One of the hardest things for me to do as a model was not to eat the gorgeous food that was put out for us during a shoot. The dining area of the studio was always littered with divineness, and even when shooting on location the picnics that were set out looked like Yotam Ottolenghi had waved his magic wand all over them.
One sunny day, with a bunch of models down in the Florida Keys, a swimsuit shoot was taking place. Halfway through, just before lunch, the caterers emerged with the ubiquitous salads, soups and nutty-looking breads and then a key lime pie. I spent the next four hours partly smiling at the camera and partly staring at the key lime pie (which of course no one was eating). Once the shoot was finished, I dived straight for that pie and ate the best part of half of it.
This lighter recipe is in honor of that most memorable day. It's not easy to find key limes here— perhaps actually impossible — so regular limes will do the trick.
- 2-pound loaf pan
- Food processor
- 4 ounces light digestive biscuits or graham crackers
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 6 gelatin leaves
- 1 3/4 pounds low-fat (not the lightest) cream cheese
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons light sour cream
- 1/2 cup soft light brown sugar
- Seeds of 1 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Finely grated zest and juice of 3 unwaxed lemons
- Finely grated zest and juice of 3 limes
- Small handful of fresh mint leaves and a few raspberries (optional)
Line a 2-pound loaf pan with a piece of plastic wrap much larger than the pan. It's best to have excess plastic wrap hanging over the sides, which you can use to cover the cheesecake once in the pan and also as handles to pull the cheesecake out once set. I find it best to slightly wet the inside of the loaf pan first, and this way the plastic wrap sticks to it more easily. A 2-pound loaf pan's size and shape may vary, but as a guide, mine measures 9 x 3 inches on the bottom (10 x 5 inches across the top) and 3 inches high.
Put the digestive biscuits or graham crackers in a food processor and blitz them to fine crumbs. Then, put them into a medium bowl and mix in the butter and sugar. Put the mixture into the bottom of the loaf pan and press the crumbs down really firmly but evenly with your hand or the back of a spoon. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes until firm.
Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Soak the gelatin leaves in a bowl with enough cold water to cover and set aside to soften. Beat the cream cheese, sour cream, sugar, vanilla seeds or extract, lemon and lime zests and lemon juice (reserve the lime juice for now) together in a large bowl until smooth, and set aside.
The gelatin should now be really soft and floppy. Warm the lime juice in a small pan over gentle heat until it just begins to steam. Then take it off the heat, squeeze the excess water from the gelatin leaves and stir them into the lime juice until dissolved. Leave this for about 10 minutes until cool.
Once cool, beat this liquid into the cream cheese mixture really well and pour it into the loaf pan. Spread the top evenly with the back of a spoon and then flip the excess plastic wrap up to cover it loosely but completely. You may need an extra piece of plastic wrap if you don't have enough to play with. Place in the fridge to set overnight or for at least 5 hours.
Once the cheesecake is set, carefully peel back the plastic wrap from the top and use this to lift the cheesecake out of the pan. Carefully peel the plastic wrap from the sides and slice the cheesecake into 12 even slices. Scatter the mint and raspberries over, if you are using them, and serve at once.
(Recipe from “A Lighter Way to Bake,” Lorraine Pascale, Ecco, 2014)