on top of the eggnog batter and return the pan-and-tub setup to oven, still at 300 degrees, and add more hot water to the tub (at this point, go ahead and fill it all the way). Bake for about 105 more minutes. After that, turn oven off, leaving cheesecake in it (still in tub as well), with the door slightly ajar, for another 60 minutes. Next, remove cheesecake from oven and tub and let cool in its pan at room temperature for another 120 minutes. Afterwards, remove cheesecake from pan and refrigerate.

Eggnog Pumpkin Cheesecake—Prototype 6

The baking time modifications paid off, as the pumpkin layer's top turned out nicely this time.

By the time I reached the fellowship hall at Living Hope Church—roughly 5 minutes after a Sunday morning worship service in late December of 2014 (4 days before Christmas, to be more exact)—there was only about 1/4 of this cheesecake left (it was served among a modest snack selection). All of it ended up being devoured within, what seemed to be to me, about 15 minutes. I was glad—and fortunate enough—to get one delicious slice before the whole thing disappeared.
 

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WE INTERRUPT THIS RECIPE SCRAPBOOK TO BRING YOU...

An unexpected FedEx delivery!


Okay, what happened was...on the morning of the day before my 53rd birthday, I heard sounds of what seemed to be a box "drop" and a scanner "beep" near my front door. Without opening this door, I simply glanced out of a window and spotted a FedEx truck in front of my house. I afterward took in this box, which bore an Amazon.com logo. Before long, I was guessing this "Saturday Delivery" package to be something from my brother (and his household) in California. It was a good guess.

I opened the box and found three wrapped presents.

The package The contents

A note was attached to each wrapped item.

Book: The 50 Best Cheesecakes in the World Book: The Best Make-Ahead Recipe

The first gift was a book, The 50 Best Cheesecakes in the World, which came with this note: "Happy Birthday Joel. Love Eric, Jean, Meg and Becca." (i.e., my brother, his wife and their two daughters). The next gift was also a book, The Best Make-Ahead Recipe, along with this note: "Happy Birthday Joel. This is for your Cheesecake habit. Check page 370. Other items will arrive later. Love Eric, Jean, Meg and Becca." On Page 370 itself, in addition to containing a recipe for New York-Style Cheesecake, there was a top recommendation for a particular springform pan—so guess what the third gift was?

Frieling 9-inch springform pan Amazon envelope

That's right! The third gift was that Page 370 endorsement, a Frieling 9" springform pan, with—OMS (OhMySurprise)!—a glass bottom!! Now that was certainly a different kind of cheesecake pan! The accompanying note said, "Happy Birthday Joel. This is also for your cheesecake habit. Love Eric, Jean, Meg and Becca."

The Amazon package also contained an envelope which said "keep your gift a surprise"/"unwrap your present before opening this envelope". Figuring that following this sequence would optimize my unpacking experience, I obediently opened my three presents first, including reading their respective accompanying notes. I then anticipated that the envelope would contain some kind of follow-up message from Eric, Jean, Meghan and Rebecca which they would want me to read specifically after unwrapping my presents. Actually, the envelope's contents turned out to be a packing slip, describing the three enclosed wrapped items. But I could still see the reason for accessing this envelope last—discover the identity of each gift upon unwrapping it, not upon viewing the packing slip! Okay, Amazon.com! Will do (and so I complied)!

And so the cheesecake journey rawks on! Thank you, Eric, Jean, Meghan and Rebecca!

And now, back to the Recipe Scrapbook!
 

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Baked Cookies+Creme Cheesecake—Prototype 1
 
Some may use other names for a cheesecake like this. How about this one: <name_of_this_kind_of_recipe> ::= {"Baked " (("Cookies" ("-n-" | " [']n['] " | " and " | "-and-") ("Cream" | "Creme" | ("Cr" <egrave> "me"))) | "Oreo") " Cheesecake"}. Well, if John Backus and/or Peter Naur (of "BNF", or "Backus-Naur Form", fame) were involved with cheesecakes, perhaps this is how they would express it.

The crust here is identical to that used in Prototype 13 of the chocolate cheesecake and Prototype 3 of the chocolate-peanut butter combo. A suggested variation that I thought up here was to substitute about 8 finely ground chocolate sandwich cookies for the 2.2 ounces of Bran Buds. But I wanted to maintain my high fiber approach. The batter matches that of
Baked Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 4, except that chocolate sandwich cookies are added here.

As for the chocolate sandwich cookies themselves, I could have gone with the oh-so-familiar Nabisco Oreo cookies. For this recipe, I chose instead to use "Joe-Joe's" from Trader Joe's, due to my more natural preferences (but just about any chocolate sandwich cookie should do, so pick a favorite).

Cookies+Creme Cheesecake—Prototype 1 (with Frieling springform pan's first run)

The Frieling springform pan that I got as a gift made its debut with this prototype. One of things that I discovered was, despite this pan claiming a 9" size, I have found it to be more like 9 1/2".
 
Crust:
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted
1 1/3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 cup (8 oz.) lowfat cottage cheese, whipped, no salt added
3/8 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla (next to last ingredient here)
2.2 oz. Bran Buds, ground up

Batter:
2 tablespoons melted or softened butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup skim milk
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/3 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups (20 oz.) lowfat cottage cheese, whipped, no salt added
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
12 chocolate sandwich cookies, crushed (add this last, and mix enough to get it blended in)

Bake in a tub at 300 degrees for about 100 minutes.

Cookies+Creme Cheesecake—Prototype 1 (whole) Cookies+Creme Cheesecake—Prototype 1 (with a slice)

I felt that I might have crushed the cookies somewhat too much. I placed 12 of these into a small plastic bag and used only my hands to do the crushing (no rolling pin or other kitchen "tools" were used). With the sandwich creme all over the bag's inside, it was a challenge to get as much of the contents as possible out of this bag and into the batter. Even though this prototype's taste was delicious, I felt that the batter's texture at the outer edge of the cheesecake was a bit too dry or "crusty". I also noticed scattered faint cracks. So I suspected that a 100-minute baking time was too long.

Nevertheless, this one did alright during fellowship time at Living Hope Church.
 
Baked Cookies+Creme Cheesecake—Prototype 2

Repeat Prototype 1, but boost the batter's sandwich cookies by 4, to 16. Also, cut the baking time to only about 90 minutes.
 
Again, I used Joe-Joe's from TJ's for this one. I would have to admit, however, that their taste differed from that of the Oreo cookies. I performed a cookie taste test and felt that the Oreos tasted noticeably sweeter, this difference likely being linked to the creme filling in the middle—hardly because of the chocolate cookie "outsides".

For this prototype, I crushed the Joe-Joe's much less. Instead of putting these into a bag and extensively mashing them (and afterward blending them into the batter by machine for a fairly long time), I broke—by hand—each cookie into a few chunks and dropped them directly onto a still batter in a blender (after having combined all the other ingredients, including the eggs). I then ran the blender, likely with the intent of doing so for only about 10 seconds (at the slowest speed), in order to get the cookie pieces reasonably distributed. To my surprise, the broken cookies quickly got blended into the batter, giving it nearly as much of a brown appearance as my previous prototype—a coloring effect that I had hoped to avoid—all within a few seconds, after which I immediately shut the blender off. I made a mental note to fold in the cookies strictly by hand (with a utensil such as a scraper or spatula) for future prototypes.

However, the cookies still turned out chunkier than last time. The batter still ended up with some cracks, in light of the reduced baking time. Yet this tasty cheesecake ended up being a much bigger success (gone in a surprisingly short time) at Living Hope than the first prototype.
 
Baked Cookies+Creme Cheesecake—Prototype 3:
 
I wanted a natural sandwich cookie product that tasted like those oh-so-famous Oreos. For this prototype, I gave the Newman's Own brand—Newman-O's (original)—a try.
 
Repeat Prototype 2, but upon adding the crushed cookies, make sure that they are only folded into the batter. Keep that blender, mixer, or whatever food processor is used, shut off at this point! Then transfer all this to the pan.

Cookies+Creme Cheesecake—Prototype 3

What a difference the fold-only approach makes! However, the Newman's seemed to taste just like Joe-Joe's (which, I suspected, may have been Newman-O's themselves, packaged under the Trader Joe's label, until I realized many weeks later—through nutrition and ingredient label comparisons—that there were considerable differences).

I brought this to the Italian Community Center in Beverly, to which Lesa's dart team transferred—in early 2012—after a number of years of being based out of the Sports Page. The cheesecake fared well at the ICC. However, Steve commented about this one—and other cheesecakes that I have previously made—being too dry (nevertheless, he still loved this cheesecake). But this did not surprise me, considering the fact that this was a relatively low-fat recipe (and the already dry cookies would only absorb more moisture out of the batter). Laurie (Lesa's cousin), while feeling that the crust was fine, provided some suggestions for the batter:

1) Add lemon zest (to me, that would be lemon "peel"), about 1/4 teaspoon.
2) Add a "splash" (about 1/8 teaspoon) of lime juice.
3) Use Hydrox cookies.
4) Replace at least some of the cottage cheese with cream cheese (about 6 ounces).
She furthermore suggested using stevia, one of the newest sweeteners on the market, a natural sugar substitute with hardly any calories.

I felt reserved about some of her suggestions—the probability of artificial ingredients in Hydrox cookies, the relatively high-fat characteristic of cream cheese and—in my experience—the insufficiently sweet taste of stevia. Furthermore, based upon some Internet research, it seemed that Kellogg's (home of the Bran Buds from the All-Bran line!), the owner of Keebler/Sunshine Biscuits, which in turn had put out Hydrox in the past, retired this cookie (it was reportedly brought back for a limited time around 2008). Neither was there hope for "Droxies", a updated replacement for Hydrox.

Anyway, I felt that it was time to give another natural/organic brand of chocolate sandwich cookies a try, this one being Nature's Promise. I conducted a taste test between this one and genuine, Nabisco Oreos. What was the outcome (this happened to be on a "Friday the 13th" BTW)? I could
not really detect a difference in taste...I have finally found my desirable kind of cookies—classic Oreo-style taste, all-natural ingredients (this product was even "organic"—that was a bonus)!

Now for those of you interested in these particular cookies, you may or may not have to seek out yet another alternative. It depends on where you buy your groceries. I was fortunate enough to obtain this product,
Nature's Promise Organic Chocolate Cookies with Vanilla Cream, from a Stop & Shop supermarket in my area. If you do not live in Stop & Shop territory, but still have access to another grocery chain owned by Ahold USA (corporate parent not only of Stop & Shop, but also Giant of Carlisle, PA, Giant of Landover, MD, and Martin's), there's a good chance that you can pick up these same cookies, given that Nature's Promise is Ahold's private natural/organic brand. Best wishes ("good luck" as some say)!

So I made another instance of Prototype 3, but this time I used Nature's Promise. This cheesecake got devoured very quickly at a Living Hope Church meal (although there wasn't much of a selection of other desserts on this particular occasion). I became concerned, however, about the dryness in regard to the cookies.
 
Baked Cookies+Creme Cheesecake—Prototype 4:
 
This one is an effort to make the cookies turn out more moist.
 
Repeat Prototype 3, but make up a mixture of 1/2 cup of skim milk and 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar, and soak the cookies—lightly broken up—in this mixture, until the chocolate outer cookies soften. Then fold all this into the cheesecake batter before baking. (Note that the milk for this "soaking" mixture is in addition to the 1/2 cup already used in the batter. So one full cup of milk is used altogether for this recipe. In fact, if it becomes difficult getting all the cookies moistened, at least some of the 1/2 cup of milk intended directly for the batter could instead be shifted to the cookie mixture.)
 
I used the Nature's Promise cookies here. I also learned that in order to make the soaking process go smoothly for nearly 16 cookies, I would need a bigger container than a pint (perhaps more like 3 to 4 cups in size). Another lesson learned was to avoid crumbling the cookies too much, if they were going to be soaked. In trying to break each cookie into no less than four pieces, I ended up with a cheesecake that had an appearance that was somewhere between Prototypes 1 and 3 (whereas I preferred chunkier, Prototype 3 results).
 
Baked Cookies+Creme Cheesecake—Prototype 5:
 
The quest was on to improve on the cookies. I came up with a new idea on how to soak them.

At this point, I made a major change for the batter, and—to some degree—for the crust as well. I replaced the cottage cheese with yogurt cheese for this cookies+creme prototype after having experimented beforehand with some plain cheesecakes (see
Baked Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 7 for more details). I also made some further adjustments, particularly in boosting the sugar. Among other things to be noted here: no milk (except to soak the cookies), lemon juice or arrowroot used.
 
Crust:
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted
1 1/3 tablespoons cocoa powder
8 oz. yogurt cheese (half of it lowfat, the other half nonfat)
3/8 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2.2 oz. Bran Buds, ground up

Batter:
2 tablespoons melted or softened butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
20 oz. yogurt cheese (half of it lowfat, the other half nonfat)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs

Cookie Mixture:
16 chocolate sandwich cookies, broken preferably in halves (at least make a reasonable effort here)
1/2 cup skim milk

Fill a resealable ("Ziploc") sandwich or 1-quart bag with the 16 cookies and 1/2 cup skim milk. Seal this bag and shake it to distribute the milk and moisten the cookies. Refrigerate for a few hours. Then add this to the batter before baking.

Bake the cheesecake in a tub for about an hour at 300 degrees. Cool it down afterwards for about 90 minutes before refrigerating.

Cookies+Creme Cheesecake—Prototype 5

At first, the bagged, milk-soaking approach seemed like a great idea. But after a few hours of letting this sit in the refrigerator, the bag's contents turned to a chocolate "mush". Anyway, I tried to make the best of this outcome by distributing this "mush" throughout the cheesecake batter before baking.

I was also moved at this point to perform another comparison test between the Oreo and Nature's Promise brands, because the Oreo cookies on a previous try seemed to have absorbed some mint flavor due to being stored in a container which also had, from what I best recall, a package of chocolate-covered mints. In that earlier test, I reasoned that the two brands still had close enough tastes, apart from the mint interference. The more recent test would be a cleaner comparison.

I ended up concluding that as long as I thoroughly combined the chocolate cookie outsides and the inner cremes together, the tastes were hopefully close enough for me to be unable to tell the difference. In fact, with my eyes closed, I incorrectly guessed (likely the majority of times) which brand I was eating. However, in comparing the outer cookies, I felt that Nature's Promise's was a little sweeter. On the other hand, I felt that the Oreo's inside creme was a little sweeter than that of Nature's Promise. Perhaps with the right amount of sugar-shifting between the outer cookie and inner creme of one brand, its taste could indeed be very indistinguishable from the other brand's. My conclusion at this point: mix the cookie and creme together in each brand's case (at least inside the mouth), and the amount of overall sweetness hopefully evens out between Oreo and Nature's Promise.

I made this cheesecake for Lesa's friend Steve, in celebration of his 60th birthday. This prototype ended up faring nicely at the Italian Community Center in Beverly, where the occasion took place. The chocolate sandwich cookies, I felt, gave this recipe a really nice taste.

However, on the heels of Prototype 7 of my plain cheesecake—and my ongoing quest to improve the flavor of the plain batter, I felt that the batter of my latest cookies+creme prototype, apart from the cookies, still had that "ho-hum" tinge. Karen, among those at Steve's party, suggested cutting down on the flour (she also discussed with me some red velvet tips).
 
Baked Cookies+Creme Cheesecake—Prototype 6:
 
A lot of things have changed since Prototype 5. Among them were refinements for my plain cheesecakes, the 10th prototype of which would be a major influence in the latest cookies+creme prototype presented here.

Unfortunately, as I started looking into this one, I was confronted by a surprising absence of Nature's Promise Organic Chocolate Cookies with Vanilla Cream from the shelves of Stop & Shop. I tried at least a second store. Then I finally made a customer service inquiry, only to be given the bad news that this product had not shipped for a while, at least to the location where I asked. The clerk there suspected discontinuation on this cookie and chocolate chip varieties as well (which further disappointed me, because Nature's Promise Natural Chocolate Chip Cookies had been a chocolate "fix" for my brother Eric—of California—during his visits here in Massachusetts). I tried at least 3 additional Stop & Shops, but to no avail. Just when I thought I had a terrific sandwich cookie to work with, I did not even have a whole year to enjoy it! Now I was faced with a void. Trader Joe's and Newman's Own weren't as sweet as the Oreos. But I already had three other natural brands lined up as potential replacements.

Country Choice was the first candidate for this new round. Its taste seemed less salty compared to the Oreos, so I felt that Country Choice was not an ideal replacement. But if I had to choose between the "less sweet" taste of Trader Joe's/Newman's Own and the "less salty" taste of Country Choice, I would have gone with the latter. After all, the chocolate sandwich cookie, at least to me, certainly belonged more in the "sweet" category than in the "savory" one.

The next candidate here was Back To Nature. I ended up feeling a lot happier about this one. I was actually wavering between whether or not I could tell "BTN" and Oreo apart—I hoped not! I could not truly discern whether one was sweeter than the other. Neither could I differentiate on the saltiness. I strived to be "blind" about this comparison. But the Oreo brand was crunchier. BTN was softer. But this kind of "feel" didn't matter to me. I was only interested in the flavor for this test, not the firmness. But that difference made it very hard for me to guess blindly. I strived to chew both brands in ways that would hopefully stop my mouth from detecting the differences in firmness (in my quest to prevent identifying the brands this way).

If I could incorrectly guess the brand by flavor in enough test bites, that would hopefully lead to sufficient grounds to determine that I could not sufficiently differentiate the flavors between two brands. I managed perhaps only two wrong guesses. If it weren't for the difference in firmness, I probably would have gotten more incorrect guesses—which I sought! That was the goal. If I were, on the other hand, to keep on correctly identifying which brand I just tasted, that would fail to support my hopes for the inability to detect flavor differences.

Not long after this BTN-Oreo evaluation, I was moved to try a sample Country Choice cookie. I ended up concluding that this brand was indeed more distant than Back To Nature was, from the Oreo taste. That easily made Back To Nature my top running candidate to replace Nature's Promise.

I still had one more candidate to evaluate. This was "365", a private brand from Whole Foods Market. Like Back To Nature, 365 was hard for me to distinguish from Oreo. 365 seemed to have more crunch than BTN, but not as much as Oreo. Still, this helped me to more "blindly" compare the flavors. I was able to make three incorrect identification guesses here. But I still suspected some minor differing tinges with 365, although I likely detected these in BTN as well.

I became curious about what 365 and Back To Nature were like compared directly to each other, so I did a brief flavor test here. It was hard to tell the difference. I was able to obtain one incorrect identification guess, although this was a small test, involving only about one-third of the number of cookies that I used in each of the three "candidate" evaluations indicated above (i.e. Oreo vs. natural brand).

Again, I tasted Country Choice shortly after experiencing 365. Country Choice remained easily distinct, with which my mouth suspected an inferior taste. Sorry, Country Choice, I am afraid that I cannot "offer you the position" at this time. It was looking like a tie between Back To Nature and Whole Foods 365 at this point. I also tried a quick but visible comparison between the chocolate cookie outsides of these two latter brands. I failed to find any taste differences here.

It could very well end up that if I wanted to use a natural substitute for Oreo, either of these two brands would work reasonably well—in fact, hopefully well enough to rival the supposedly retired Nature's Promise, since I suspected that there might have, in fact, been a trivial tinge difference there as well, hopefully not too much smaller than that of Back To Nature or 365.

So over the course of probably a little more than one year, I have "pitted" six natural brands of chocolate creme sandwich cookies against Nabisco's Oreo, and I have found half of them to be more or less satisfactorily close in flavor to this popular (but not so natural) reference classic that has billed itself as "America's Favorite Cookie".

Nevertheless, I felt that I could have done more justice in the Oreo vs. Back To Nature evaluation if only the Oreos did not crunch like a Marshall stack. So what I did was chill some Oreo cookies, then steam them a little in hopes of building some condensation on them, allowing plenty of time for this moisture to sink a little into these cookies in order to somewhat soften them. It seemed to work, and in a downsized BTN-Oreo test, I accomplished an incorrect identification guess.

I also performed a even smaller test with 365. For some reason, I now picked up some kind of notable differing tinge with that brand. I could not recall a differing tinge nearly this significant with Back To Nature, except that I got a little suspicious earlier in that rematch about Oreo having a little more saltiness. But when I further tried looking out for a saltier taste in Oreo compared to Back To Nature, I did not succeed. Maybe my taste buds were still "warming up" earlier. I wasn't sure.

But it was that very faint tinge from 365 in this rematch round that would finally lead me to select Back To Nature as the winner, narrowly edging out Whole Foods Market's 365. But the sheer faintness of this runner up's tinge made it a very close competitor. This was close enough that if Back To Nature were to discontinue its chocolate sandwich cookies, I would highly likely be content to utilize 365, rather than seeking out additional natural brands. But I ended up choosing BTN for Prototype 6.

Furthermore, several weeks after making this prototype, I ended up performing inner-creme-only and outer-cookie-only comparison tests between Oreo and Back To Nature. I hardly made any big effort to perform incorrect-guessing attempts. I simply went back and forth, somewhat blindly, between the two brands and hoped that I could not detect any differences in tastes. I ended up failing to really notice any flavor distinctions. That was a bonus! Even Nature's Promise presented taste differences with Oreo upon my comparing the inner cremes alone and upon my comparing the chocolate cookie outsides alone (as explained in Prototype 5). If I could not even detect these "component" differences between Back To Nature and Oreo, that would certainly give Back To Nature a noteworthy advantage over Nature's Promise. This outcome thus greatly reduced my lament for Stop & Shop's discontinuance of its natural offering.

So in wrapping up this quest to fill the void left by Nature's Promise, I would be using Back To Nature in my cookies+creme cheesecakes. 365 would be my future backup, should the chocolate sandwich cookies from BTN come to an end.
 
2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 1 pound of yogurt cheese, derived from one 32-ounce container of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 16 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 8 ounces (1 cup) of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Crust:
2 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted
2 teaspoons cocoa powder
4 oz. (1/2 cup) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1.1 oz. Bran Buds, ground up

Batter:
2 tablespoons melted or softened butter
5/8 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/3 tablespoons arrowroot
1/4 teaspoon salt
20 oz. (2 1/2 cups) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs

Cookie Mixture:
1/4 cup skim milk
1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar
16 chocolate sandwich cookies (such as Back To Nature Classic Creme Cookies), broken preferably in halves (at least make a reasonable effort here)

Blend the milk and 1/2 tablespoon of sugar together. Place the cookies in a resealable ("Ziploc") sandwich or 1-quart bag, then add the milk-and-sugar mixture to it. Close the bag and shake it to distribute the wet mixture and moisten the cookies. Let this sit for about 1 or 2 minutes. Then add the contents to the batter before baking.

Bake the cheesecake in a tub at 300 degrees for 60 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan), cool (outside of oven and tub) for an hour, remove from pan and refrigerate (adding a border of chocolate chips on top of the cheesecake, while it is warm, is a suggested option).

Cookies+Creme Cheesecake—Prototype 6 (with Back To Nature Classic Creme Cookies)

The wording on the Back To Nature packaging was a pleasant sight, including "No Artificial Preservatives, Flavors, or Colors" and "All Natural Cookie with Dutched Cocoa". But I seemed to especially enjoy the clause "No High Fructose Corn Syrup" (I didn't need some kind of compromising sugar substitute, thankyouverymuch)!

On another matter, however, I was very surprised at how quickly the cookies became too mushy (although not as badly as in Prototype 5) even after an extremely short amount of time soaking in the bag with the milk-and-sugar mixture. Maybe I should have immediately unloaded these cookies into the batter, rather than let them sit in the bag (even if only for a minute). Why, then, did the unsoaked cookies back in Prototype 3 end up seeming too dry? It quickly dawned on me that the Newman-O's used at that time may have been fairly crunchy in their initial form, just like Oreo. Back To Nature, on the other had, had considerably less crunch to begin with. So this brand's relative softness may have rendered the soaking unnecessary in my pursuit of a moist enough outcome for chocolate sandwich cookies after baking (hence my plan for next time if using BTN).

I made this cheesecake to bring to my cousin Rachel's family in Vermont, letting her daughter Lily select this chocolate sandwich cookie flavor months ahead of time. This one didn't last long. She, along with her sister, Mya, and brother, Peter, anxiously dug into it, beginning on a Saturday afternoon, and this cheesecake was gone by the following Sunday evening (they couldn't even resist this dessert at breakfast time on Sunday!), and I myself did not get much of this to eat—but it was very tasty.
 
Baked Cookies+Creme Cheesecake—Prototype 7:
 
No cookie soaking this time! I also doubled up the recipe (and gave the arrowroot a slight additional boost to bring that ingredient to a more-rounded 3 tablespoons) for a church lunch.
 
2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 32 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers (that's 64 ounces altogether) of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine one 16-ounce container of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Crust:
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted
1 1/3 tablespoons cocoa powder
8 oz. (1 cup) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
3/8 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2.2 oz. finely ground Bran Buds

Batter:
4 tablespoons melted or softened butter
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons arrowroot
1/2 teaspoon salt
40 oz. (5 cups) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs

Cookies:
32 chocolate sandwich cookies (such as Back To Nature Classic Creme Cookies), broken preferably in halves

Pour the batter on top of the crust. Do not pre-soak the cookies. Simply add them, broken up, directly to the batter before baking.

Bake the cheesecake in a tub at 300 degrees for 105 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then cool the cheesecake down while still in oven (with this oven shut off) and in tub with door slightly ajar for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down at room temperature for another 105 minutes (if desired, add a border of chocolate chips while cheesecake is still warm), then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Cookies+Creme Cheesecake—Prototype 7

I think this one came out a little overdone, at least on some of the cookies exposed at the top. Perhaps I should have taken a two-layered approach, such as first baking a lower layer with all the cookies in it for a while, then adding a small "reserved" amount of "cookie-less" batter on top (just enough to cover the cookies sticking up through the top of the lower layer) for later baking. The baking times that I chose here were based largely on Prototype 5 of my pumpkin cheesecakes. But it may have been that the cookies themselves, due to their relative dryness, reduced the baking times that I actually needed for a cookies+creme cheesecake.

With so many cookies overwhelming the top of the cheesecake, I ended up deciding not to add a chocolate chip border. In fact, the cookies tended to float upward, thus dominating the upper part of this dessert. The "cheese" batter was largely driven downward. I also suspected that maybe I was using too many cookies—and that I should therefore cut them back next time—despite my probable feelings of using too
few of them back in Prototype 1.

I served this cheesecake at one of Living Hope's "communion dinners" (one of those nearly once-a-month meals enjoyed shortly after morning services). The weather was snowy that day with a few inches of flakes, so the turnout was reduced, but not all that badly. There was still plenty of food and desserts served, and I suspected that the snow-related reduction in people present would probably leave me with close to half of a cheesecake. To my surprise, there ended up being just two slices left, which Bill, a leader of this church's Loaves and Fishes ministry, took home (by the way, I gave him a ride back to his place on that day).

I commented to probably at least a couple of people about the cookies tending to float to the top, but at least one person liked the cheesecake that way—with a crunchy top. But another person commented about this prototype
not tasting (or hardly tasting) like cheesecake (she easily picked up on the taste of the cookies)! So it was, indeed, time for me to cut those cookies back.

At least I myself did not find the cookies to be too dry, at least underneath the surface. But I felt that not only was a cookie reduction in order for next time (revert from 32 to 24 of them, or in the case of a "single" size, from 16 to 12?). I also had to come up with an extensive layering plan if I wanted to get more cookies settled towards the bottom.
 
Baked Cookies+Creme Cheesecake—Prototype 8:
 
In light of my trying to get a more even distribution of cookies throughout the batter, I actually took a four-layered approach with Prototype 2 of my chocolate chip cookie dough cheesecake. That concept is utilized in the latest chocolate sandwich cookie prototype presented here. As for how many cookies to use this time, instead of picking a number like 32 or 24, I decided to simply use an entire single package of the Back To Nature cookies, which would give me a number somewhere in between (I counted 29—I expected a multiple of 3, due to the packaging's 3 rows—maybe a minor fluke occurred).

I remembered one person commenting on the deficiency of the cheesecake-like taste in Prototype 7. I myself felt that more tartness was needed. This led me to make an all-yogurt-cheese plain cheesecake (see
Baked Plain Cheesecake—Prototype 11 for further info), the taste of which ended up being terrific—the tartness, in particular, not being excessive. That approach is used in Prototype 8 here. Even though this one contains chocolate, it's in the form of cookie pieces. I reasoned that while a fully-blended, chocolate-flavored batter would probably be best with a lower-tartness cheese base (such as a 2-to-1 yogurt-cottage blend), a plain-flavored batter with bits of a chocolate sort should be on the higher-tart side. This was due to how the bite of a chunky type of cheesecake would break down inside the mouth. A batter with scattered chunks in it did not quite have the same taste effect as its fully-homogenized counterpart. So, instead of an eater trying to enjoy a single, collective flavor when chewing, he/she was apt to experience multiple distinctive tastes. Conclusion: let the taster enjoy the cookie and the "cheese-i-ness", each in their own right.

I also felt that, starting with this particular cheesecake, some changes were in order for the chocolate crust.

It seemed that my more recent batters have become so good, that they were putting the crusts to shame. I was starting to reason that the chocolate should be a little more bittersweet. Given that the crust's taste hopefully appeared (at least to me anyway) to be more than sweet enough, I decided to simply add a little more cocoa powder.

It was also time to give some thought to the Bran Buds. Why have I been using 2.2 ounces? Why not a more rounded 2??

This "2.2" was derived from a system of measurement going back to my earlier Bran Buddies recipes. This Kellogg's product was sold in 17.7 ounce boxes. In order to make better use of these boxes, I was somehow moved to use simple fractional amounts. When I began experimenting with my Bran Buddy bars, they needed close to half of a box. If I were to stick with precisely half of a box, I could easily make two batches. If I measured out half the box for one recipe, I would afterward have the remaining half pre-measured for a future recipe. If I made a double-sized batch, I could simply open and use one entire box. This led me to specify 8.8 ounces for a typical single-sized batch. Half of 17.7 was actually 8.85, but I simply rounded that to 8.8 (if I ended up using 8.9 "leftover" ounces in the next recipe, the .1 ounce difference was too trivial). In light of my wanting fiber in my cheesecake crusts, I felt that I would make extensive use of the Bran/Hifi Buddy formulas, reducing them by simple fractions. This resulted, among other things, in 8.8 ounces being divided by 4, and 2.2 was what I came up with.

For this latest prototype, I felt that cutting down a little on this high-fiber "flour base" would somehow contribute toward making the crust more tasty (yet without too much sacrifice on the fiber). Another thing that I noticed lately was that I was needing more effort in distributing the crust throughout the pan. This was likely due to whipped cottage cheese being less thick than yogurt cheese, and I have been shifting more and more from the former towards the latter these days. So using less of the ground-up Bran Buds would, hopefully, result in the crust mixture becoming a little more easily spreadable again.
 
Yogurt Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 3 pounds of yogurt cheese, derived from three 32-ounce containers of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 48 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference.

Crust:
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
8 oz. (1 cup) yogurt cheese (see above)
3/8 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 oz. finely ground Bran Buds

Place all this into a 9 or 9 1/2 inch springform pan.

Batter:
4 tablespoons melted or softened butter
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons arrowroot
1/2 teaspoon salt
40 oz. (5 cups) yogurt cheese (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs

Cookies:
1 package, a 12-ounce size or—if package is a different size—12 ounces, of chocolate sandwich cookies, broken preferably in halves (Back To Nature Classic Creme Cookies are recommended—not only for their great, all-natural taste, but these were found in 12-ounce packages)

Expect about 7 cups of the resulting batter, but do not add this to the pan all at once. Rather, this needs to be done in five installments. Wrap the pan in foil just before adding the first installment. Minimize the foil's disturbance in order to minimize its leakage risk.

For each of the first four installments, add about 1 1/2 cups of batter and one fourth of the cookies to the pan. There is no need to be exact—evenly distributing the cookies is the intent here. Because of this, use extra care in the later installments when adding contents (i.e., do it gently) to the pan. Ensure that the cookies are fully coated, and immersed as much as possible. After adding the installment, bake the pan with its contents for 15 minutes. For each of the first three installments, bake at 325 degrees. For the fourth installment, reduce the temperature and bake at 300 degrees. For all four installments here, bake with the pan in a tub filled with at least 1/4 to 1/2 inch of boiling water, but (to reduce spillage risks) do not fill the tub all the way at this point, because the whole tub-and-pan assembly is going to need to be removed from the oven (in order to comfortably add contents to the pan) between installments.

After all this is done, there should be about a cup of batter but no cookies remaining, with 60 minutes of baking time reached at this point (15 minutes for each of the first four installments). Now comes the fifth installment—carefully add the last of this batter on top of the pan's other contents. Try to fully coat the entire surface, especially wherever cookie pieces may be showing. Next, return the entire pan-and-tub assembly to the oven. At this point, fill up the tub generously with boiling water. Resume baking at 300 degrees for another 55 minutes (based upon usage of a 9 1/2" pan).

Afterward, shut the oven off, and leave its door slightly ajar, with the cheesecake still inside—and in the tub—for an hour. Next, remove the cheesecake from the oven and tub, and—if desired—add a border of chocolate chips around the edge of this cheesecake. Continue to cool it down at room temperature for another two hours. After doing so, remove the cheesecake from pan and refrigerate.

Cookies+Creme Cheesecake—Prototype 8 Cookies+Creme Cheesecake—Prototype 8 (sliced)

I was happy with the way the cookies got distributed. The taste of Prototype 8 was great. I felt that even the crust was an improvement, with a nice tartness, yet hopefully still sweet enough. I did have a little concern about there remaining too many cookies, but perhaps only a few too many—I could still pick up some nice cheesecake flavor.

And, as typical at Living Hope Church these days, the whole thing was gone quickly enough (probably within half of an hour), among a moderate selection of snacks.
 
Baked Cookies+Creme Cheesecake—Prototype 9:
 
This latest prototype's changes include, among other things, replacing Bran Buds with regular All-Bran and omitting the salt.

The Back To Nature chocolate sandwich cookies, as used in my latest cookie+creme cheesecakes (at least up to this point), have done well in filling the void resulting from the discontinuance of the Nature's Promise version by Stop & Shop. But as I mentioned in Prototype 6, I was also disappointed about that brand of chocolate chip cookies being cut off as well. But the day after I baked my 9th prototype presented here, I spotted those cookies at Stop & Shop again, and that made me happy for my brother Eric's sake.
 
Yogurt Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 3 pounds of yogurt cheese, derived from three 32-ounce containers of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 48 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference.

Crust:
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
8 oz. (1 cup) yogurt cheese (see above)
3/8 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 oz. finely ground All-Bran

Pour this crust mixture into bottom of greased springform pan (9 to 9 1/2 inches) and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 10 minutes, then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
4 tablespoons melted or softened butter
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons arrowroot
40 oz. (5 cups) yogurt cheese (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs

Cookies:
Chocolate sandwich cookies (with vanilla creme centers), about 2 dozen (Back To Nature Classic Creme Cookies recommended)

Expect about 7 cups of the resulting batter, but do not add this to the pan all at once. Rather, this needs to be done in five installments. Wrap the pan in foil just before adding the first installment. Minimize the foil's disturbance in order to minimize its leakage risk.

For each of the first four installments, gently scoop about 1 1/2 cups of batter into the pan. Add about 6 cookies (don't bother breaking them up—keeping them whole is fine and, in fact, recommended), ensuring that they are fully coated and—as much as possible—immersed. After adding an installment, bake the pan with its contents for 15 minutes. For each of the first three installments, bake at 325 degrees. For the fourth installment, reduce the temperature and bake at 300 degrees. For all four installments here, bake with the pan in a tub filled with at least 1/4 to 1/2 inch of boiling water, but (to reduce spillage risks) do not fill the tub all the way at this point, because the whole tub-and-pan assembly is going to need to be removed from the oven (in order to comfortably add contents to the pan) between installments.

After all this is done, there should be about a cup of batter left, with 60 minutes of baking time reached at this point (15 minutes for each of the first four installments). Now comes the fifth installment—carefully add the last of this batter (do not add any more cookies at this point) on top of the pan's other contents. Try to fully coat the entire surface, especially wherever cookie pieces may be showing. Next, return the entire pan-and-tub assembly to the oven. At this point, fill up the tub generously with boiling water. Resume baking at 300 degrees for another 55 minutes (based upon usage of a 9 1/2" pan).

Afterward, shut the oven off, and leave its door slightly ajar, with the cheesecake still inside—and in the tub—for an hour. Next, remove the cheesecake from the oven and tub, and—if desired—add a border of chocolate chips around the edge of this cheesecake. Continue to cool it down at room temperature for another two hours. After doing so, remove the cheesecake from pan and refrigerate.
 
This was another great success at Living Hope Church. Only a couple of slices were left, and I took those home.
 
Baked Cookies+Creme Cheesecake—Prototype 10:
 
It seemed like a very long time since I last made a cookies+creme cheesecake. I had done a lot of cheesecake refinements in general since then, and the latest prototype presented here is based on my major cheesecake batter overhaul of 2015.
 
3-Cheese Blend (1CT-1NC-4YG):
Prepare ahead of time 32 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers (that's 64 ounces altogether) of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 8 ounces of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese and 8 ounces of softened Neufchatel cheese ("light cream cheese").

Grease a 9 1/2" (or 9") springform pan, but do not wrap foil around it yet (see below).

Crust:
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted
3/8 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
8 oz. (1 cup) 3-cheese blend (see above)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 oz. finely ground All-Bran

Place the resulting mixture in the greased pan and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 5-10 minutes, depending on the mixture's thickness (closer to 10 minutes if thin enough to be fully distributed across the pan's bottom by gentle shaking, closer to 5 minutes if thick enough to require spreading out this mixture by pressing on it with a utensil and/or fingers), then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
40 oz. (5 cups) 3-cheese blend (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon (5 tablespoons altogether) arrowroot
5 eggs

Cookies:
Chocolate sandwich cookies (with vanilla creme centers), about 2 dozen (Back To Nature Classic Creme Cookies recommended)

Expect about 7 cups of the resulting batter, but do not add this to the pan all at once. Rather, this needs to be done in five installments. Wrap the pan in foil just before adding the first installment (to minimize the foil's disturbance and therefore its leakage risk, do not put it on any earlier).

For each of the first four installments, gently scoop about 1 1/2 cups of batter into the pan. Add about 6 cookies (don't bother breaking them up—keeping them whole is fine and, in fact, recommended), ensuring that they are fully coated and—as much as possible—immersed. After adding an installment, bake the pan with its contents for 15 minutes. For each of the first three installments, bake at 325 degrees. For the fourth installment, reduce the temperature and bake at 300 degrees. For all four installments here, bake with the pan in a tub filled with at least 1/4 to 1/2 inch of boiling water, but (to reduce spillage risks) do not fill the tub all the way at this point, because the whole tub-and-pan assembly is going to need to be removed from the oven (in order to comfortably add contents to the pan) between installments.

After all this is done, there should be about a cup of batter left, with 60 minutes of baking time reached at this point (15 minutes for each of the first four installments). Now comes the fifth installment—carefully add the last of this batter (do not add any more cookies at this point) on top of the pan's other contents. Try to fully coat the entire surface, especially wherever cookie pieces may be showing. Next, return the entire pan-and-tub assembly to the oven. At this point, fill up the tub generously with boiling water. Resume baking at 300 degrees for another 80 minutes (based upon usage of a 9 1/2" pan).

Afterward, shut the oven off, and leave its door slightly ajar, with the cheesecake still inside—and in the tub—for an hour. Next, remove the cheesecake from the oven and tub, and—if desired—add a border of chocolate chips around the edge of this cheesecake. Continue to cool it down at room temperature for another two hours. After doing so, remove the cheesecake from pan and refrigerate.

Cookies+Creme Cheesecake—Prototype 10

Again, Lily, my cousin Rachel's daughter, requested this flavor. It was my pleasure to present her with this latest update (and a vast improvement over Prototype 6, which I made for her in the past) during my March 2016 visit. This "creamy" (as described by Lily and/or her sister Mya) cheesecake was enjoyed by Rachel's family, especially by her two daughters and her son Peter—and was gone in only about 48 hours!
 

-------------------------------------------------------

Baked Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (MBD) Cheesecake—Prototype 1:
 
At my church, I got a delicious Christmas gift from the Doane family—a big package of cookie dough. This wasn't the first time that Mary Beth gave me some cookie dough. But with this recent gift, a great idea came into my head—how about a cookie dough cheesecake? The ingredient list for the recipe here is similar to those of the cookies+creme cheesecakes, except that, of course, cookie dough is used instead of sandwich cookies.

(The 9.5-inch Frieling pan was used here.)
 
Christmas gift from Doane family
(Still plenty of dough left!)

Crust:
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted
1 1/3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 cup (8 oz.) lowfat cottage cheese, whipped, no salt added
3/8 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2.2 oz. Bran Buds, ground up

Batter:
2 tablespoons melted or softened butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup skim milk
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/3 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups (20 oz.) lowfat cottage cheese, whipped, no salt added
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs

Take 10 oz. of uncooked chocolate chip cookie dough, and cut it into small pieces (1/2 inch is perhaps a good maximum size, but don't cut them too small either—otherwise, it may be difficult to really enjoy the cookie chunks). Fully immerse these into the batter as—and after—it is gradually poured into the pan.

Next, wrap some foil onto the pan, and bake all this in a tub at 300 degrees for about 90 minutes.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake—Prototype 1 (whole) Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake—Prototype 1 (slice)

This kind of cheesecake has probably gotten one of the best debuts of all time in my cheesecake "prototyping" history, at least up to January 2012. I could not foresee any further modifications specific to this flavor—no "Prototype 2" needed! The texture was just right. I earlier had some kind of fear of possibly underbaking the batter and thus getting runny or limp results, but this batter was firm enough. It wasn't overbaked either—no dry "crusty" effect at this cheesecake's outer edge! (I had to remember that I was using a 9 /12" pan, not 9"—otherwise, the batter would have been close to 10% thicker, and roughly another ten minutes of baking time would have likely been needed.) This dessert cut beautifully, and the batter's taste had a nice balance between the cookie dough and the "main" (or "cheesey") part.

This was also, as far as I can remember, the quickest disappearing cheesecake that I ever provided at Living Hope Church, up to this point.

What a hit! Thank you, Mary Beth (and Eric too) for the cookie dough (which I also used, by the way, to make pancakes the next morning—thus marking the first time in my life, as far as I can remember, that I enjoyed chocolate cookie dough pancakes—see
Additional Trader Joe's Buttermilk Pancake & All Purpose Baking Mix notes in this recipe scrapbook for more details). This is your cheesecake as well.
 
Baked Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (DMB) Cheesecake—Prototype 2:
 
No, that "DMB" is not a typo. I used the "MBD" in the previous prototype in honor of the woman who gave me the cookie dough for that one. "DMB" is explained below.

It had been over a year since I made my first chocolate chip cookie dough prototype. For this more recent one, the batter would be nearly doubled, and some refinements (in working with other cheesecake flavors) over the past year would be utilized also. But instead of doubling the amount of cookie dough itself as well, I felt that it would be easier to match the size of a package of refrigerated dough from a grocery store (I used "DeMoulas" Market Basket—hence the "DMB" designator—the "More for Your Dollar" grocer enjoyed by me, Mary Beth and many other acquaintances). The size used here was 16 ounces. So whereas Prototype 1 included 10 ounces, Prototype 2 would get 16 instead of 20. But I did not think that this 20% reduction would make too much of a difference. Furthermore, a border of chocolate chips would help make up for Prototype 2's decrease in dough (I did not include such a border for Prototype 1).
 
Market Basket Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough—All Natural, No High Fructose Corn Syrup

2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 32 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers (that's 64 ounces altogether) of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine one 16-ounce container of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Crust:
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted
1 1/3 tablespoons cocoa powder
8 oz. (1 cup) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
3/8 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2.2 oz. finely ground Bran Buds

Place all this into a 9 or 9 1/2 inch springform pan.

Batter:
4 tablespoons melted or softened butter
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons arrowroot
1/2 teaspoon salt
40 oz. (5 cups) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs

Expect the resulting amount of batter to be about 7 cups.

Cookie Dough:
1 16-ounce package of chocolate chip cookie dough.

Cut this uncooked dough into reasonably little (but not too small!) pieces (perhaps about half-inch-sized).

Pour, on top of the crust, about 1 1/2 cups of the batter. There is no need to be exact here, but the intent is to ultimately get the dough pieces more evenly distributed throughout the height of the cheesecake (rather than their floating all the way to the top or sinking all the way to the bottom).

Next, fully immerse a quarter of the cookie dough into this batter. Then bake this, in a tub (in order to reduce spillage risks with water, don't use too much of it at this point, because the whole tub-and-pan assembly is going to need to be taken out of the oven a few times), at 325 degrees for 15 minutes.

Afterward, remove the tub-and-pan assembly from the oven and promptly add (carefully!) about another 1 1/2 cups of batter. Fully immerse the next quarter of cookie dough as well. Return all this to the oven for another 15 minutes.

Repeat this procedure for the third additions (same sizes as the first two) of the batter and cookie dough (make sure that there is still some hot water in the tub—otherwise, add some).

Do likewise with the fourth addition. Upon doing so, there should be about 1 cup of batter left (and roughly 6 cups already poured into the pan), but all the cookie dough should be in the pan at this point. However, when the cheesecake is returned to the oven for this fourth installment of 15 minutes, lower the temperature to 300 degrees.

After the fourth installment (and 60 minutes of baking time at this point), remove the assembly from the oven and top off the cheesecake with the remaining batter (about 1 cup). Try to fully coat the entire surface, especially wherever cookie pieces may be showing.

Then return all this to the oven, still at 300 degrees. At this point, fill up the tub generously (with boiling water). Resume baking for another 60 minutes (based upon usage of a 9 1/2" pan).

Afterward, shut the oven off and let the cheesecake cool down while it is still in there and in the tub, with the oven's door slightly ajar, for an hour. Afterwards, remove the cheesecake from the oven and tub, and add a border of chocolate chips around the edge of this cheesecake. Continue to cool it down at room temperature for another couple of hours. After cooling, remove the cheesecake from pan and refrigerate.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake—Prototype 2

Delicious...and gone in about half an hour, at Living Hope Church!

But I myself had some difficulty tasting the cheesecake flavor and cookie dough, and I suspected this was due to some mild respiratory problems in the back of my mouth and/or somewhere in my throat. But others who I asked enjoyed this cheesecake. If only my medical issues did not hinder my enjoyment!
 
Baked Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake—Prototype 3:
 
Let's give a springtime 2014 update for this flavor! One of the features here is much larger pieces of cookie dough (actually, whole cookies, somewhat like my recent cookie sandwich type cheesecakes).
 
Yogurt Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 3 pounds of yogurt cheese, derived from three 32-ounce containers of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 48 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference.

Crust:
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
8 oz. (1 cup) yogurt cheese (see above)
3/8 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 oz. finely ground All-Bran

Place this crust mixture into the bottom of a greased springform pan (9 to 9 1/2 inches) and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 10 minutes, then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
4 tablespoons melted or softened butter
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons arrowroot
40 oz. (5 cups) yogurt cheese (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs

Cookie Dough:
1 16-ounce package of chocolate chip cookie dough, separated into 24 pieces (many packages are already like this, i.e., portioned to make 24 cookies).

Expect about 7 cups of the resulting batter (of course, that's before adding any cookie dough), but do not add this to the pan all at once. Rather, this needs to be done in five installments. Wrap the pan in foil just before adding the first installment (no earlier than that—minimize the foil's disturbance in order to minimize its leakage risk).

For each of the first four installments, gently scoop about 1 1/2 cups of batter into the pan. Add about 6 cookie dough pieces (don't bother breaking them up—keeping them whole is fine and, in fact, recommended—but if the pieces have a tall, chunk-like form, flatten them into cookie-like shapes), ensuring that they are fully coated and—as much as possible—immersed. After adding an installment, bake the pan with its contents for 15 minutes. For each of the first three installments, bake at 325 degrees. For the fourth installment, reduce the temperature and bake at 300 degrees. For all four installments here, bake with the pan in a tub filled with at least 1/4 to 1/2 inch of boiling water, but (to reduce spillage risks) do not fill the tub all the way at this point, because the whole tub-and-pan assembly is going to need to be removed from the oven (in order to comfortably add contents to the pan) between installments.

After all this is done, there should be about a cup of batter left, with 60 minutes of baking time reached at this point (15 minutes for each of the first four installments). Now comes the fifth installment—carefully add the last of this batter (do not add any more cookie dough at this point) on top of the pan's other contents. Try to fully coat the entire surface, especially wherever cookie dough pieces may be showing. Next, return the entire pan-and-tub assembly to the oven. At this point, fill up the tub generously with boiling water. Resume baking at 300 degrees for another 55 minutes (based upon usage of a 9 1/2" pan).

Afterward, shut the oven off, and leave its door slightly ajar, with the cheesecake still inside—and in the tub—for an hour. Next, remove the cheesecake from the oven and tub, and—if desired—add a border of chocolate chips around the edge of this cheesecake. Continue to cool it down at room temperature for another two hours. After doing so, remove the cheesecake from pan and refrigerate.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake—Prototype 3 (whole) Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake—Prototype 3 (slice)

Again, I used Market Basket Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough for this one.

And this time, I could readily taste the cookie dough! Of course, I picked up the cheesecake flavor itself as well. There was no respiratory interference. But I also felt that forming the cookie dough in larger pieces made a helpful difference as well.

This cheesecake, served among a modest selection of snacks, was gone in probably about 20 minutes (one of my fastest disappearing cheesecakes!) at Living Hope Church, on Mother's Day 2014.
 
Baked Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake—Prototype 4:
 
This one was my first cheesecake of 2017. It was also my first cookie dough update in more than two and a half years. A lot has changed since then, especially the batter. But with this prototype, I also felt that I would try something very new—make the chocolate crust with milk chocolate chips, instead of semi-sweet (although I still used those for the border on top).
 
3-Cheese Blend (1CT-1NC-4YG):
Prepare ahead of time 32 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers (that's 64 ounces altogether) of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 8 ounces of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese and 8 ounces of softened Neufchatel cheese ("light cream cheese").

Grease a 9 1/2" (or 9") springform pan, but do not wrap foil around it yet (see below).

Crust:
4 oz. milk chocolate, melted
3/8 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
8 oz. (1 cup) 3-cheese blend (see above)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 oz. finely ground All-Bran

Place the resulting mixture in the greased pan and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 5-10 minutes, depending on the mixture's thickness (closer to 10 minutes if thin enough to be fully distributed across the pan's bottom by gentle shaking, closer to 5 minutes if thick enough to require spreading out this mixture by pressing on it with a utensil and/or fingers), then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
40 oz. (5 cups) 3-cheese blend (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon (5 tablespoons altogether) arrowroot
5 eggs

Cookie Dough:
1 16-ounce package of chocolate chip cookie dough, separated into 24 pieces (many packages are already like this, i.e., portioned to make 24 cookies).

Expect about 7 cups of the resulting batter (not including any cookie dough, of course), but do not add this to the pan all at once. Rather, this needs to be done in five installments. Wrap the pan in foil just before adding the first installment (to minimize the foil's disturbance and therefore its leakage risk, do not put it on any earlier).

For each of the first four installments, gently scoop about 1 1/2 cups of batter into the pan. Add about 6 dough pieces (don't bother breaking them up—keeping them whole is fine and, in fact, recommended—but if the pieces have a tall, chunk-like form, flatten them into cookie-like shapes), ensuring that they are fully coated and—as much as possible—immersed. After adding an installment, bake the pan with its contents for 15 minutes. For each of the first three installments, bake at 325 degrees. For the fourth installment, reduce the temperature and bake at 300 degrees. For all four installments here, bake with the pan in a tub filled with at least 1/4 to 1/2 inch of boiling water, but (to reduce spillage risks) do not fill the tub all the way at this point, because the whole tub-and-pan assembly is going to need to be removed from the oven (in order to comfortably add contents to the pan) between installments.

After all this is done, there should be about a cup of batter left, with 60 minutes of baking time reached at this point (15 minutes for each of the first four installments). Now comes the fifth installment—carefully add the last of this batter (do not add any more cookie dough at this point) on top of the pan's other contents. Try to fully coat the entire surface, especially wherever cookie dough pieces may be showing. Next, return the entire pan-and-tub assembly to the oven. At this point, fill up the tub generously with boiling water. Resume baking at 300 degrees for another 80 minutes (based upon usage of a 9 1/2" pan).

Afterward, shut the oven off, and leave its door slightly ajar, with the cheesecake still inside—and in the tub—for an hour. Next, remove the cheesecake from the oven and tub, and—if desired—add a border of chocolate chips around the edge of this cheesecake. Continue to cool it down at room temperature for another two hours. After doing so, remove the cheesecake from pan and refrigerate.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake—Prototype 4 (whole)

Again, I used Market Basket Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough for this one. Aside from that, I had a much more serious issue to deal with here...

Q: What is worse than a cheesecake with an excessively tart taste?
A: A cheesecake with a hint of a sour milk taste! (What??!!)

Yet that was what I personally picked up somehow in this latest prototype—even if I did not get that kind of feedback from others (even despite my asking some) at Living Hope Church, where this dessert was served among a modest selection of sweets and other snacks. Close to half of this cheesecake was left, which I considered to be a below-average outcome.

What went wrong anyway? Did I end up using a somewhat spoiled/defective dairy product without my detection at the time? Was it perhaps one of the containers of yogurt? I was somehow at a loss. Inasmuch as I had memories in the past of a couple of "California" cheesecakes coming out too tart (my fourteenth chocolate prototype in 2012 and a 2015 repeat of my first whoopie pie prototype, originally done in Massachusetts in 2014), this more recent "Make it in Massachusetts" effort had a tinge which I felt was embarrassingly unacceptable (yes, I still used Market Basket yogurt, which I had trusted in my cheesecakes baked in this home state of mine throughout this decade up to this point).

This incident has compelled me to more strongly consider what I already had been contemplating for some time—overhaul the basic batter composition again after having done so less than two years ago (i.e., back in mid-2015), including with the intent of reducing the tartness (and thus, hopefully, the acidity). While I had wanted to get the tartness somewhat increased back around the earlier 2010's, I was by late 2016 starting to consider backing down a bit. Perhaps it was now time to make plans for my next cheesecake, whatever the flavor would be, to be formulated with less yogurt cheese. Sit tight!

One-day-later update: After having taken back home nearly 1/4 of this cheesecake, I thought that I would try it again a day later. I was unbelievably surprised—the cheesecake tasted great! I could
not detect a sour-milk tinge! So what happened???

My guess was a probable unusual condition with something in my mouth the day before, but I hardly had any idea what it was (maybe a temporary taste bud problem?). Anyway, I became much more satisfied with this latest cheesecake, and even the milk chocolate crust, while not overwhelmingly different from its semi-sweet counterpart, still had a decent taste in its own right. Maybe I should not jump too quickly into a major batter revamp after all (well, let's wait and see on that one).
 

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Baked Chocolate Eggnog Cheesecake—Prototype 1:
 
Trader Joe's did it. Oakhurst Dairy did it. So why couldn't I? It seemed like chocolate-flavored eggnog was showing up in various places. This moved me to give a cheesecake with eggnog and chocolate layers a try. This mid-December 2012 effort would be my first new cheesecake flavor variety in nearly a year. I used Hood eggnog here.
 
2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 32 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers (that's 64 ounces altogether) of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine one 16-ounce container of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Chocolate Crust:
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted
1 1/3 tablespoons cocoa powder
8 oz. (1 cup) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
3/8 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2.2 oz. finely ground Bran Buds

Place resulting mixture in 9 1/2" (or 9") pan. Chill at least until firm, perhaps about 30 minutes minimum.

Eggnog Batter:
2 tablespoons butter, softened or melted
2/3 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups (20 oz.) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/8 cup arrowroot
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon rum extract
2 cups light eggnog
2 eggs

Pour this batter on top of the crust, no higher than halfway from the crust's surface to the top of the pan (if there is any excess batter, use it to make "cupcakes", baking these at 300 degrees for 50 minutes using a bath arrangement). Wrap pan in foil and place in tub—filled only about halfway, or about half an inch, with boiling water. Bake all this at 325 degrees for about 60 minutes. Then take the whole pan-and-tub setup out of the oven, and carefully get it to a comfortable place. Promptly add the chocolate batter as indicated below.

Chocolate Batter:
2 tablespoons melted or softened butter
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
7/8 cup sugar
20 oz. (2 1/2 cups) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/3 tablespoons arrowroot
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs

Carefully scoop this on top of the eggnog batter and return the pan-and-tub setup to oven, this time at only 300 degrees, and add more hot water to the tub (at this point, go ahead and fill it all the way). Bake for about 120 more minutes.

Turn oven off, leaving cheesecake in it (still in tub as well), with the door slightly ajar, for another 60 minutes.

Remove cheesecake from oven and tub and let cool in its pan at room temperature for another 120 minutes.

Afterwards, remove cheesecake from pan and refrigerate.

Chocolate Eggnog Cheesecake—Prototype 1 Chocolate Eggnog Cheesecake—Prototype 1 (sliced)

Yes, the cooking times were rather long, due largely to my zeal to get the eggnog batter firm enough. But I wondered about overbaking the chocolate batter in the process. Its top surface seemed to be fairly dry.

All that arrowroot and extra baking for the eggnog batter paid off. After a number of past efforts that resulted in this layer coming out too soft in my eggnog pumpkin combinations, this chocolate combo ended up with a reasonably firm eggnog batter layer (which seemed to be even more firm than its chocolate counterpart). This would be a helpful lesson for future cheesecakes involving eggnog, whether alone or in conjunction with a layer of another flavor.

Due to the combination of eggnog and chocolate still being in what I felt to be its "infantile" phases, I did not have very high expectations for this prototype at a Living Hope Church lunch—which also featured many other sweets for the Christmas holiday season. This chocolate-eggnog cheesecake fared quite well anyway—hardly any leftovers!

The taste seemed, at least to me, to be reasonably balanced between the chocolate and eggnog, without one flavor overwhelming the other.
 

-------------------------------------------------------

Pecan Pie Filling—Prototype 1:
 
This sauce is essentially the same as my failure-laden Pecan Pie Disk recipe (see Pitfalls to avoid for more info on this), but with one notable exception:

No xanthan gum was included in this more recent recipe!

I originally intended to make that earlier disk recipe as a sauce or pie filling. But when I added the xanthan gum to it, I ended up using too much. I cannot recall ever using this thickener in the past, so that recipe was highly likely my xanthan gum debut. So I had a new ingredient that I had yet to get a lot more familiar with. Due to an excess amount of it, I ended up settling for a firm, pecan-pie-flavored "disk", and I was ultimately disappointed with the outcome.

Therefore, the "corrected" recipe is presented below.
 
2 eggs
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons flour (white whole wheat)
(Tip: blend these three above ingredients first, before adding the other ones below.)
2 cups corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 oz. chopped pecans (about 1 cup, after chopping)

Combine all these ingredients in a saucepan before heating. Stir constantly over a roughly medium heat, bringing the mixture to a mild boil. Stir and cook carefully for about another 5 minutes, then remove from heat and let cool to about room temperature.
 
Even without any xanthan gum, this recipe came out plenty thick enough, especially when refrigerated. And the taste was great! At least one person at Living Hope Church even described this filling as "decadent". However, there did not seem to be many takers at this gathering. My guess was that many were perhaps more used to this stuff being in a pie, rather than being presented as "pecan dip" (as indicated on a little nearby sign). I encouraged others to try this pecan recipe with cookies (or other sweet baked goods). But somebody (Gaynell from what I best recall) gave it a try with a cracker and reacted rather favorably to this sweet-and-salty combo.

At least I now had an excellent "building block" to add on to select future desserts (probably including my next pumpkin or eggnog cheesecake).
 
Pecan Pie Filling—Prototype 2:
 
If I was going to do away completely with wheat-type flours and go strictly with arrowroot in my cheesecakes, why not do likewise with the pecan filling as well, for the sake of simplicity?
 
Repeat Prototype 1, but replace the whole wheat flour with arrowroot (still use 2 tablespoons).
 
The filling still tasted great. I was not aware of any difference in taste.
 

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Baked Vanilla Cheesecake—Prototype 1:
 
Vanilla often seems to be portrayed as "plain" or "neutral". Perhaps this is due to its being very mild. In fact, this vanilla cheesecake debut is very similar to my latest plain cheesecakes, but with the vanilla extract obviously being increased—in hopes of a more "cream-like" taste. Other differences include the lower-tart cheese blend to match the mild vanilla and—likely for the first time in my baked cheesecakes—the omission of salt from the batter.

Sometime in the past, my attention was drawn to the sodium content of my cheesecakes. If I remember well enough, this occurred more than two years ago, during the winter of 2011, likely with my cousin Robin bringing up this issue. Anyway, I ended up questioning the addition of salt in my cheesecake recipes. This usage stemmed from the initial recipe out of
The American Heart Association Cookbook that I started my cheesecake prototypes with, back in the 1980's. I assumed that the salt in that recipe was there for good reason.

But several years later, I felt that perhaps I could get away with cutting back on the salt, e.g., cutting it in half, without adversely affecting the taste. So I made this move, beginning likely with Prototype 10 of my eggnog cheesecake.

Since then, I have looked at many cheesecake recipes on the Internet. In my reviewing these for added salt, it was omitted from an overwhelming majority. So I more recently felt that it was time to do away with whatever salt I was still adding to the batters in my cheesecake recipes.

I do not know why the salt was included in that American Heart Association recipe in the first place. But then again, I found that recipe to be overwhelmingly lemony as well. My cheesecake prototypes have come a long, refined way since then—over 100 baked at this point!
 
2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 16 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from one 32-ounce container of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 16 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 8 ounces (1 cup) of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Crust:
1 oz. melted, white chocolate
4 oz. (1/2 cup) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 oz. Bran Buds, ground up

Pour this crust mixture into pan (9 to 9 1/2 inches) and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 5 minutes, then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
2 tablespoons melted or softened butter
5/8 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons arrowroot
20 oz. (2 1/2 cups) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs

Pour on top of crust. Then bake in tub at 300 degrees for 60 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan), cool (outside of oven and tub) for an hour, remove from pan and refrigerate.

Vanilla Cheesecake—Prototype 1

This was only a "single-sized" cheesecake, and it was gone (among a modest snack selection) in less than 15 minutes at Living Hope Church.

But I felt that this prototype was not sweet enough (especially the crust, whose taste here, if I ate it alone, put thoughts of—unfortunately—cardboard in my head). I also felt that this cheesecake could use a little more vanilla. Furthermore, I got a bit doubtful about my choice of the 2-to-1 yogurt-cottage blend (as opposed to all-yogurt) for the batter, at least if I tasted that alone, although I afterward somehow picked up a slight "tang" if I ate both the batter and crust together. Perhaps
chocolate batter was a good fit for the 2-to-1 cheese (see Baked Chocolate Cheesecake—Prototype 15 for more information on this). But maybe I needed to go all-yogurt for some "mellow" flavors like vanilla, not just plain or citrus ones.
 
Baked Vanilla Cheesecake—Prototype 2:
 
More sweetness, more vanilla!

But instead of going all-yogurt with the cheese, hold on to the 2-to-1 yogurt-cottage blend for now (actually, this was in order to use up the remaining half container of cottage cheese that I had left over from Prototype 1, as well as avoiding the need to utilize half of a container—as opposed to a whole one—of yogurt to make up for the cottage cheese's absence in an all-yogurt situation).
 
Repeat Prototype 1, but make these changes:
For the crust, increase the brown sugar by 1/2 tablespoon, to 2 tablespoons (note the usage here of both brown sugar and regular, i.e., granulated, sugar at 2 tablespoons apiece).
For the batter, increase the granulated sugar by 1/4 cup, to 7/8 cup, and increase the vanilla by 1 teaspoon, to a full tablespoon.

Vanilla Cheesecake—Prototype 2 (sliced)

A disappointing surprise broke out on me. As I poured the batter over the crust, the middle of it erupted upward. I did pre-bake earlier that crust for about 5 minutes. Maybe I needed to pour the batter more slowly in the future. But if I were to pour it too slowly, it would likely dribble on me. Perhaps using a rubber spatula would be helpful in deflecting such a mess.

This time, the batter turned out sweet enough and had what I somehow sensed to be a reasonable, "creamy" vanilla presence. Improvement was found in the crust's taste as well. But I also felt that a little more tanginess should be used (thus setting in order an all-yogurt plan) in the future.

This cheesecake did okay at Living Hope (among a somewhat small selection of refreshments, but also with perhaps a smaller than average crowd). There was some leftover.
 
Baked Vanilla Cheesecake—Prototype 3:
 
Presented here is a doubling of the previous prototype, although the Bran Buds got replaced with the regular All-Bran as well.
 
2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 32 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 16 ounces (2 cups) of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
8 oz. (1 cup) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Place the resulting mixture in the greased pan and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 5-10 minutes, depending on the mixture's thickness (closer to 10 minutes if thin enough to be fully distributed across the pan's bottom by gentle shaking, closer to 5 minutes if thick enough to require spreading out this mixture by pressing on it with a utensil and/or fingers), then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
4 tablespoons melted or softened butter
1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons arrowroot
40 oz. (5 cups) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 tablespoons vanilla
4 eggs

Wrap the pan in foil just before adding the batter (to minimize the foil's disturbance and therefore its leakage risk, do not put it on any earlier).

Next, pour the batter over the crust and bake this cheesecake in a hot water tub at 300 degrees for 100 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then cool the cheesecake down while still in oven (with this oven shut off) and in tub with door slightly ajar for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down at room temperature for another 100 minutes, then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Vanilla Cheesecake—Prototype 3

This one featured a nice, sweet taste, not too tart. It was about 3/4 of the way gone after roughly 30 minutes, having been served among a moderate selection of snacks at Living Hope Church. Someone later on took one of the remaining slices, and I took home the rest.
 

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Change of All-Bran product from Bran Buds to regular variety
 
For probably about 7 years or perhaps more, I have extensively used Bran Buds, a high-fiber cereal from Kellogg's All-Bran line, which also contained the regular, or Original, All-Bran. It was from the Bran Buds name that I came up with "Bran Buddies". My 21st century recipe scrapbook was launched from delicious and nutritious food creations that I somehow made up, using the Bran Buds product.

My food experiments have come a long way since then. In addition to my quest to making tasty treats that were not too high in fat as well as containing at least a decent amount of fiber, I have increasingly desired for all the ingredients utilized to be natural.

Sometime in my earlier Bran Buddies days, the list of ingredients for the Bran Buds product included high fructose corn syrup. Kellogg's more recently (to my delight!) replaced it with sugar. But the list still contained one ingredient that I regarded as an undesirable impediment to my natural quest: BHT, or butylated hydroxytoluene, an additive used extensively by food processors to extend freshness.

However, the regular All-Bran contained a very simple list: wheat bran, sugar, malt flavor and salt, none of which I determined to be artificial. While this product was also fortified with various vitamins and minerals (probably at least some of them being "synthetic"), their presence hardly bothered me.

I felt that the time had come for me to switch to the Original variety. Bran Buds cereal was a reasonably good start for me. I had to give it credit for launching this scrapbook. But as the years went by, I even phased out the "Bran Buddies" name, replacing it with "HiFi Buddies" at some point. And now, in June of 2013, it was time—again—to move on.

Some trade-offs need to be noted here. The regular All-Bran (at least as of this writing) is not as high in fiber as its Bran Buds counterpart. But the regular version still has plenty of this nutrient. I have also felt that this version had a somewhat better taste compared to Bran Buds. A bonus was the Original containing much less sodium.

It is with Prototype 5 of my orange cheesecake (the crust, to be more specific) that my usage of the regular All-Bran has gotten its debut in this recipe scrapbook. Aside from disputes over added vitamins and minerals, I now feel that, within reasonable respects, I can think of (at least) many of my future cheesecakes as being regarded as "all natural".
 

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Baked Orange Vanilla (Blended) Cheesecake (tentatively a.k.a. Baked Orange Xtremesicle Cheesecake)—Prototype 1:
 
For some time, I had been dreaming of making a cheesecake with a flavor based on a well-known, frozen, orange-and-vanilla-cream pop, extensively referred to by the trade name of "Creamsicle", but often called "Dreamsicle" as well (an apt reference—after all, as I just mentioned, I had been "dreaming" of a cheesecake with this flavor). So after attempting a couple of vanilla prototypes and updating my orange ones, I felt that the time had finally come for a cheesecake combining these two flavors. Rather than going with two separate flavor layers (as I have done with many other combos, such as chocolate and peanut butter), I chose to blend them together.

The crust's formulation for this prototype is based on Prototype 2 of my vanilla cheesecake, except that regular All-Bran is used instead of Bran Buds (click here for more information on this replacement). The batter's formulation is an even, 50-50 mix derived from that same vanilla prototype (except that the cottage cheese used there is directly replaced with additional yogurt cheese here) and Prototype 5 of my orange cheesecake (proportionally halved from "double-sized" there to match the vanilla's single size here). This is why the amount of granulated sugar indicated for the combination batter is "1 1/2 cups + 2 teaspoons".
 
Yogurt Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 3 pounds of yogurt cheese, derived from three 32-ounce containers of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 48 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference.

Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
8 oz. (1 cup) yogurt cheese (see above)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Gently pour this crust mixture into bottom of pan (9 to 9 1/2 inches) and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 10 minutes, then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
4 tablespoons melted or softened butter
1 1/2 cups + 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
2 teaspoons grated orange peel
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons arrowroot
40 oz. (5 cups) yogurt cheese (see above)
4 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs

Pour the batter over the crust and bake this cheesecake in a tub at 300 degrees for 100 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then cool the cheesecake down while still in oven (with this oven shut off) and in tub with door slightly ajar for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down at room temperature for another 100 minutes, then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Orange Vanilla Cheesecake—Prototype 1

Where's the Orange? More emphatically, where's the vanilla?? All I got was some tartness, but I suspected that was largely because of the yogurt cultures and hardly because of the orange itself. I thought I had struck a reasonable balance between the cheesecake taste and the orange flavor in an orange cheesecake—and likewise with the vanilla flavor in a vanilla cheesecake. But upon merging those two batters, what went wrong?

Maybe it was because, in this merger, I ended up actually
doubling the "cheese" taste. I certainly did not double the orange or vanilla ones (in the flavor-specific sense).

Nevertheless, this cheesecake fared well among a modest assortment of other sweet treats at Living Hope Church, on a day so hot that services were held in the air-conditioner-equipped fellowship hall rather than the sanctuary (due to that area lacking a cooling system).
 
Baked Orange Vanilla Cheesecake—Prototype 2:
 
Double the orange. Double the flavor-specific vanilla. What does that mean? The batter of my most recent plain cheesecake—its 11th prototype as of the current orange vanilla one presented here—called for 2 teaspoons of vanilla. In my previous orange vanilla cheesecake, I used 4 teaspoons for its batter. With 2 associated with the basic cheesecake, that would leave 2 linked directly to the vanilla flavor effort. So the doubling is done on these 2 flavor-specific teaspoons for the prototype presented here. That's 4 flavor-specific teaspoons. When added to the basic cheesecake's 2 teaspoons, the result is 6 teaspoons—or 2 tablespoons—for the batter.

And lower the tartness a bit, by switching the cheese base to the milder 2-1 yogurt-cottage combo.

In looking back on preparing this cheesecake, chances are higher than 99% that I erred on the amount of granulated sugar used in the batter. I was supposed to use 1 1/2 cups plus 2 teaspoons of this sugar. But assuming my memory to be correct as of this writing, I used 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons. From what I best recall, the expression "1 5/8 cups" was on my mind when I measured out this ingredient, and I likely wondered why I didn't write the measurement that way. So this amount is reflected in the recipe shown here.
 
2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 32 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers (that's 64 ounces altogether) of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine one 16-ounce container of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
8 oz. (1 cup) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Gently pour this crust mixture into bottom of pan (9 to 9 1/2 inches) and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 10 minutes, then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
4 tablespoons melted or softened butter
1 5/8 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
4 teaspoons grated orange peel
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons arrowroot
40 oz. (5 cups) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 tablespoons vanilla
4 eggs

Pour the batter over the crust and bake this cheesecake in a tub at 300 degrees for 105 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then cool the cheesecake down while still in oven (with this oven shut off) and in tub with door slightly ajar for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down at room temperature for another 105 minutes, then remove from pan and refrigerate.
 
Now that's more like it! This cheesecake had what I felt to be a reasonable balance of flavors (let's keep the batter's granulated sugar at 1 5/8 cups at this point).

This cheesecake was served to a no-so-large crowd at Living Hope Church. It seemed that many regulars were on summer vacation. I found one slice left over after what was probably about an hour.

Later on that same day, I felt that I would drive up to Maine and catch some of the grand opening celebration of my favorite grocery chain's very first store in the bushy Pine Tree State. It was Sunday, August 18, 2013 (trivial tidbit: 36th anniversary of my getting my driver's license), and Market Basket (aka "DeMoulas"), the "More for Your Dollar" store to which I looked for a number of my cheesecake ingredients (especially Market Basket's terrific nonfat yogurt), was in its very first day of welcoming shoppers to its new 107,000-108,000 square foot supermarket in the city of Biddeford.

An unexpected bonus was that I got to meet in person, shake hands with, and
even get a picture taken of myself with, the president himself of Demoulas Super Markets, Inc. (Market Basket's corporate name)—Arthur T. Demoulas—a man highly regarded by this company's employees and customers alike!

Joel and Arthur T. (click here for bigger, fuller photo!)
I am on the left, holding my cheesecake's most important ingredient (Market Basket nonfat yogurt), and Arthur T. is on the right.

And it was this encounter with "Artie T." that especially made the long drive to Biddeford, Maine, worth the trip.
 
Baked Orange Vanilla Cheesecake—Prototype 3:
 
More than 1 1/2 years have passed since I made the previous prototype for this flavor. The latest one presented here features a change in the crust—replace one of the teaspoons of cinnamon with orange peel.
 
2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 32 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers (that's 64 ounces altogether) of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine one 16-ounce container of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
8 oz. (1 cup) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Place the resulting mixture in the greased pan and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 5-10 minutes, depending on the mixture's thickness (closer to 10 minutes if thin enough to be fully distributed across the pan's bottom by gentle shaking, closer to 5 minutes if thick enough to require spreading out this mixture by pressing on it with a utensil and/or fingers), then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
4 tablespoons melted or softened butter
1 5/8 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
4 teaspoons grated orange peel
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons arrowroot
40 oz. (5 cups) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 tablespoons vanilla
4 eggs

Pour the batter over the crust and bake this cheesecake in a tub at 300 degrees for 105 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then cool the cheesecake down while still in oven (with this oven shut off) and in tub with door slightly ajar for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down at room temperature for another 105 minutes, then remove from pan and refrigerate.

New cooking range with cheesecake in oven Orange Vanilla Cheesecake—Prototype 3

This one, served among a good selection of sweets—particularly sugar cookies—at Living Hope Church, was a little over 3/4 gone within perhaps an hour...and after I devoured about 4 slices myself (because I happened to be more hungry and craving than usual). I felt that this prototype was pretty tasty, with a reasonable balance of flavors.

This particular cheesecake was the very first one that I baked in my newly-acquired cooking range, which I bought from my workplace, the Danvers East Home Depot.

Remember back when I served my previous orange vanilla prototype, I also took a trip to a Market Basket grand opening in Biddeford, Maine—and got to meet with Arthur T. Demoulas? While I did not take a grand opening trip on the same day as my providing my more recent prototype presented here, I did get to see "Artie T." a second time—more than a year after the Maine trip (and over half a year before I served Prototype 3)—this time at a grand opening in Revere, Massachusetts, a city that was home to my thrifty grandmother, Gertrude Hamilt, in much of her life—including when overlapping with my mine (and she lived near, and shopped at, an independent grocer that happened to be called "Arthur's Supermarket"—no known relationship to Mr. Demoulas, however).

Arthur T. and Joel (click here for bigger, fuller photo!) DeMoulas Market Basket combination logo
Here's a pic of the two of us at the new Revere store, with Arthur T. on the left and myself on the right. Note the banners, shown behind us, with the older combination DeMoulas & Market Basket logo (a favorite of mine for this grocer).

Gertrude Hamilt
That's my late grandmother (on my mother's side), Gertrude ("Gussie") Hamilt. Rest in peace, Nana—I love you!

The Revere store was, in fact, the first new Market Basket to open since the one in Biddeford.
 

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Baked Chocolate Banana Cheesecake—Prototype 1:
 
This flavor combination was hardly on my radar, so how did I come up with this one?

The MacKays, a couple that I had been friendly with at Living Hope Church, were relocating, and this church decided to have a send-off cookout in their honor. In keeping with this, I asked these two, Jim and Jennie, to choose a cheesecake flavor. What I had in mind was for them to select one of the flavors that I had already done in the past. Jim ultimately left this choice to Jennie. At first she immediately opted for chocolate. So I mentioned other flavors to broaden her considerations, including, of course, a handful of 2-flavor combinations that I had accomplished, as well as single-flavored cheesecakes such as banana—but I never paired up this fruit with another flavor. I had put out quite a few chocolate combos—but not together with banana. So, per her idea and request, the chocolate-banana pairing would make its debut here. To put it humorously...Yes, we have new bananas—I mixed these bananas today!

This has resulted in a number of updates for the banana batter (its last prototype was #3—well over a year ago—and that one was also by request, per my niece Rebecca). The chocolate only needed minor tweaking at this point.
 
2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 32 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers (that's 64 ounces altogether) of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine one 16-ounce container of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Grease a 9 1/2" (or 9") pan, but do not wrap any foil around it yet—see below for that step (spreading the crust in an already wrapped pan can result in greater disturbance to the foil, thus increasing leakage risks).

Chocolate Crust:
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
8 oz. (1 cup) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
3/8 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Place the resulting mixture into the greased pan. Allow this mixture to get firm (if needed, chill it for this purpose, perhaps about 30 minutes minimum).

Chocolate Batter:
2 tablespoons melted/softened butter
7/8 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons arrowroot
20 oz. (2 1/2 cups) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs

Wrap the pan in foil, and carefully pour the chocolate batter on top of the crust. Then place all this in a tub—filled only about halfway, or about half an inch, with boiling water. Bake at 325 degrees for about 40 minutes. Afterwards, take the whole pan-and-tub setup out of the oven, and carefully get it to a comfortable place. Promptly add the banana batter as indicated below.

Banana Batter:
2 tablespoons melted or softened butter
5/8 cups granulated sugar
8 ounces of banana puree
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons arrowroot
20 oz. (2 1/2 cups) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs

Carefully scoop this on top of the chocolate batter.

Here is a decorative option for the upper layer at this point. Add some chocolate syrup (Trader Joe's Organic Midnight Moo is recommended) on the top surface. Squirt thick, parallel stripes of this syrup, about a couple of tablespoons altogether (close to 1 1/3 ounces by weight if using TJ's), throughout the pan (the TJ's syrup, as of this writing, comes in a squeezable bottle with a squirt nozzle). Then pull a knife in perpendicular directions through these stripes in the batter (just deeply enough for the upper layer's surface) in order to produce a wavy, swirl pattern (see photo below for an example). Do all this as neatly as possible (avoid cutting into the chocolate layer underneath).

Next, return the pan-and-tub setup to the oven, this time at only 300 degrees, and add more hot water to the tub (at this point, go ahead and fill it all the way). Bake for about 80 more minutes.

Turn the oven off, leaving the cheesecake in it (still in its tub as well), with the door slightly ajar, for another 60 minutes.

Then remove this cheesecake from the oven and tub. At this point, a border of chocolate chips can be added to the cheesecake's top surface around its outer edge, if desired (but use care in avoiding burns—the pan's sidewall may still be hot). Continue letting the cheesecake cool in its pan at room temperature for another 120 minutes.

Afterwards, remove this cheesecake from its pan and refrigerate.

Chocolate Banana Cheesecake—Prototype 1

This one had a great taste, with both the chocolate and banana flavors present, although I ended up suspecting that the banana was somehow overpowering. But many at Living Hope enjoyed this cheesecake. This included, of course, Jennie and Jim themselves.

The dessert selection was not all that large. There were only about four kinds of sweet recipes, including my cheesecake. There was about one fourth of it left before it got taken back into the kitchen.
 
Baked Chocolate Banana Cheesecake—Prototype 2:
 
My cheesecakes have come a very long way over the years, including the last four. Here is a November 2017 update for this flavor combination (after my making an earlier one likely in the summer of 2013).
 
3-Cheese Blend (3CT-1NC-2YG):
Prepare ahead of time 16 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from one 32-ounce container of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 16 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 24 ounces of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese and 8 ounces of softened Neufchatel cheese ("light cream cheese").

Grease a 9 1/2" (or 9") pan, but do not wrap foil around it until just before the batter is added (spreading the crust in an already wrapped pan can result in greater disturbance to the foil, thus increasing leakage risks).

Chocolate Crust:
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted
8 oz. (1 cup) 3-cheese blend (see above)
3/8 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 oz. finely ground All-Bran

Place the resulting mixture in the greased pan and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 5-10 minutes, depending on the mixture's thickness (closer to 10 minutes if thin enough to be fully distributed across the pan's bottom by gentle shaking, closer to 5 minutes if thick enough to require spreading out this mixture by pressing on it with a utensil and/or fingers), then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Banana Batter:
20 oz. (2 1/2 cups) 3-cheese blend (see above)
1 teaspoon vanilla
5/8 cup granulated sugar
6 ounces of banana puree (tip: about 9 ounces of whole bananas, i.e., with the outer peels included—hopefully one large banana—should yield a sufficient amount of the inner fruit)
1 1/4 teaspoons xanthan gum
3 eggs

Wrap the pan in foil at this point. Carefully pour the banana batter on top of the crust and bake all this in a hot water tub at 325 degrees for about 50 minutes. Afterwards, take the tub-and-pan assembly out of the oven and promptly add the chocolate batter indicated below.

Chocolate Batter:
20 oz. (2 1/2 cups) 3-cheese blend (see above)
1 teaspoon vanilla
7/8 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
3 eggs

Carefully scoop this on top of the banana batter (it is best to do this around the edge of the pan and let the chocolate batter flow towards the middle) and return the tub-and-pan assembly to the oven, this time at only 300 degrees. Bake for about 70 more minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then shut off the oven and cool the cheesecake down while still in it (and in tub), with door slightly ajar, for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and (at this point, add a border of chocolate chips if desired) continue to cool down at room temperature for another two hours, then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Chocolate Banana Cheesecake—Prototype 2

Like the previous chocolate banana cheesecake nearly four years ago, this one was the result of a request. But this time it came from my cousin Rachel's daughter, Mya. So I brought this cheesecake to Rachel's house, where it ended up being well-received. The taste was delicious, with an undeniable banana presence, as well as with a decent chocolate one.
 

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Baked S'mores Cheesecake—Prototype 1:
 
In light of making my first s'mores cheesecake, I looked back and felt that whatever baked cheesecakes I made with a crust, that crust was always based on a Kellogg's All-Bran product—either Original (regular) or Bran Buds—because I wanted more fiber in my recipe than the norm (at least I could not recall basing the baked crust on something else). Then again, my usage of such a high-fiber product was likely influenced by my earlier Bran Buddy/HiFi Buddy efforts.

But for this new cheesecake flavor, I felt that I needed to "shift gears". There has been a wide consensus of the standard s'more consisting of the following three items: chocolate (quite possibly with a further specification that this be
milk chocolate), marshmallow and—graham cracker! And it was this last item here that would move me to make a change in the crust. More specifically that meant swapping out the All-Bran in favor of grahams. The usage of such crackers also happened to be commonplace in traditional cheesecake crusts. But for the sake of fiber, I at least sought out graham crackers that had relatively more of this nutrient. This led me to whole wheat grahams by Mi-Del. Not only did they have a relatively high amount of fiber, but they were all-natural.

Finding all-natural miniature marshmallows was also a challenge. I found a package of them, imported from Israel, at Whole Foods Market. The price wasn't cheap.

I fared better with all-natural milk chocolate chips. I managed to pick up a Ghirardelli package at Market Basket—at a "More for Your Dollar" price. Whew! However, I did not find the Mi-Del grahams there. I managed (barely!) to pick those up at a Stop & Shop store (whose prices I have generally found to be quite a bit higher than Market Basket's, but not as high as at Whole Foods).
 
2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time (allow at least 24 hours) 32 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers (that's 64 ounces altogether) of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine one 16-ounce container of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Grease a 9 1/2" (or 9") springform pan, but do not wrap foil around it until just before the batter is added (spreading the crust in an already wrapped pan can result in greater disturbance to the foil, thus increasing leakage risks).

Graham Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
8 oz. (1 cup) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Completely blend the above ingredients first, then continue with the ingredient below, mixing it in quickly.
3 oz. graham crackers, ground up (Mi-Del 100% Whole Wheat Honey Grahams recommended)
Note: Because this crust already includes cinnamon in the ingredients shown above, non-cinnamon graham crackers are strongly recommended. But if cinnamon grahams are going to be used, omit the 2 teaspoons of cinnamon (also, the sugar listed above, granulated and/or brown, should probably be somewhat reduced in such a case).

Place resulting crust mixture into bottom of the springform pan and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 8 minutes, then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Chocolate Batter:
4 tablespoons melted/softened butter
3/8 cup cocoa powder
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons arrowroot
40 ounces (5 cups) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs

2 cups miniature marshmallows

Expect about 7 to 7 1/2 cups of the resulting batter, but do not add this to the pan all at once. Rather, this needs to be done in six installments.

Wrap the pan in foil just before adding the first batter installment.

For each of the first four installments, gently scoop about 1 1/4 cups of batter into the pan. Add about 1/2 cup of the marshmallows, ensuring that they are fully coated and—as much as possible—immersed. After adding an installment, bake the pan with its contents at 325 degrees for 15 minutes, in a tub filled with at least 1/4 to 1/2 inch of boiling water. To reduce spillage risks, do not fill the tub all the way at this point, because the whole tub-and-pan assembly is going to need to be removed from the oven (in order to comfortably add contents to the pan) between installments.

After all this is done, there should be about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of batter left, with 60 minutes of baking time reached at this point (15 minutes for each of the first four installments). Now comes the fifth installment—carefully add about half of this remaining batter (do not add any more marshmallows at this point) on top of the pan's other contents. Try to fully coat the entire surface, especially wherever marshmallows may be showing, some of which may keep on floating to the top—but do not be too concerned about this. Next, return the entire pan-and-tub assembly to the oven, but with the temperature lowered to 300 degrees, for 15 minutes. Then take this assembly out and add the last of the batter (the sixth installment), coating the remaining exposed marshmallows as much possible. At this point, fill up the tub generously with boiling water. Resume baking at 300 degrees, for another 60 minutes (based upon usage of a 9 1/2" pan).

Afterward, shut the oven off, and leave its door slightly ajar, with the cheesecake still inside—and in the tub—for an hour. Next, remove the cheesecake from the oven and tub, and add a border of milk chocolate chips around the edge of this cheesecake (see photo below). Continue to cool it down at room temperature for another two hours. After doing so, remove the cheesecake from pan and refrigerate.

S'mores Cheesecake—Prototype 1 (whole) S'mores Cheesecake—Prototype 1 (sliced)

To my surprise, the marshmallows appeared to get fully dissolved into the chocolate batter upon baking. At least I could not see any "whites" remaining.

But this one was a runaway success. It was gone in hardly more than 15 minutes at Living Hope Church (although this cheesecake was served among a snack selection that was not all that big). I myself could easily detect the chocolate. But I had difficulty picking up enough of a marshmallow taste, and I suspected that the aforementioned dissolving was the biggest reason why. The graham crust, however, was very tasty.
 
Baked S'mores Cheesecake—Prototype 2:
 
Okay, this time, let's go with regular ("full size") marshmallows and hope that they do not completely "disappear" into the batter. For this prototype, I was able to find such marshmallows at a (hopefully) better price (than what I paid for those used in the earlier prototype) at Whole Foods.

However, I did not shop for the graham crackers until roughly a few weeks later, at a Stop & Shop, where (unlike a few months ago) I did not succeed in finding the same grahams that I used earlier. I ended up settling for Annie's Homegrown Organic Cinnamon Grahams Whole Grain Graham Crackers, which contained somewhat less fiber (compared to the whole
wheat grahams used earlier). Due to these already featuring cinnamon, I modified the crust ingredients by adjusting the brown sugar downward and omitting the cinnamon which I myself added in the previous prototype.
 
2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time (allow at least 24 hours) 32 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers (that's 64 ounces altogether) of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine one 16-ounce container of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Grease a 9 1/2" (or 9") springform pan, but do not wrap foil around it until just before the batter is added (spreading the crust in an already wrapped pan can result in greater disturbance to the foil, thus increasing leakage risks).

Graham Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
8 oz. (1 cup) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Completely blend the above ingredients first, then continue with the ingredient below, mixing it in quickly.
3 oz. cinnamon graham crackers, ground up (such as Annie's Cinnamon Grahams)

Place resulting crust mixture into bottom of the springform pan and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 8 minutes, then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Chocolate Batter:
4 tablespoons melted/softened butter
3/8 cup cocoa powder
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons arrowroot
40 ounces (5 cups) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs

18 - 20 marshmallows (regular size)

Expect about 7 to 7 1/2 cups of the resulting batter, but do not add this to the pan all at once. Rather, this needs to be done in four installments.

Wrap the pan in foil just before adding the first batter installment.

For each of the first two installments, gently scoop about 2 1/2 cups of batter into the pan. Add about 9 or 10 marshmallows, ensuring that they are at least fully coated (they do not need to be fully immersed). After adding an installment, bake the pan with its contents at 325 degrees for 25 minutes, in a tub filled with at least 1/4 to 1/2 inch of boiling water. To reduce spillage risks, do not fill the tub all the way at this point, because the whole tub-and-pan assembly is going to need to be removed from the oven (in order to comfortably add contents to the pan) between installments.

After all this is done, there should be about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of batter left, with 50 minutes of baking time reached at this point (25 minutes for each of the first two installments). Now comes the third installment—carefully add about half of this remaining batter (do not add any more marshmallows at this point) on top of the pan's other contents. Try to fully coat the entire surface, especially wherever marshmallows may be showing, some of which may keep on floating to the top—but do not be too concerned about this. Next, return the entire pan-and-tub assembly to the oven, but with the temperature lowered to 300 degrees, for 15 minutes. Then take this assembly out and add the last of the batter (the fourth installment), coating the remaining exposed marshmallows as much possible. At this point, fill up the tub generously with boiling water. Resume baking at 300 degrees, for another 60 minutes (based upon usage of a 9 1/2" pan).

Afterward, shut the oven off, and leave its door slightly ajar, with the cheesecake still inside—and in the tub—for an hour. Next, remove the cheesecake from the oven and tub, and add a border of milk chocolate chips around the edge of this cheesecake (see photo below). Continue to cool it down at room temperature for another two hours. After doing so, remove the cheesecake from pan and refrigerate.

S'mores Cheesecake—Prototype 2 (whole) S'mores Cheesecake—Prototype 2 (sliced)

Despite the larger size of the marshmallows, these still dissolved too much into the batter! Only a tiny visual presence could be detected.

But it did not take long for this cheesecake to disappear. It was gone, likely within 45 minutes, at Living Hope, among a not-so-small selection of snacks.
 
Baked S'mores Cheesecake—Prototype 3:
 
This one involves a different approach—mix the marshmallows, miniature ones in this case, into the crust, rather than into the batter—plus some other minor modifications.
 
2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time (allow at least 24 hours) 32 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers (that's 64 ounces altogether) of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine one 16-ounce container of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Grease a 9 1/2" (or 9") springform pan, but do not wrap foil around it until just before the batter is added (spreading the crust in an already wrapped pan can result in greater disturbance to the foil, thus increasing leakage risks).

Graham Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
8 oz. (1 cup) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Completely blend the above ingredients first, then continue with the next ingredient, shown immediately below.
2 cups miniature marshmallows
Fully combine this with the other above ingredients, then continue afterwards with the last crust ingredient below, mixing it in quickly.
4 oz. cinnamon graham crackers, ground up (such as Annie's Cinnamon Grahams)

Place resulting crust mixture into bottom of the springform pan and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 10 minutes, then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Chocolate Batter:
4 tablespoons melted/softened butter
3/8 cup cocoa powder
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons arrowroot
40 ounces (5 cups) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs

Wrap the pan in foil at this point. Carefully pour the batter over the crust and bake this cheesecake in a hot water tub at 300 degrees for 110 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then shut off oven and cool the cheesecake down while still in it (and in tub), with door slightly ajar, for an hour. Afterwards, remove this cheesecake from oven and tub, and add a border of milk chocolate chips on top, around the cheesecake's edge (see photo below). Continue to cool it down at room temperature for another 110 minutes. After doing so, remove the cheesecake from pan and refrigerate.

S'mores Cheesecake—Prototype 3 (whole) S'mores Cheesecake—Prototype 3 (sliced)

I seemed to pick up a hopeful marshmallow presence in this one after I made it. The "marshmallowed" crust was particularly tasty. But upon pouring the chocolate batter onto this crust, quite a bit of it loosened up and promptly floated upward, especially with a number of marshmallows reaching the top. I reasoned that I would have to take a more careful approach in the future if I wanted the marshmallows to stay down (time to bring back batter installments).

I served this at a Living Hope barbecue-style meal. Other desserts were served. There ended up being a modest baked goods selection. About 1/6 of the cheesecake itself was left over. I took that back home, and the next day I brought it to a Memorial Day cookout at The Home Depot for my co-workers to enjoy.
 
Baked S'mores Cheesecake—Prototype 4:
 
This one involves an effort to keep the marshmallows from floating up too high.

The batter has undergone major changes as well.
 
3-Cheese Blend (1CT-1NC-4YG):
Prepare ahead of time 32 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers (that's 64 ounces altogether) of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 8 ounces of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese and 8 ounces of softened Neufchatel cheese ("light cream cheese").

Grease a 9 1/2" (or 9") springform pan, but do not wrap foil around it until just before the batter is added (spreading the crust in an already wrapped pan can result in greater disturbance to the foil, thus increasing leakage risks).

Graham Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
8 oz. (1 cup) 3-cheese blend (see above)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Completely blend the above ingredients first, then continue with the next one below.
4 oz. cinnamon graham crackers, ground up
Get this fully mixed in (moistened) with the other ingredients above. Afterwards, promptly add in and fully coat the last crust ingredient below.
2 cups miniature marshmallows

Place resulting crust mixture into bottom of the springform pan and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 15 minutes, then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Chocolate Batter:
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
3/8 cup cocoa powder
40 oz. (5 cups) 3-cheese blend (see above)
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon (5 tablespoons altogether) arrowroot
2 teaspoons vanilla
5 eggs

Expect about 7 to 7 1/2 cups of the resulting batter, but do not add this to the pan all at once. Rather, this needs to be done in four installments.

Wrap the pan in foil just before adding the first batter installment.

For each of the first three installments, gently scoop about 1 cup of batter into the pan while trying to coat—as much as possible—the previous crust or batter layer below, especially the marshmallows that are still exposed on top (it's okay if some of them end up not being completely coated at first—the later a given installment, the more likely that these marshmallows are going to get fully immersed). After adding an installment, bake the pan with its contents for 25 minutes—at 325 degrees for the first two installments and at 300 degrees for the third—in a tub filled with at least 1/4 to 1/2 inch of boiling water. To reduce spillage risks, do not fill the tub all the way at this point, because the whole tub-and-pan assembly is going to need to be removed from the oven (in order to comfortably add contents to the pan) between installments.

After all this is done, there should be close to half of the batter left, with 75 minutes of baking time reached at this point (25 minutes for each of the first three installments). Now comes the fourth (and last) installment—carefully add this remaining batter on top of the pan's other contents. Try to fully coat the entire surface, especially wherever marshmallows may still be showing. Next, return the entire pan-and-tub assembly to the oven, fill up the tub generously with boiling water, and resume baking at 300 degrees for another 95 minutes (based upon usage of a 9 1/2" pan).

Afterward, shut the oven off, and leave its door slightly ajar, with the cheesecake still inside—and in the tub—for an hour. Next, remove the cheesecake from the oven and tub, and—if desired—add a border of milk chocolate chips (or use another variety—but milk chocolate is recommended for s'mores!) around the edge of this cheesecake. Continue to cool it down at room temperature for another two hours. After doing so, remove the cheesecake from pan and refrigerate.

S'mores Cheesecake—Prototype 4 (whole) S'mores Cheesecake—Prototype 4 (sliced)

This one was the very first cheesecake that I ever brought to my dad's family synagogue. The event there followed a funeral for one of my cousins. The cheesecake fared well, with more than half of it consumed (with a number of my relatives commenting favorably on it). For this initial effort, I added the marshmallows before the ground-up grahams to the crust mixture then pre-baked all this for only about 10 minutes.

A few weeks later, I made this prototype for a lunch (a farewell party for one of our associate pastors) following a Sunday service at Living Hope Church. The whole cheesecake (served among a reasonably generous selection of baked goods) was gone, probably within an hour. Only about 1/4 of it was left by the time I got to it (after having my main course first). And this time, per the "Graham Crust" instructions above, I added the marshmallows
after the ground-up grahams to the crust mixture and increased its pre-bake time to 15 minutes—which I felt yielded better results.
 

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Baked Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake—Prototype 1:
 
This was one of my most challenging cheesecakes so far, being derived from a combination of Prototype 6 of my pumpkin cheesecake and Prototype 1 of my pecan pie filling (with a little change on the flour).
 
2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 2 pounds of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 16 ounces (1 pint) of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
4 oz. pumpkin butter (such as from Trader Joe's)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
8 oz. (1 cup) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Pour this crust mixture into pan (9 to 9 1/2 inches) and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 10 minutes, then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall. Carefully wrap the pan in heavy foil afterwards (do not wrap it earlier—otherwise, this increases leakage risks).

Batter:
4 tablespoons melted or softened butter
1 cup granulated sugar
14 oz. pumpkin butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons arrowroot
5 cups (40 oz.) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs

Carefully pour about half of this batter on top of the crust. Bake in tub at 325 degrees for 40 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). During this phase of the baking, prepare the pecan filling for this cheesecake.

Pecan Filling:
2 eggs
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
(Tip: blend these three above ingredients first, before adding the other ones below.)
2 cups corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 oz. chopped pecans (about 1 cup, after chopping)

Combine all these ingredients in a saucepan before heating. Stir constantly over a roughly medium heat (not high—otherwise the mixture can easily leave a sticky, burnt residue on the bottom of the pan), bringing the mixture to a mild boil. Stir and cook carefully for about another 5 minutes, then remove from heat. Let this mixture sit until it is time to add it to the cheesecake (at which point the filling should still be at least warm enough that it spreads very easily).

After the initial 40 minutes of baking, remove the pan-and-tub assembly from the oven and carefully add just enough of the pecan filling to coat the pumpkin batter's surface (close to half of the filling—set aside the rest of it for later, as described below). Next, return the pan-and-tub assembly to the oven and resume baking at 325 degrees for another 20 minutes.

Afterwards, take this assembly out of the oven and very carefully scoop the remaining pumpkin batter on top. Then return all this to the oven, with the temperature reduced to 300 degrees, and bake for another 60 minutes. Then cool down with the pan still in the oven (with this oven shut off) and in the tub, with door slightly ajar, for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down at room temperature for another two hours, then remove cheesecake from pan and refrigerate.

After at least a couple of hours of refrigerating the cheesecake, take the remaining pecan filling, and ensure that it is not too stiff (this can be accomplished by warming it up a little with very low heat). Carefully spread the filling on top of the cheesecake and promptly return all this to the refrigerator, allowing the filling to get more firm (thus reducing its runniness)—at least a few additional hours (or overnight) at this point—before serving this cheesecake.

Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake—Prototype 1 Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake—Prototype 1 (sliced)

I strove to avoid the pitfall of excessively stiff pecan pie filling, so I did not add any thickener to it. The filling spread easily. On the other hand, it seemed somewhat too runny—the cheesecake ended up being one of my "messiest" ones, with the filling drenching down the side and collecting at the bottom. But this prototype was very tasty, and I got quite a few compliments at Living Hope Church, where this cheesecake was served. It was almost completely gone in about half an hour. Eric—Mary Beth's husband—finished off the last slice not too long afterward.

Future options to consider: 1) Just serve the pecan filling on the side (but will too many guests "overtop" with it, wiping it out too soon?) or 2) Add a very small amount of thickener and/or mix some of the cheesecake batter with the early-installment filling (i.e., that which gets baked between the pumpkin batter layers), and—upon adding the remaining filling on top of the refrigerated cheesecake—try to confine this filling more towards the center of the top surface (also, perhaps the baking time should be increased).
 
Baked Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake—Prototype 2:
 
Okay, let's go primarily with that latter option considered after making the previous prototype!
 
2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 2 pounds of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 16 ounces (1 pint) of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Pumpkin Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
4 oz. pumpkin butter (such as from Trader Joe's)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
8 oz. (1 cup) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Pour this crust mixture into pan (9 to 9 1/2 inches) and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 10 minutes, then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall. Carefully wrap the pan in heavy foil afterwards (do not wrap it earlier—otherwise, this increases leakage risks).

Pumpkin Batter:
4 tablespoons melted or softened butter
1 cup granulated sugar
14 oz. pumpkin butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons arrowroot
5 cups (40 oz.) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs

Carefully pour about half of this batter, less 1/2 cup, on top of the crust. Bake in tub at 325 degrees for 40 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). During this phase of the baking, prepare the pecan filling for this cheesecake.

Pecan Filling:
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
2 eggs
(Tip: blend these five above ingredients first—starting with the first four, then adding the eggs—before adding the other ones below.)
2 cups corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 oz. chopped pecans (about 1 cup, after chopping)

Combine all these ingredients in a saucepan before heating. Stir constantly over a roughly medium heat (not high—otherwise the mixture can easily leave a sticky, burnt residue on the bottom of the pan), bringing the mixture to a mild boil. Stir and cook carefully for about another 5 minutes, then remove from heat. Let this mixture sit until it is time to add it to the cheesecake (at which point the filling should still be at least warm enough that it spreads very easily).

After the initial 40 minutes of baking, remove the pan-and-tub assembly from the oven. Mix about half of the pecan filling (set aside the rest of it for later, as described below) and about 1 cup of the remaining pumpkin batter. Carefully add this mixture on top of, and fully coat, the pumpkin batter's surface. Next, return the pan-and-tub assembly to the oven and resume baking at 325 degrees for another 20 minutes.

Afterwards, take this assembly out of the oven and very carefully scoop the rest of the pumpkin batter on top. Then return all this to the oven, with the temperature reduced to 300 degrees, and bake for another 60 minutes. Then cool down with the pan still in the oven (with this oven shut off) and in the tub, with door slightly ajar, for an hour.

Due to this cheesecake needing to be more stable (see comments below), turn the oven back on, with the temperature set at 300 degrees, and close the oven door. Bake for another 20 minutes (this includes the time for the oven to reach 300). Then shut the oven off and leave the door slightly ajar for 30 minutes. Next, turn the oven on yet again at 300 degrees and bake with the door shut for another 10 minutes (again, this includes the warmup for the oven to get to 300). After this, shut the oven off and leave the door slightly ajar for yet another 20 minutes.

Afterwards (at last!), remove the cheesecake (still in its wrapped springform pan) from the oven and the tub and continue to cool it down at room temperature for another two and a half hours. Then (the foil/wrappers can be removed at this point) take the remaining pecan filling, and ensure that it is not too stiff (this can be accomplished by warming it up a little with very low heat). Carefully spread this filling on top of the cheesecake. Next, with the cheesecake still in its pan, refrigerate until firm (overnight is a helpful suggestion). Remove from pan before serving.

Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake—Prototype 2

Okay, I really did not plan the baking like this in the first place. My original plan was to take the cheesecake out of the oven after that first hour of cooling down with the door ajar. But I noticed that the surface seemed too "jiggly". So I tried to stabilize this cheesecake with some additional cycles of baking and cooldown, making decisions on this matter as I went along. Thus I ended up tacking on another 80 minutes of in-oven time, as indicated above (30 minutes of heating, 50 minutes of cooldown).

Then, when I removed the side part of the springform pan, the pecan-pumpkin mixture layer in the middle started to bulge out. So I put the side piece back on for the refrigeration, in hopes of that middle layer getting more firm. That ended up being helpful. But this cheesecake still got somewhat messy upon being sliced.

About 1/6 of it was left after being served, among a decent selection of other pastries (plus additional snacks), at Living Hope Church.
 

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Baked Whoopie Pie Cheesecake—Prototype 1:
 
Whoopie! I have not been aware of any restaurant or bakery offering a cheesecake like this. I myself dreamed this one up. So this is a very new adventure for me. This recipe is modeled primarily after Prototype 9 of my cookies+creme cheesecake (mainly due to similarities between whoopie pies and chocolate sandwich cookies).
 
Yogurt Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 3 pounds of yogurt cheese, derived from three 32-ounce containers of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 48 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference.

Lower-tart alternative:
Substitute this 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese for the aforementioned all-yogurt cheese. Prepare ahead of time only 2 pounds of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 16 ounces (1 pint) of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Crust:
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
8 oz. (1 cup) yogurt cheese (see above)
3/8 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 oz. finely ground All-Bran

Pour this crust mixture into bottom of greased springform pan (9 to 9 1/2 inches) and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 10 minutes, then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
4 tablespoons melted or softened butter
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons arrowroot
40 oz. (5 cups) yogurt cheese (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs

4 small whoopie pies (each about 2 1/2 to 3 inches in diameter, such as from Trader Joe's).
Vertically cut each of these whoopie pies into 6 "slices" (not horizontally—in other words, each "slice" should contain two chocolate "outsides" and cream in between them).

Expect about 7 cups of the resulting batter, but do not add this to the pan all at once. Rather, this needs to be done in three installments. Wrap the pan in foil just before adding the first installment (minimize the foil's disturbance in order to minimize its leakage risk).

For each of the first two installments, gently scoop about 3 cups of batter into the pan. Add the pieces from 2 whoopie pies, ensuring that they are fully coated and—as much as possible—immersed (this is likely not readily doable on the first installment, but it should be on the second). After adding an installment, bake the pan with its contents for 30 minutes. For the first installment, bake at 325 degrees. For the second installment, reduce the temperature and bake at 300 degrees. For both installments here, bake with the pan in a tub filled with at least 1/4 to 1/2 inch of boiling water, but (to reduce spillage risks) do not fill the tub all the way at this point, because the whole tub-and-pan assembly is going to need to be removed from the oven (in order to comfortably add contents to the pan) between installments.

After all this is done, there should be about a cup of batter left, with 60 minutes of baking time reached at this point (30 minutes for each of the first two installments). Now comes the third installment—carefully add the last of this batter (do not add any more whoopie pies at this point) on top of the pan's other contents. Try to fully coat the entire surface, especially wherever whoopie pie pieces may be showing. Next, return the entire pan-and-tub assembly to the oven. At this point, fill up the tub generously with boiling water. Resume baking at 300 degrees for another 55 minutes (based upon usage of a 9 1/2" pan).

Afterward, shut the oven off, and leave its door slightly ajar, with the cheesecake still inside—and in the tub—for an hour. Next, remove the cheesecake from the oven and tub (then immediately add a border of chocolate chips around the edge of this cheesecake, if desired). Continue to cool it down at room temperature for another two hours. After doing so, remove the cheesecake from pan and refrigerate.

Whoopie Pie Cheesecake—Prototype 1 (whole) Whoopie Pie Cheesecake—Prototype 1 (sliced)

For my 55th birthday, my brother Eric in California and his family there sent me a brand new, KitchenAid Professional 600 stand mixer (in Williams-Sonoma winter dark green), which made its debut in the preparation of this new cheesecake flavor.

Whoopie Pie Cheesecake—Prototype 1 (with new KitchenAid mixer)

Almost all of this cheesecake was gone in about 15 to 20 minutes at Living Hope Church. The last slice was taken not very long afterward. I got compliments as usual.
 
Baked Whoopie Pie Cheesecake—Prototype 2:
 
The batter of this cheesecake gets a major update for late 2015.
 
3-Cheese Blend (1CT-1NC-4YG):
Prepare ahead of time 32 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers (that's 64 ounces altogether) of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 8 ounces of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese and 8 ounces of softened Neufchatel cheese ("light cream cheese").

Grease a 9 1/2" (or 9") pan, but do not wrap foil around it until just before the batter is added (spreading the crust in an already wrapped pan can result in greater disturbance to the foil, thus increasing leakage risks).

Crust:
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted
8 oz. (1 cup) 3-cheese blend (see above)
3/8 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 oz. finely ground All-Bran

Place the resulting mixture in the greased pan and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 5-10 minutes, depending on the mixture's thickness (closer to 10 minutes if thin enough to be fully distributed across the pan's bottom by gentle shaking, closer to 5 minutes if thick enough to require spreading out this mixture by pressing on it with a utensil and/or fingers), then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
40 oz. (5 cups) 3-cheese blend (see above)
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon (5 tablespoons altogether) arrowroot
2 teaspoons vanilla
5 eggs

4 small whoopie pies (each about 2 1/2 to 3 inches in diameter, such as from Trader Joe's).
Vertically cut each of these whoopie pies into 6 "slices" (not horizontally—in other words, each "slice" should contain two chocolate "outsides" and cream in between them).

Expect about 7 cups of the resulting batter, but do not add this to the pan all at once. Rather, this needs to be done in three installments. Wrap the pan in foil just before adding the first installment.

For each of the first two installments, gently scoop about 3 cups of batter into the pan. Add the pieces from 2 whoopie pies, ensuring that they are fully coated and—as much as possible—immersed (this is likely not readily doable on the first installment, but it should be on the second). After adding an installment, bake the pan with its contents for 30 minutes. For the first installment, bake at 325 degrees. For the second installment, reduce the temperature and bake at 300 degrees. For both installments here, bake with the pan in a tub filled with at least 1/4 to 1/2 inch of boiling water, but (to reduce spillage risks) do not fill the tub all the way at this point, because the whole tub-and-pan assembly is going to need to be removed from the oven (in order to comfortably add contents to the pan) between installments.

After all this is done, there should be about a cup of batter left, with 60 minutes of baking time reached at this point (30 minutes for each of the first two installments). Now comes the third installment—carefully add the last of this batter (do not add any more whoopie pies at this point) on top of the pan's other contents. Try to fully coat the entire surface, especially wherever whoopie pie pieces may be showing. Next, return the entire pan-and-tub assembly to the oven. At this point, fill up the tub generously with boiling water. Resume baking at 300 degrees for another 80 minutes (based upon usage of a 9 1/2" pan).

Afterward, shut the oven off, and leave its door slightly ajar, with the cheesecake still inside—and in the tub—for an hour. Next, remove the cheesecake from the oven and tub (then immediately add a border of chocolate chips around the edge of this cheesecake, if desired). Continue to cool it down at room temperature for another two hours. After doing so, remove the cheesecake from pan and refrigerate.

Whoopie Pie Cheesecake—Prototype 2 (whole) Whoopie Pie Cheesecake—Prototype 2 (sliced)

I got a little extra creative with an alternating border of semi-sweet and milk chocolate chips.

I made this one especially for Mya, one of my cousin Rachel's daughters. I brought this cheesecake to their place in Vermont, where it was well-received, especially by Mya herself. The taste was great, and even Rachel—herself not a "chocolate" person—still enjoyed a little sliver as well.
 

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Baked Pecan Cheesecake—Prototype 1:
 
After earlier efforts of combining pecan filling with a few pumpkin cheesecake varieties, I decided to make a cheesecake that featured pecan in its own right. I modeled the batter for this one primarily after Prototype 6 of my pumpkin cheesecake (although I decided to use a plain crust here).
 
2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 2 pounds of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 16 ounces (1 pint) of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Pecan Filling:
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
2 eggs
(Tip: blend these five above ingredients first—starting with the first four, then adding the eggs—before adding the other ones below.)
2 cups corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 oz. chopped pecans (about 1 cup, after chopping)

Combine all the pecan filling ingredients in a saucepan before heating. Stir constantly over a roughly medium heat (not high—otherwise the mixture can easily leave a sticky, burnt residue on the bottom of the pan), bringing the mixture to a mild boil. Stir and cook carefully for about another 5 minutes, then remove from heat. Let this mixture sit until it is time to add it to the cheesecake batter (at which point the filling should still be at least warm enough that it spreads very easily).

Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
8 oz. (1 cup) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Pour this crust mixture into pan (9 to 9 1/2 inches) and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 10 minutes, then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall. Carefully wrap the pan in heavy foil afterwards (do not wrap it earlier—otherwise, this increases leakage risks).

Batter:
4 tablespoons melted or softened butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons arrowroot
5 cups (40 oz.) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs
pecan filling (see above), prepared and slightly cooled (mix this in last, doing so just until thoroughly blended)

Pour on top of crust. Bake in tub at 300 degrees for 105 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then cool down while still in oven (with this oven shut off) and in tub with door slightly ajar for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down at room temperature for another 105 minutes, then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Pecan Cheesecake—Prototype 1

I maxed out the springform pan's capacity on this one. The top surface of the cheesecake had a well-done look to it. But when this cheesecake was cut, it was rather quite soft on the inside, somewhat like many of my eggnog pumpkin prototypes. But I was able to pick up a satisfactory presence of the pecan-pie-like flavor (I more readily sensed the cheese taste). However, I felt that I should have perhaps reduced or cut out the cinnamon from the crust (as long as the cheesecake was pecan only).

I served this prototype at Living Hope Church on a Sunday when the turnout seemed quite low. About 1/4 of this cheesecake was left. It was served among a modest selection of refreshments.
 
Baked Pecan Cheesecake—Prototype 2:
 
For this one, the crust's cinnamon was reduced (I forgot to also decrease the brown sugar here, in keeping with the cinnamon reduction). I also made some adjustments in hopes of firming up this cheesecake, yet avoiding an overcooked top surface.
 
2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 2 pounds of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 16 ounces (1 pint) of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Pecan Filling:
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
2 eggs
(Tip: blend these five above ingredients first—starting with the first four, then adding the eggs—before adding the other ones below.)
2 cups corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 oz. chopped pecans (about 1 cup, after chopping)

Combine all the pecan filling ingredients in a saucepan before heating. Stir constantly over a roughly medium heat (not high—otherwise the mixture can easily leave a sticky, burnt residue on the bottom of the pan), bringing the mixture to a mild boil. Stir and cook carefully for about another 5 minutes, then remove from heat. Let this mixture sit until it is time to add it to the cheesecake batter (at which point the filling should still be at least warm enough that it spreads very easily).

Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
8 oz. (1 cup) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Pour this crust mixture into pan (9 to 9 1/2 inches) and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 10 minutes, then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall. Carefully wrap the pan in heavy foil afterwards (do not wrap it earlier—otherwise, this increases leakage risks).

Batter:
4 tablespoons melted or softened butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup arrowroot
5 cups (40 oz.) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs
pecan filling (see above), prepared and slightly cooled (mix this in last, doing so just until thoroughly blended)

Pour on top of crust. Bake in tub at 300 degrees for 90 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then cool down while still in oven (with this oven shut off) and in tub with door slightly ajar for 90 minutes. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down at room temperature for another 2 hours, then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Pecan Cheesecake—Prototype 2

I felt that this cheesecake was still too soft, but (hopefully) not quite as soft as the previous prototype. And the top did not seem overdone this time.

I served this latest cheesecake at Living Hope Church after a Sunday service which featured baptisms and testimonies. Although there was a good-sized turnout, about a quarter of Prototype 2 was left over (just like Prototype 1). A good selection of other baked goods, plus other snacks, were available as well.
 

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Baked Marshmallow Fluff Cheesecake—Prototype 1:
 
I decided to take a chance on a brand of marshmallow cream that has been popular, at least in the Boston, Massachusetts, area—the North Shore's own Marshmallow Fluff. This is modeled primarily after Prototype 1 of my pecan cheesecake. But out of my concern about the crust's cinnamon flavor being somewhat too strong—at least for cheesecake flavors like pecan and probably marshmallow as well, I reduced this spice here (and with it, some of the brown sugar also).
 
2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 2 pounds of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 16 ounces (1 pint) of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
8 oz. (1 cup) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Pour this crust mixture into pan (9 to 9 1/2 inches) and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 10 minutes, then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall. Carefully wrap the pan in heavy foil afterwards (do not wrap it earlier—otherwise, this increases leakage risks).

Batter:
4 tablespoons melted or softened butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons arrowroot
5 cups (40 oz.) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
8 oz. Marshmallow Fluff (or other brand of marshmallow cream, if the Fluff brand is not available)—gradually mix this in and blend completely, before adding any ingredients below.
4 eggs

Pour on top of crust. Bake in tub at 300 degrees for 105 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then cool down while still in oven (with this oven shut off) and in tub with door slightly ajar for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down at room temperature for another 105 minutes, then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Marshmallow Fluff Cheesecake—Prototype 1

I did not have high expectations for this one providing a readily detectable marshmallow flavor, and indeed I could not pick it up. But this cheesecake was still very tasty. A small amount was left over after being served among a modest snack selection at Living Hope Church.

I also felt that this prototype could use a little more firmness.
 

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Baked Cherry Cheesecake—Prototype 6:
 
The Beams were relocating, and Living Hope Church decided to have a send-off meal in their honor. So I sought input from them, including Bonnie—who had been one of our pastors—and her husband Jeff, in regard to a cheesecake flavor. Jeff expressed a particular interest in cherry, which I had done back around the late 1980's. I had yet to make my first cherry prototype in the 21st century.

This meant coming up with a starting cherry prototype number for these more recent times. After checking my late-1980's cherry prototypes (under the names "Prototype 13", "Prototype 14", "Prototype 16", "Prototype 17" and "Prototype 18"), I decided to go with number 6. However, I avoided using Kool-Aid mix. Rather than use that product from my earlier era, I sought something more natural. Cherry butter, an ingredient which was used in my chocolate cherry HiFi Buddy bars before I got more into my 21st century cheesecakes, was my first choice, but I more recently could not find any. I ended up settling for preserves—but I would have to come up with some thickness strategies. One of them would involve an installment approach, which I have previously used on cookie type cheesecakes.
 
2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 2 pounds of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 16 ounces (1 pint) of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
8 oz. (1 cup) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Pour this crust mixture into pan (9 to 9 1/2 inches) and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 10 minutes, then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall. Carefully wrap the pan in heavy foil afterwards (do not wrap it earlier—otherwise, this increases leakage risks).

Batter:
4 tablespoons melted or softened butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup arrowroot
5 cups (40 oz.) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
13 oz. cherry preserves—if pits are (or might) be present, try to filter them out through a strainer (also, see comments below)
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
4 eggs

Expect almost 8 cups of the resulting batter, but do not add this to the pan all at once. Rather, this needs to be done in four installments (this is so that the cheesecake can be baked long enough to help get it reasonably firm, yet without overcooking its top surface).

For each of these four installments, gently scoop about 1 3/4 to 2 cups of batter into the pan. After adding an installment, bake the pan with its contents for 15 minutes, at 325 degrees. For the first three installments here, bake with the pan in a tub filled with at least 1/4 to 1/2 inch of boiling water, but (to reduce spillage risks) do not fill the tub all the way at this point, because the whole tub-and-pan assembly is going to need to be removed from the oven (in order to comfortably add more batter to the pan) between installments. For the fourth (and final) installment, fill up the tub more generously (or nearly full) with boiling water.

After all this is done, there should be 60 minutes of baking time, at 325 degrees, reached at this point (15 minutes for each of these four installments). Now, with the cheesecake remaining in the oven, reduce the temperature to 300 degrees and continue baking this cheesecake for another 75 minutes (based upon usage of a 9 1/2" pan). Then cool it down while it is still in the oven (with this oven shut off) and in the tub with the oven's door slightly ajar for 60 minutes. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down in pan at room temperature for another 2 hours, then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Cherry Cheesecake—Prototype 6

It was probably at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods where I got cherry butter in the past, but this time around I couldn't find it. After looking into alternatives, I finally picked up, at Whole Foods, a 13-ounce jar of Bonne Maman cherry preserves—a "gourmet-looking" product from France—and used that for this prototype.

The top of the cheesecake had some cracks in it. While not ideal, this seemed to be an encouraging sign to me that the batter would not end up being too soft, an issue that I had with my first two pecan cheesecake prototypes. And, after finally slicing this cherry cheesecake, it looked like my thickness efforts had paid off—this prototype came out sufficiently firm!

That was the good news. Unfortunately, I could hardly pick up the cherry flavor. If only I could still get that cherry butter (without too much effort) like I used to in the past!

Another issue had to do with the type of meal served at the church. Nearly every time we had a community-style meal following Sunday services, it was "potluck style"—i.e., people would bring in their own foods to enjoy and to share with others. Of course, I would nearly always bring cheesecakes on such occasions. However, it was decided that the meal in honor of the Beam family would be a more formal, "host provision-oriented" one—where the supplying of the food, including dessert, was left solely to the church. So I was caught off-guard on that one (particularly in light of the fact that we had a send-off cookout the prior year for the MacKay couple, yet attendees were encouraged to bring, at least, their own desserts). The "official" desserts included a beautiful-looking double-layer sheet cake from a local independent grocer—Henry's, of North Beverly—and ice cream. (The only other Sunday community meal that I could recall as solely-church-provided at Living Hope was a rice-and-beans supper during last year's Lent, in order to give the guests a "taste" of what it was like to live in an underdeveloped or "Third World" country.)

Therefore, I held back on this cheesecake until everyone seemed to get a reasonable chance to enjoy the more formal desserts. I then offered, in somewhat subdued fashion, my cherry prototype for interested individuals who still had room in their stomachs. Not much of my dessert ended up being taken. It seemed that some guests each took a little bit to bring home for later. Well over half of this cheesecake was left, and I took that back home with me.

But I did not get stuck with having to finish it all off. I only ate a little more, and the rest of it was brought to The Home Depot for my coworkers to enjoy.
 
Baked Cherry Cheesecake—Prototype 7:
 
Alright, I normally have not been doing this kind of thing lately, but for this prototype I gave in and used Kool-Aid mix, artificial flavoring and all. But this was simply because I felt that the cherry preserves approach was not going to work out to my satisfaction, and I could not readily find cherry butter, which was really my first choice. At least the preparation would be simpler for this latest cherry cheesecake.
 
2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 2 pounds of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 16 ounces (1 pint) of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
8 oz. (1 cup) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Pour this crust mixture into pan (9 to 9 1/2 inches) and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 10 minutes, then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall. Carefully wrap the pan in heavy foil afterwards (do not wrap it earlier—otherwise, this increases leakage risks).

Batter:
4 tablespoons melted or softened butter
7/16 cup (3/8 cup + 1 tablespoon) Cherry Kool-Aid (pre-sweetened) mix (about the same amount of mix that would be needed as if to make 1 quart of the drink itself, but do NOT rely on the package's enclosed scoop)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons arrowroot
5 cups (40 oz.) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs

Wrap the pan in foil at this point. Carefully pour the batter over the crust and bake this cheesecake in a hot water tub at 300 degrees for 105 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then shut off oven and cool cheesecake down while still in it (and in tub), with door slightly ajar, for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down at room temperature for another 105 minutes, then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Cherry Cheesecake—Prototype 7

What a bright, red look with a bright, cherry taste! I hardly had a problem picking up this flavor, and it did not overwhelm the cheese presence either. As I anticipated, the firmness was decent as well. If only I could attain this same outcome with an all-natural version of Kool-Aid!

This prototype was gone in about 45 minutes at Living Hope, having been served among a relatively small snack selection. The turnout at this church seemed somewhat on the low side as well for that Sunday.
 

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Baked Fluffernutter (Marshmallow Peanut Butter) Cheesecake—Prototype 1:
 
A few years ago, I made a few batches of Fluffernutter HiFi Buddy Bars, which featured Marshmallow Fluff, a popular marshmallow cream from Boston's North Shore. The Fluffernutter denotes a classic Fluff-and-peanut-butter sandwich enjoyed by many in this area. I more recently felt that I would attempt a cheesecake version.

I was initially going to formulate the marshmallow batter according Prototype 1 of my marshmallow cheesecake. But I ended up deciding to let the Marshmallow Fluff do all of the sweetening here. So the 1/2 cup of sugar (after factoring in the proportional, i.e., half recipe, adjustments) would be replaced by an additional 4 ounces of Fluff.
 
2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 32 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers (that's 64 ounces altogether) of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine one 16-ounce container of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
8 oz. (1 cup) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Place the resulting crust mixture into the bottom of a greased 9 1/2" (or 9") springform pan and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 10 minutes, then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall. Carefully wrap the pan in heavy foil afterwards (do not wrap it earlier—otherwise, the foil is likely to be more disturbed, thus increasing leakage risks).

Marshmallow Batter:
2 tablespoons melted butter (unsalted recommended)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons arrowroot
20 oz. (2 1/2 cups) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
1 teaspoon vanilla
8 oz. Marshmallow Fluff (or other brand of marshmallow cream, if the Fluff brand is not available)—gradually mix this in and blend completely, before adding any ingredients below.
2 eggs

Carefully pour the batter on top of the crust and bake all this in a hot water tub at 325 degrees for about 40 minutes. Afterwards, take the tub-and-pan assembly out of the oven.

Add about 10 regular-sized marshmallows on top.

Return all this to the oven and continue baking at 325 degrees for another 20 minutes. After this is done, remove the tub-and-pan assembly from the oven and promptly add the batter indicated below.

Peanut Butter Batter:
2 tablespoons melted butter (unsalted recommended)
4 oz. peanut butter (unsalted recommended)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons arrowroot
20 oz. (2 1/2 cups) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 eggs

Carefully scoop all of this batter, except for about 1 1/2 cups, on top of the marshmallow surface (it is best to do this around the edge of the pan and on top of the regular marshmallows and let the peanut butter batter flow to the surface's other areas) and return the tub-and-pan assembly to the oven, this time at only 300 degrees. Resume baking for about 15 minutes.

Next, remove the tub-and-pan assembly from the oven and carefully add the remaining peanut butter batter (try to coat whatever marshmallows float to the surface). Return all this to the oven, still at 300 degrees, and bake for about 60 more minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then shut off the oven and cool the cheesecake down while still in it (and in tub), with the oven door slightly ajar, for about an hour. Afterwards, remove the cheesecake (still in its springform pan) from the oven and tub and continue to cool it down at room temperature for another 2 hours.

After that, remove the cheesecake from its pan and refrigerate.

Fluffernutter Cheesecake—Prototype 1

It was hard for me to readily pick up a distinct marshmallow flavor. But that was probably due to my aging taste buds. Still, I—and many others at Living Hope Church—enjoyed this North Shore cheesecake. It was gone in about an hour, having been served on a Palm Sunday among a good-sized selection of other pastries (plus other kinds of snacks).
 

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Baked Dulce De Leche Cheesecake—Prototype 1:
 
After this flavor had been on my "radar screen" for nearly 2 1/2 years, it was time to get this one underway.
 
2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 2 pounds of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 16 ounces (1 pint) of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Caramel Sauce:
Empty a 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk (nonfat recommended) into a container to be used for heating (warning: do not use the can itself for heating, due to the possibility of the high heat causing the can's inner material to react with—or somehow adversely affect—the milk). There is more than one way to heat this sweetened milk until it turns brown. One of them is to microwave the milk at medium power for a few minutes, then cut the power to medium-low and microwave for a few more minutes. Stir the contents frequently while heating. Another option (which takes more time) is to place the container on top of another one which itself contains boiling water. Simmer all this on a stove for about an hour or so, stirring often. Alternatively, put it into an oven at about 400 to 425 degrees—but tightly cover the milk's container (just that one, not the container with the hot water) with foil—and bake about one to two hours, or until the mixture is brown enough.

Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
1 cup (8 oz.) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Pour this crust mixture into pan (9 to 9 1/2 inches) and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 10 minutes, then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
4 tablespoons melted or softened butter
1 cup granulated sugar
5 cups (40 oz.) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons arrowroot
Caramel sauce from 14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk (see above)—note that this gets blended into the batter (tip: the warmer the caramel sauce is, the softer it is, thus the easier it is to get it blended in)
4 eggs

Pour on top of crust. Bake in tub at 300 degrees for 105 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then cool down while still in oven (with this oven shut off) and in tub with door slightly ajar for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down at room temperature for another 105 minutes, then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Dulce De Leche Cheesecake—Prototype 1

This one was served among a somewhat modest snack selection at Living Hope Church and was almost completely gone in probably less than 15 minutes. There was just one slice left—no takers for that one. I ended up taking it home myself.

I had too much difficulty picking up the caramel flavor. Upon my asking, some other individuals could barely detect it. Back when I started working on this cheesecake, I did contemplate using
two cans of sweetened condensed milk but ultimately decided to start my dulce de leche prototypes with just one. On the other hand, I felt that the cinnamon in the crust was too strong. Didn't I cut that one back in another cheesecake somewhere? Yes, it was my first Marshmallow Fluff cheesecake. I would need to remember that for next time—as well as adding that second can of milk.
 
Baked Dulce De Leche Cheesecake—Prototype 2:
 
In light of the first prototype's outcome, the sweetened condensed milk would be doubled in order to increase the caramel's presence—and the cinnamon flavor would be reduced. I also considered increasing the cooking time as well, in order to compensate for the increase in liquid.
 
2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 2 pounds of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 16 ounces (1 pint) of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Caramel Sauce:
Empty two 14-ounce cans of sweetened condensed milk (nonfat recommended) into a container to be used for heating (warning: do not use the cans themselves for heating, due to the possibility of the high heat causing the cans' inner material to react with—or somehow adversely affect—the milk). There is more than one way to heat this sweetened milk until it turns brown. One of them is to microwave the milk at medium power for a few minutes, then cut the power to medium-low and microwave for a few more minutes. Stir the contents frequently while heating. Another option (which takes more time) is to place the container on top of another one which itself contains boiling water. Simmer all this on a stove for about an hour or so, stirring often. Alternatively, put it into an oven at about 400 to 425 degrees—but tightly cover the milk's container (just that one, not the container with the hot water) with foil—and bake about one to two hours, or until the mixture is brown enough.

Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
1 cup (8 oz.) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Pour this crust mixture into pan (9 to 9 1/2 inches) and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 10 minutes, then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
4 tablespoons melted or softened butter
1 cup granulated sugar
5 cups (40 oz.) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons arrowroot
Caramel sauce from two 14 oz. cans of sweetened condensed milk (see above)—note that this gets blended into the batter (tip: the warmer the caramel sauce is, the softer it is, thus the easier it is to get it blended in)
4 eggs

Pour on top of crust. Bake in tub at 300 degrees for 115 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then cool down while still in oven (with this oven shut off) and in tub with door slightly ajar for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down at room temperature for another 115 minutes, then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Dulce De Leche Cheesecake—Prototype 2

I seemed to pick up some caramel flavor, if I concentrated hard enough. Maybe my taste buds were too old to distinctively detect this caramel more easily. But I felt content with it at this point. Furthermore, upon making this cheesecake, when I tasted a tiny sample of the caramel sauce (after preparing it from the sweetened condensed milk), I found that the caramel flavor, while it had a reasonably notable presence, did not seem to be all that strong. So maybe the cause of this somewhat "low profile" was the low sensitivity of my taste buds.

I also felt that the top of the cheesecake may have been a little too brown. Perhaps I should not have allowed for those extra 10 minutes of baking time (or maybe I should have opted for a 5-minute compromise).

But this cheesecake got devoured in probably about 25 minutes at Living Hope Church. There was a somewhat large crowd present. But there were plenty of other sweet treats too. Although they looked deliciously attractive, they hardly seemed to move nearly as fast as the cheesecake.
 
Baked Dulce De Leche Cheesecake—Prototype 3:
 
For this latest prototype, instead of blending the caramel sauce fully into the batter, I decided to "give it a swirl"!
 
2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 2 pounds of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 16 ounces (1 pint) of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Caramel Sauce:
Empty two 14-ounce cans of sweetened condensed milk (nonfat recommended) into a container to be used for heating (warning: do not use the cans themselves for heating, due to the possibility of the high heat causing the cans' inner material to react with—or somehow adversely affect—the milk). There is more than one way to heat this sweetened milk until it turns brown. One of them is to microwave the milk at medium power for a few minutes, then cut the power to medium-low and microwave for a few more minutes. Stir the contents frequently while heating. Another option (which takes more time) is to place the container on top of another one which itself contains boiling water. Simmer all this on a stove for about a couple of hours or so (or until the contents are noticeably thick and/or show a light brown or caramel-like color), stirring often. Alternatively, put it into an oven at about 400 to 425 degrees—but tightly cover the milk's container (just that one, not the container with the hot water) with foil—and bake about one to two hours, or until the mixture is brown enough.

Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
1 cup (8 oz.) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Place the resulting mixture in the greased pan and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 5-10 minutes, depending on the mixture's thickness (closer to 10 minutes if thin enough to be fully distributed across the pan's bottom by gentle shaking, closer to 5 minutes if thick enough to require spreading out this mixture by pressing on it with a utensil and/or fingers), then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
4 tablespoons melted or softened butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons arrowroot
40 oz. (5 cups) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs

Expect about 7 cups of the resulting batter (of course, that's before adding any caramel sauce), but do not add this to the pan all at once. Rather, this needs to be done in five installments. Wrap the pan in foil just before adding the first installment (no earlier than that—the goal here is to minimize the foil's disturbance in order to minimize its leakage risk).

For each of the first four installments, gently scoop about 1 1/2 cups of batter into the pan. Spoon about 1/4 of the caramel sauce in scattered areas on top of the batter. Then swirl this sauce with a knife—carefully (try to keep its tip from going below the batter installment being added at that point). After adding an installment, bake the pan with its contents for 15 minutes. For each of the first three installments, bake at 325 degrees. For the fourth installment, reduce the temperature and bake at 300 degrees. For all four installments here, bake with the pan in a tub filled with at least 1/4 to 1/2 inch of boiling water, but (to reduce spillage risks) do not fill the tub all the way at this point, because the whole tub-and-pan assembly is going to need to be removed from the oven (in order to comfortably add contents to the pan) between installments.

After all this is done, there should be about a cup of batter left, with 60 minutes of baking time reached at this point (15 minutes for each of the first four installments). Now comes the fifth installment—carefully add the last of this batter (do not add any more caramel sauce at this point) on top of the pan's other contents. Try to fully coat the entire surface, especially wherever any caramel sauce may be showing. Next, return the entire pan-and-tub assembly to the oven. At this point, fill up the tub generously with boiling water. Resume baking at 300 degrees for another 55 minutes (based upon usage of a 9 1/2" pan).

Afterward, shut the oven off, and leave its door slightly ajar, with the cheesecake still inside—and in the tub—for an hour. Next, remove the cheesecake from the oven and tub, and—for a bit of a "turtle effect", if desired—add a border of chocolate chips around the edge of this cheesecake. Continue to cool it down at room temperature for another two hours. After doing so, remove the cheesecake from pan and refrigerate.

Dulce De Leche Cheesecake—Prototype 3 (whole) Dulce De Leche Cheesecake—Prototype 3 (sliced)

This one came out too soft. The cheesecake seemed almost ready to come apart if I removed it from the pan's bottom. The baking times that I used were based on a couple of "cookie" cheesecakes that I made in the past, namely Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough—Prototype 3 and Cookies+Creme—Prototype 9.

Perhaps the caramel sauce was too wet (thus reducing the batter's stability), in comparison with the cookies. I also felt that I cooked the sweetened condensed milk for too long, making the resulting caramel sauce too thick. It was difficult for me to swirl it around within the batter.

At least I could pick up a little noticeable caramel taste. This cheesecake was served at Living Hope Church among a number of refreshments, including small, lunch-type sandwiches. The fellowship hall activities included an annual church meeting at some point (maybe close to an hour) after worship services. Less than one eighth of the cheesecake remained as of what was probably about a couple of hours after the services ended.
 

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Baked Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake—Prototype 3:
 
Looking back, I have made no less than 20 different cheesecake prototypes around the late-1980's. This resulted in 5 different "solo" cheesecake flavors—lemon, plain, chocolate, orange and cherry. I had already brought these into the more recent times of the 21st century. However, there was still just one other kind made by me from that earlier era—and this one was a "duo", i.e., a two-flavor combination, which was made with two of the aforementioned five stand-alone flavors. Those two were chocolate and cherry. It reminded me of black forest cake. Another treat that comes to mind here is chocolate-covered cherries (or perhaps chocolate cordial cherries). This pairing of the two "CH's" has been a particularly big hit around Valentine's Day.

As a matter of fact, I made some chocolate cherry treats close to that holiday around 2010, give or take a few years. But those treats were HiFi Buddy bars—not cheesecake. After more than half a decade of turning out cheesecakes in the 21st century, it was time for me to bring the last of my 1980's cheesecake flavor varieties into this more recent era.

As with my 21st century's first lemon and orange cheesecakes, my 21st century chocolate cherry combination would get started with this era's flavor-oriented "Prototype 3" designator, due to my making two chocolate cherry cheesecakes back around the late 1980's—under that era's generalized (i.e., not flavor-oriented) "Prototype 19" and "Prototype 20" names (I tried to "marble" the chocolate and cherry together in those two early prototypes, but to no avail—the much more recent Prototype 3 presented here would get the standard, two-layered treatment).
 
2-to-1 Blend of Yogurt Cheese and Cottage Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 32 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers (that's 64 ounces altogether) of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine one 16-ounce container of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese.

Grease a 9 1/2" (or 9") pan, but do not wrap foil around it until just before the batter is added (spreading the crust in an already wrapped pan can result in greater disturbance to the foil, thus increasing leakage risks).

Chocolate Crust:
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
8 oz. (1 cup) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
3/8 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 oz. finely ground All-Bran

Place the resulting mixture in the greased pan and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 5-10 minutes, depending on the mixture's thickness (closer to 10 minutes if thin enough to be fully distributed across the pan's bottom by gentle shaking, closer to 5 minutes if thick enough to require spreading out this mixture by pressing on it with a utensil and/or fingers), then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Cherry Batter:
2 tablespoons melted/softened butter (unsalted recommended)
3 1/2 tablespoons (1/4 cup, less 1/2 tablespoon) Cherry Kool-Aid (pre-sweetened) mix (about the same amount of mix that would be needed as if to make 1/2 quart of the drink itself, but do NOT rely on the package's enclosed scoop)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons arrowroot
20 oz. (2 1/2 cups) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs

Wrap the pan in foil at this point. Carefully pour the batter on top of the crust and bake all this in a hot water tub at 325 degrees for about 40 minutes. Afterwards, take the tub-and-pan assembly out of the oven and promptly add the batter indicated below.

Chocolate Batter:
2 tablespoons melted/softened butter (unsalted recommended)
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
7/8 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons arrowroot
20 oz. (2 1/2 cups) 2-to-1 blend of yogurt cheese and cottage cheese (see above)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs

Carefully scoop this on top of the cherry batter (it is best to do this around the edge of the pan and let the chocolate batter flow towards the middle) and return the tub-and-pan assembly to the oven, this time at only 300 degrees. Bake for about 90 more minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then shut off the oven and cool the cheesecake down while still in it (and in tub), with the oven door slightly ajar, for about an hour. Afterwards, remove the cheesecake (still in its springform pan) from the oven and tub and continue to cool it down at room temperature for another two hours.

After cooling down at room temperature, remove the cheesecake from its pan and refrigerate.

Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake—Prototype 3 (whole) Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake—Prototype 3 (slice)

This tasty cheesecake did surprisingly well for a snowy day at Living Hope Church. Despite the low turnout, nearly 7/8 of this one was gone in probably under 45 minutes after the start of the church's coffee/refreshments time—although the cheesecake was served among what seemed to be a small selection of snacks. I did not see what happened to the rest of it (I would guess that somebody probably took it to go).
 

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Baked Strawberry Cheesecake—Prototype 1:
 
There is plain cheesecake. Then there are flavored varieties, of which I felt that strawberry has been among the most popular—but it has often been in the form involving a topping placed over plain cheesecake. As I have done with many other flavors, the recipe presented here features the inclusion of strawberry within the batter.
 
Yogurt Cheese:
Prepare ahead of time 3 pounds of yogurt cheese, derived from three 32-ounce containers of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 48 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference.

Grease a 9 1/2" (or 9") pan, but do not wrap foil around it until just before the batter is added (spreading the crust in an already wrapped pan can result in greater disturbance to the foil, thus increasing leakage risks).

Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
8 oz. (1 cup) yogurt cheese (see above)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Place the resulting mixture in the greased pan and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 5-10 minutes, depending on the mixture's thickness (closer to 10 minutes if thin enough to be fully distributed across the pan's bottom by gentle shaking, closer to 5 minutes if thick enough to require spreading out this mixture by pressing on it with a utensil and/or fingers), then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
4 tablespoons melted or softened butter
1 cup granulated sugar
14 oz. strawberry conserves (such as from Whole Foods Market)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons arrowroot
5 cups (40 oz.) yogurt cheese (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs

Wrap the pan in foil, and carefully pour the batter on top of the crust. Bake all this in a tub at 300 degrees for 105 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then cool down while still in oven (with this oven shut off) and in tub with door slightly ajar for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down at room temperature for another 105 minutes, then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Strawberry Cheesecake—Prototype 1

I had difficulty picking up the strawberry flavor in this one, but I still got plenty of favorable comments from others at Living Hope Church, where this cheesecake was served among a good amount of sweet treats and other snacks, on Palm Sunday of 2015. There remained about a couple of slices after what seemed to be over an hour, and I left those behind for others to enjoy at a small lunch that followed.
 
Baked Strawberry Cheesecake—Prototype 2:
 
Got natural strawberry flavoring? To my surprise, I could not find any at Whole Foods—and I did not know of any other nearby brick-and-mortar that I could look to for such an ingredient. I settled for taking a chance on greatly boosting the thick strawberry stuff—which I also changed from "conserves" to "fruit spread".
 
Repeat Prototype 1, but replace the batter's 14 ounces of strawberry conserves with 20 ounces of strawberry fruit spread (which seemed reasonably close to strawberry conserves).

Also, increase the baking time from 105 minutes to 2 hours (keep the in-oven-with-door-ajar cooling time at 1 hour). Likewise, increase the cooling time at room temperature (i.e., outside the oven) from 105 minutes to 2 hours.
 
I provided this prototype for a Home Depot (my workplace) potluck meal. I could somewhat pick up the strawberry flavor, but the tartness seemed quite dominant (perhaps I should utilize a 2-to-1 blend with cottage cheese in future strawberry prototypes). My fellow workers gave me some nice comments, and one of them mentioned picking up both strawberry and cinnamon flavors (the latter being included in the crust). There was, after my 8-hour (plus a lunch break hour) shift ended, about 1/3 of the cheesecake remaining, and I left that behind (along with other potluck leftovers).
 
Baked Strawberry Cheesecake—Prototype 3:
 
It was time for me to take strawberry matters into my own hands. If it was difficult to get natural strawberry flavoring—or even natural strawberry drink mix—and the spreads were not working out to my satisfaction, I would settle for fresh strawberries and puree those in a blender (with the green stems removed first, of course).
 
3-Cheese Blend (1CT-1NC-4YG):
Prepare ahead of time 32 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers (that's 64 ounces altogether) of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 8 ounces of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese and 8 ounces of softened Neufchatel cheese ("light cream cheese").

Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
8 oz. (1 cup) 3-cheese blend (see above)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Place the resulting mixture in the greased pan and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 5-10 minutes, depending on the mixture's thickness (closer to 10 minutes if thin enough to be fully distributed across the pan's bottom by gentle shaking, closer to 5 minutes if thick enough to require spreading out this mixture by pressing on it with a utensil and/or fingers), then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
40 oz. (5 cups) 3-cheese blend (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
12 ounces of strawberry puree
1/2 cup arrowroot
5 eggs

Wrap the pan in foil just before adding the batter (to minimize the foil's disturbance and therefore its leakage risk, do not put it on any earlier).

Next, pour the batter over the crust and bake this cheesecake in a hot water tub at 300 degrees for 120 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then cool the cheesecake down while still in oven (with this oven shut off) and in tub with door slightly ajar for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down at room temperature for another 120 minutes, then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Strawberry Cheesecake—Prototype 3

I felt that this one came out too soft (which is why the above photo is showing the cheesecake with a little gash on the left—some of this cheesecake remained too stuck to the pan).

On the other hand, I felt that the strawberry flavor had a nice presence—"bright" and lively, yet it did not seem to be too tart. I had earlier considered adding more sugar in the future, but after I tasted this latest prototype, I reasoned that adding more sugar would probably begin to "dull" the strawberry taste. A young person—Michael—who often rated my cheesecakes that I brought to Living Hope Church, described this strawberry flavor as "spot-on". I served this cheesecake there at that time (in early April of 2016), among a modest snack selection, and it was gone in probably about half an hour. I was faced with a challenge for a future prototype: How to further firm up the cheesecake while maintaining a decent, strawberry taste.
 
Baked Strawberry Cheesecake—Prototype 4:

Repeat Prototype 3, but make this change for the batter:
Boost arrowroot by 1/4 cup, to 3/4 cup (thus adding more stability).
 
The outcome was persistently soft, despite the increased arrowroot. Now this softness was upon removing the cheesecake from its pan. What this particularly meant was that too much residual batter was left on the pan's sidewall, thus resulting in excessive gashes on this cheesecake. After it was chilled, I had a serving, and have found the texture to be too rubbery. I took that result as too much arrowroot. I felt the need to return that ingredient to 1/2 cup. So what could I do for the future? Should I take a chance on an unusual increase in baking time??

Because I was personally dissatisfied with this prototype, I ate very little of it. I decided to unload the rest on my Home Depot workplace. This cheesecake was gone surprisingly very quickly, likely within 5 hours, in the break room there.
 
Baked Strawberry Cheesecake—Prototype 5:
 
The quest is on for a decently-firm strawberry cheesecake (without being too rubbery)! This latest one takes on a multiple-installment baking approach, somewhat based on my sixth banana prototype. I also decided to flavor up the crust a little, putting some of my surplus strawberry puree to use.
 
3-Cheese Blend (1CT-1NC-4YG):
Prepare ahead of time 32 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers (that's 64 ounces altogether) of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 8 ounces of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese and 8 ounces of softened Neufchatel cheese ("light cream cheese").

Crust:
2 ounces of strawberry puree
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
8 oz. (1 cup) 3-cheese blend (see above)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Place the resulting mixture in the greased pan and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 5-10 minutes, depending on the mixture's thickness (closer to 10 minutes if thin enough to be fully distributed across the pan's bottom by gentle shaking, closer to 5 minutes if thick enough to require spreading out this mixture by pressing on it with a utensil and/or fingers), then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
40 oz. (5 cups) 3-cheese blend (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
12 ounces of strawberry puree
1/2 cup arrowroot
5 eggs

Expect close to 8 1/2 cups of the resulting batter, but do not add this to the pan all at once. Rather, this needs to be done in four installments. Wrap the pan in foil just before adding the first batter installment (to minimize the foil's disturbance and therefore its leakage risk, do not put it on any earlier).

For each of the first three installments, gently scoop about 2 1/3 cups of batter into the pan, fully covering the surface (here's a tip—scoop small amounts of batter around the edge of the pan, letting this batter flow towards the middle on its own), and then bake this pan with its contents for 25 minutes, at 325 degrees. For these three installments here, bake with the pan in a tub filled with at least 1/4 to 1/2 inch of boiling water, but (to reduce spillage risks) do not fill the tub all the way at this point, because the whole tub-and-pan assembly is going to need to be removed from the oven (in order to comfortably add contents to the pan) between installments.

After these first three installments are done, there should be about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of batter left, with 75 minutes of baking time reached at this point (25 minutes for each of the first three installments). Now comes the fourth installment—carefully add the last of this batter on top of the pan's earlier installments, fully coating the entire surface. Next, return the entire pan-and-tub assembly to the oven, this time with the temperature reduced to 300 degrees. At this point, fill up the tub generously with boiling water. Resume baking for another 120 minutes (based upon usage of a 9 1/2" pan).

Afterward, shut the oven off, and leave its door slightly ajar, with the cheesecake still inside—and in the tub—for an hour. Next, remove the cheesecake from the oven and tub. Continue to cool it down at room temperature for another two hours. After doing so, remove the cheesecake from pan and refrigerate.

Strawberry Cheesecake—Prototype 5

The batter's outcome remained a stubbornly-soft, "can't-win" texture, despite all this extra cooking time and temperature (although the bottom batter installment seemed to show some sign of hopeful firmness).
 
Baked Strawberry Cheesecake—Prototype 6:
 
Several months after I had given up looking for natural strawberry flavoring or a natural strawberry drink mix, a nicely updated product happen to somehow come my way. Nestlé has made a change for the better on its strawberry Nesquik—a reasonably natural (at least natural enough by my standards—no ingredients that I could find that a strict grocer like Whole Foods would deem "unacceptable") strawberry powder product was within my easy reach at last!

Strawberry Nesquik (click here for bigger, more detailed photo)

I felt grateful. Thanks, guys!
 
3-Cheese Blend (1CT-1NC-4YG):
Prepare ahead of time 32 ounces of yogurt cheese, derived from two 32-ounce containers (that's 64 ounces altogether) of nonfat yogurt. If the resulting yogurt cheese falls below 32 ounces, add back enough of the whey (that was strained out from the yogurt) to make up the difference. To this yogurt cheese combine 8 ounces of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese and 8 ounces of softened Neufchatel cheese ("light cream cheese").

Crust:
2 oz. melted, white chocolate
8 oz. (1 cup) 3-cheese blend (see above)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 oz. All-Bran, ground up

Place the resulting mixture in the greased pan and pre-bake without tub at 300 degrees for 5-10 minutes, depending on the mixture's thickness (closer to 10 minutes if thin enough to be fully distributed across the pan's bottom by gentle shaking, closer to 5 minutes if thick enough to require spreading out this mixture by pressing on it with a utensil and/or fingers), then cool enough to comfortably touch at least the pan's upper sidewall.

Batter:
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup Nestlé Strawberry Nesquik drink mix (the same amount of mix that would be needed as if to make 1 quart of the drink itself)
40 oz. (5 cups) 3-cheese blend (see above)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon (5 tablespoons altogether) arrowroot
5 eggs

Wrap the pan in foil at this point. Carefully pour the batter over the crust and bake this cheesecake in a hot water tub at 300 degrees for 105 minutes (if using a 9 1/2" pan). Then shut off oven and cool cheesecake down while still in it (and in tub), with door slightly ajar, for an hour. Afterwards, remove from oven and tub and continue to cool down at room temperature for another 105 minutes, then remove from pan and refrigerate.

Strawberry Cheesecake—Prototype 6

As expected, the batter turned out to be nicely firm. And this cheesecake fared alright at Living Hope Church.

But where was the strawberry? I could hardly taste it! How did I decide to use 1/2 cup of strawberry Nesquik in the first place?

I made that determination based on the amount of drink mix that would have been needed to make 1 quart of the drink itself. So how did I come up with this 1-quart rule? It was derived from Prototype 7 of my cherry cheesecakes. The amount of cherry Kool-Aid mix that I used there (7/16 cup in that case) was what would have been needed for a quart of the prepared Kool-Aid, and I used this same amount of that mix for what turned out to be a successfully-tasting cherry cheesecake.

Could it be that, for beverage purposes, proportionally less Nesquik was needed, relative to Kool-Aid, perhaps because of milk—which Nesquik was meant for—being a substantially better flavor carrier than water—which Kool-Aid was meant for? In that case, perhaps less than 7/16 cup of Kool-Aid would be needed if this water-enhancing mix were to be combined with milk rather than water—and more than 1/2 cup of Nesquik would be needed if this milk-enhancing mix were to be combined with water rather than milk.

Anyway, more Nesquik would be needed in the next strawberry prototype. But how much??
 
Baked Strawberry Cheesecake—Prototype 7:
 
Okay, this is it—crank up that strawberry Nesquik twofold! However, I got somewhat concerned about this leading to too much overall sweetness, so I decided to also reduce the granulated sugar a little bit in order to compensate.
 
Repeat Prototype 6, but make these changes for the batter:
Boost Nestlé Strawberry Nesquik drink mix by 1/2 cup, to 1 full cup (this revised amount of mix being what would be needed as if to make 2 quarts of the drink itself).
Reduce granulated sugar by 1/8 cup (2 tablespoons), to 7/8 cup.

Strawberry Cheesecake—Prototype 7

I felt that the amount of strawberry flavor for this prototype's batter was just about right (I had some concern beforehand about boosting the Nesquik too much, and that caused me to consider using only about 3/4 of a cup—so I was glad that I ended up going with one full cup instead).

However, I started to feel that the crust's cinnamon flavor was somewhat too strong. What led to this was that, in order to simplify things, I had chosen not very long ago to use a standard, plain-cheesecake-oriented formulation for the crust (Prototype 15 of my plain cheesecakes being a noteworthy example) in many of my non-chocolate-related cheesecake flavors. But with this strawberry prototype, I reconsidered and reasoned that such an approach wasn't always a good idea. That would be (hopefully!) okay for plain and perhaps some other flavors of cheesecake—but not for strawberry.

Anyway, this cheesecake was almost completely gone—only a very small sliver was left—likely with 15 minutes at Living Hope Church (noticeably better than the previous prototype in this flavor). I ultimately finished off that remaining sliver.
 

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Changes to basic cheesecake batter composition, mid-2015
 
When I started making lower-fat cheesecakes back in the 1980's, I utilized a recipe inside a cookbook from the American Heart Association. That recipe's batter contained the following ingredients:

Lowfat cottage cheese
Margarine—which I later replaced with butter
Eggs
Granulated sugar
Skim milk
Flour
Salt
Lemon juice
Lemon rind (peel)

When I resumed making cheesecakes—which was around 2009—I was no longer using lemon peel as a base ingredient (I still used this one for lemon cheesecakes). As the next few years went by, I also removed lemon juice as a base ingredient, due primarily to my starting to use a new cheese ingredient—yogurt cheese—which, like lemon juice, had tart characteristics. I also eliminated skim milk at some point. The salt was, somewhere along these years, removed as well. So these changes left the following remaining "original" ingredients:

Lowfat cottage cheese
Butter (formerly margarine)
Eggs
Granulated sugar
Flour—of which I used various types, such as whole wheat and, more recently, unbleached all-purpose

New additions to the base ingredient list, based largely on my plain cheesecakes, were—within the past few years:

Yogurt cheese
Vanilla
Arrowroot

The "cheese base" in particular had undergone changes. This used to be only cottage cheese. More recently, yogurt cheese has taken over this slot, although I would use a blend of both yogurt and cottage cheeses for cheesecake flavors that I felt should not be highly tart. For plain and citrus flavors, I would go solely with yogurt cheese. A cookbook from Health Valley, Cooking Without Fat by George Mateljan, turned me on to this ingredient as well as arrowroot.

However, after my somehow losing some satisfaction over a number of my latest cheesecakes, including Prototype 12 of my plain-flavored ones, I felt that another update was warranted.

I have come a long way since that initial American Heart Association recipe. Over the last few years, I have researched a number of more conventional, traditional, full-fat, cream-cheese-based cheesecake recipes. What I have found was a typical, popular base set of ingredients among them:

Cream cheese
Eggs
Granulated sugar
Vanilla

Of particular importance was that cream cheese generally contained stabilizers and/or thickeners such as:

Xanthan gum
Locust bean gum
Guar gum

I myself tried using xanthan gum in a number of recipes, but often with unsatisfactory results (maybe I used too much?).

Lately, I saw potential in more closely paralleling my lower-fat cheesecakes with their higher-fat counterparts. The basic batter list that I had been working with in recent times consisted of the following:

Yogurt cheese (sometimes also with cottage cheese)
Butter
Eggs
Granulated sugar
Flour (such as all-purpose)
Vanilla
Arrowroot

So I reasoned that eliminating the butter would bring my list more in parallel with the conventional, higher-fat lineup. However, the two cheeses—cottage and yogurt—did not have enough stability like typical cream cheese. Hence this called for ingredients like all-purpose flour and arrowroot. But I felt that instead of using both of these two items, I would go solely with the Health-Valley-recommended arrowroot, which seemed to be a more efficient (and hopefully better-tasting) stabilizer than all-purpose flour. The resulting list for my new batter base would be:

Yogurt/cottage cheese
Arrowroot (to help stabilize the cheese)
Eggs
Granulated sugar
Vanilla

Compare the conventional list:

Cream cheese (with its own stabilizers)
Eggs
Granulated sugar
Vanilla

So my new composition was down to 5 simple ingredients. It was with Prototype 13 of my plain cheesecake—the batter, to be more specific—that my usage of this lineup has gotten its debut in this recipe scrapbook series (I added more cooking time as well with this prototype).

I continued making changes in my plain cheesecakes by simply adding another egg for Prototype 14. Not only would this return the egg-to-cheese-base ratio to what it was in earlier days, but also make the cheesecake more stable (hopefully) and contribute further to simplification: 1 egg (as well as 1 tablespoon of arrowroot) for every 8 ounces of cheese base.

However, I made a fairly bold move with Prototype 15!

Okay, I admit that I have seeking to bake lower-fat alternatives to cream cheese cakes. However, there were times when the cheese cultures from the cottage and yogurt cheeses still did not seem to quite work out well enough. So I thought that I would include at least some cream cheese in the mix. More specifically, I decided to take a chance with Neufchatel cheese—often referred to as "light cream cheese". Due to the lighter nature of this cheese, the fat would not surge too much (keep in mind that butter was no longer being used in the batter base ingredients at this point).

With this move, Prototype 15 would actually get three kinds of cheese—yogurt, cottage and Neufchatel (yogurt would still dominate over the two others). The goal was to attain the right balance of sweetness, tartness and "cheese-iness".

I wanted to ensure more firmness, so I added still more baking time as well.
 

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Changes to basic cheesecake batter composition, mid-2017
 
My experiencing a very delicious cheesecake from Trader Joe's back around early June of 2017 prompted me to give further consideration to overhauling the basics of my cheesecake recipes. The efforts began with Prototype 17 of my plain cheesecakes and ended with Prototype 21. Earlier in these updates I did a little tweaking with the crust. But the far more important changes throughout the updates would involve the batter.

I felt that I should cut back on the tartness of the cheesecake's batter, so I replaced half of the yogurt cheese with additional cottage cheese. In other words, the cheese base's cottage-Neufchatel-yogurt ratio went from 1:1:4 to 3:1:2. It seemed like this helped enhance the taste somewhat, but I still wasn't satisfied.

But the most significant change affected the stabilizer.

My cheesecake history began with what has probably been the most popular stabilizer in baking—wheat-type flour. I used different kinds of this flour, such as all-purpose and whole white.

As the years went by, I started bringing arrowroot on board (this stabilizer getting its debut very likely in mid-2012), earlier to supplement the wheat-based flour and later to replace it. It was probably around mid-2015 when I outright retired the wheat-based flour, so the arrowroot was on its own at that point. It seemed to have considerably more stabilization strength compared to its wheat-oriented predecessor.

Recently, I tried a rather risky experiment. I made a cheesecake with no stabilizer added. That was Prototype 18. This wasn't the first time that I had done this. I also made Prototype 8 this way, and that one was exceptionally delicious. But it was also exceptionally soft. But Prototype 8 contained only yogurt cheese for the cheese base. Prototype 18, on the other hand, also contained cottage cheese and Neufchatel cheese, and these two products already had some stabilizers in them, particularly xanthan gum—an industrial staple.

Fortunately, Prototype 18 was not an unstable disaster (a little sloppy, yes, but not so runny). And its taste was really terrific, pretty much like Prototype 8's and Trader Joe's. This outcome put arrowroot in the crosshairs.

But what would be a superior alternative to arrowroot? I was looking for sufficient stability, but I was also in the hunt for a really great taste, just like I would enjoy with a more typical, fat-laden cheesecake.

The time had come to give xanthan gum—an ingredient available for retail sale, at least in recent years from Bob's Red Mill—a try. This stabilizer has been put to extensive use in the food industry—and particularly in cream cheese (often in conjunction with guar and/or locust/carob bean gum here)! But I didn't think that xanthan gum had been embraced anywhere nearly as much in homes. Maybe one of the reasons was the difficulty in using it. I myself have incurred a number of failures in the past with this ingredient—often by using too much of what I found out the hard way to be an overwhelmingly powerful stabilizer!

Bob's Red Mill Xanthan Gum (click here for bigger, more detailed photo)

But how much, then, should I use? I Googled around and was led to start off small—very small—with this potent ingredient. So I carefully put xanthan gum to work in Prototype 19, and the results worked out reasonably well. The batter tasted awesome, but I wanted to tweak the stability. This adjustment, which included the amount of baking time, as well as how much xanthan gum to use, would ultimately lead up to Prototype 21, with which I would close out this basic overhaul of 2017.

So the resulting basic cheesecake batter would now involve these ingredients:

Cheese base (such as cottage/Neufchatel/yogurt)
Xanthan gum (supplementing whatever stabilizers were already included in the cheese base ingredients)
Eggs
Granulated sugar
Vanilla

Compare and contrast the conventional list:

Cream cheese (with a sufficient amount of its own stabilizers, particularly xanthan gum)
Eggs
Granulated sugar
Vanilla

Now that's very close!

In early October, not long after my overhaul efforts with my plain prototypes, I furthermore decided to try an "egg-speriment" (or, "eggs-experiment") with Prototype 7 of my maple cheesecakes. I added one egg on top of what I primarily had been using for nearly the past two years, i.e., I went from five eggs to six. While "one egg for every eight ounces of cheese base" seemed to be mathematically convenient, using a half-dozen eggs per cheesecake had a couple of advantages. One would make my grocery shopping easier, because of the way eggs have been packaged—typically in multiples of six (I scarcely have been using this ingredient for any other purpose). The other would be beneficial for the cheesecake's firmness and texture. The outcome of the maple cheesecake itself was great, so I decided at this point to utilize the sixth egg on a regular basis.
 

Cheesecake Tips

Red Velvet Research Project

My 1980's Cheesecake Prototypes

Pitfalls to avoid: Unsuccessful recipes

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