Light and sweet |

Light and sweet

My experience with low-fat desserts has resulted in two conclusions: First, low-fat desserts can be boring and lacking in flavor – pale imitations of the originals. Second, if it is low in fat and tastes good, then it is probably loaded with strange, artificial ingredients.

Years ago, I had the opportunity to meet and actually cook with Alice Medrich. Alice founded the Bay Area chocolate mecca “Cocolat” and had just written a James Beard award-winning cookbook called “Chocolate and the Art of Low-Fat Desserts.” To be honest, at the time I was more interested in high-fat desserts, so I bought the book but never really used it.

Well, I pulled out the book, which is gorgeous by the way, and tried three recipes. I was stunned at how delicious they tasted, and everyone who sampled them gave two enthusiastic thumbs up. Although these recipes are not really low carb, if you substituted Splenda for the sugar, I believe these desserts could be Atkins-friendly. (I am sure there are instructions for baking with Splenda on the packaging.)

These desserts may be a little more time-consuming, but for a special occasion, they are well worth the extra effort!

Fallen Chocolate Souffle Torte

From “Chocolate and the Art of Low-Fat Desserts” by Alice Medrich

An elegant, rich dessert that will please even the most discriminating chocolate addict.

1/4 cup blanched almonds

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped fine

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup boiling water

2 egg yolks

1 tablespoon brandy or vanilla

4 egg whites, at room temperature

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

powdered sugar for sprinkling

Maida’s cream (recipe follows) if desired, for topping

Position rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 375 F. Place a round of parchment paper in bottom of 8-inch springform pan and spray the sides with vegetable oil spray.

In a food processor or blender, grind the almonds with the flour until very fine. Set aside. Combine chopped chocolate, cocoa and sugar in a mixing bowl. Pour in boiling water and whisk until mixture is smooth and chocolate is completely melted. Whisk in egg yolks and brandy or vanilla.

Beat egg whites with cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Continue beating at high speed until stiff, but not dry. Whisk flour/almond mixture into the chocolate. Fold about 1Ú4 of egg whites into chocolate to lighten, then fold in remaining egg whites. Scrape batter into pan.

Bake for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it.

Cool torte in the pan – it will sink like a souffle.

When torte is cool, carefully run a knife around the edges of pan and release cake. The top will have a broken, crumbly crust; just try to arrange it all together (it’s not a beautiful looking cake). The easiest way to serve the torte is right off the springform pan bottom, but you can invert it onto cardboard or a plate, then invert it again onto serving platter. Sift powdered sugar over torte and serve with Maida’s cream, low-fat frozen yogurt or drizzle with chocolate syrup.

Calories per serving (1Ú8 of torte) -179

Fat – 6.4 grams

Percent of calories from fat – 29%

Protein – 4.2 grams

Carbohydrates – 30.2 grams

Maida’s Cream

From “Chocolate and the Art of Low-Fat Desserts”

Pureed low-fat cottage cheese is very versatile, and I plan to experiment with it in the future. It tastes like a softer, richer, less tangy yogurt. This cream recipe tastes fabulous with chocolate desserts and is also a perfect fruit topping.

1 cup low-fat cottage cheese

11/2 tablespoons sugar

1/8 teaspoon vanilla

Using food processor, puree cottage cheese 2-3 minutes until perfectly smooth. Add sugar and vanilla, blend, then taste and add a little more sugar and/or vanilla if necessary.

Contains less than 1 gram of fat per 3 tablespoon serving/52 calories/5 grams carbohydrates


“From Chocolate and the Art of Low-Fat Desserts” by Alice Medrich

This low-fat version doesn’t rise much, but it is absolutely silky smooth and luscious. The secret to the creamy, rich texture is to puree the cottage cheese for at least 2-3 minutes, until it is perfectly smooth. You make the whole cheesecake in the food processor, which is simple and not messy (a good blender would work, too.) I used a springform pan wrapped in heavy-duty aluminum foil to prevent any seepage; this made unmolding the cheesecake very simple, but you must make sure your pan seals up tight so the batter won’t leak. The directions call for chilling the cheesecake for 12 hours before serving, so plan accordingly.

2 cups low-fat, small-curd cottage cheese

8 ounces light cream cheese

3 eggs

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla

11/2 teaspoons strained lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon salt

3-4 tablespoons graham cracker crumbs or finely chopped walnuts

Position rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Place a round of parchment paper in the bottom of an 8-inch pan and spray the sides with vegetable oil spray. Put a kettle of water on to boil.

Process the cottage cheese in a food processor for 2-3 minutes, until silky smooth, scraping sides as necessary. No lumps. Set aside.

In a small microwavable bowl, soften the cream cheese in the microwave on high for about 30 seconds (or warm gently in the top of a double boiler). Stir until smooth and add to cottage cheese in food processor.

Add eggs, sugar, vanilla, lemon juice and salt; pulse until incorporated and perfectly smooth. Do not overprocess. Pour into prepared pan.

Slide out oven rack partway. Place the cheesecake in a baking dish (such as a large casserole/lasagna pan) or an ovenproof skillet and set on oven rack. Carefully pour boiling water around the pan to a depth of 1 inch. Slide rack in oven and avoid sloshing water. Bake until cheesecake is set in middle and shrinks slightly from the edges of pan – 40 to 45 minutes. Remove cheesecake from water bath and cool on rack. When cool, cover and chill for at least 12 hours or up to 2 days before serving.

To unmold, cover pan with tightly stretched plastic wrap. (Omit these steps if using a springform pan.) Place a flat dish on top of plastic. Invert and rap pan gently until cheesecake is released. Remove pan and peel parchment liner from bottom. Carefully invert on serving plate so that cake is right side up, and remove plastic wrap. Press crumbs around the sides of cake.

Cut with a sharp, thin knife; dip knife in warm water and wipe dry between each cut.

Calories per serving – 204

Fat – 7.4 grams

Percent of calories from fat – 30%

Carbohydrates – 24 grams

Raspberry Topping

Use good quality, sugar-free raspberry jam. Melt jam very slightly in microwave, just so it will spread smoothly. Hot jam will melt cheesecake. Before serving, spread jam over cheesecake. Blackberry, cherry, orange marmalade, chocolate syrup or lemon curd would also make lovely toppings.

Simple Meringues

Meringues are a forgotten treat; they are completely fat free (except for the almond topping); keep for months in the freezer; and have a marvelous, melt-in-the-mouth texture.

2 egg whites

1/3 cup of sugar

1 teaspoon almond extract and about 30 whole almonds

For lemon meringues, substitute 1 teaspoon lemon extract and 1 teaspoon lemon zest.

Preheat oven to 225 F. Start with an absolutely clean mixing bowl. Whip egg whites, adding sugar every few minutes in thirds. Add extracts (and lemon zest for lemon meringues) and beat until very stiff (if you make a trench in the egg whites, the banks should hold). Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper or use vegetable oil spray. You can pipe meringues from a pastry bag, or just make little, free-form spoonfuls on cookie sheets, as long as the shapes are roughly uniform. If using almond flavor, top each cookie with an almond. Bake 60 minutes or more, until cookies are firm and barely changing color. Meringues will firm as they cool; cool on baking sheets, remove and serve. Keep meringues in a sealed container or freeze.

Kimberly Carrow is a cooking enthusiast and works at Odyssey Books in Grass Valley.

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