31 May 2010

HHDD: Avocado Cheesecake Pots

I have to admit it, right at the get-go: before I took on this challenge, I had never heard of Donna Hay.

Whoo, it feels good to get that off my chest!

For those of you who are like me, here's the rundown: she's basically Australia's Martha Stewart. No joke, go to her website; it's like a cross between Martha's and Bon Appetit. Each month, a host chooses a Donna Hay recipe for everyone to try (or tweak) and write a post about. The host then compiles the posts, and opens it to a  vote. I love a challenge, and this month's recipe sounded especially delicious, easy, and very open to interpretation.

(If you're curious about the rules of this challenge, the facilitator, Chez Us, has posted them on their website, including a list of past challenges!)

This month's challenge is hosted by Mardi of eat.live.travel.write. whose winning entry last month got her rights to host this month's event. A lady after my own heart, she picked one of my favorite desserts on the planet: cheesecake. Donna Hay's Blackberry Cheesecake Pots, to be precise, a smooth, creamy no-bake version just perfect for people like me (i.e. those without an oven...).

Of course, I always need to be different. I can't remember the last time I followed a recipe as written; it's an affliction, I'll admit. So I decided (as is allowed by the rules) that I would instead come up with my own interpretation of this recipe. The greatest thing about cheesecake is it lends itself to so many flavors.

Trial and Error

As I see it, there are 3 major aspects to this recipe: the dominant flavor, the cheese, and the cookie.

The process: Since my hubby was my guinea pig this week, I allowed him a vote on each part of the recipe. If it wasn't unanimous, I had to go back and fix it until we agreed.

The Flavor
The original recipe focuses on the luscious blackberry, but they aren't in season here, and therefore were impossible to find. And besides, I had something a little more unconventional in mind: avocados. I've been on an avocado kick recently, and have discovered that many cultures don't see it as a savory ingredient, but rather a sweet one. Given its unique taste, and creamy texture, I figured it would lend itself well to a cheesecake. (Not so sure the hubs was on board, though)


The hubs got no vote here. The minute I saw this recipe, I knew I was making an avocado cheesecake. Thankfully, my hubby is an adventurous eater, and managed to make it through 3 separate rounds of cheesecake tests (a hard job, I'm sure).

The cheese

The DH recipe calls for cream cheese (like any normal cheesecake), but I've seen a lot of recipes lately using quark instead (a lower-fat curd cheese with a flavor profile that falls somewhere between sour cream and cream cheese). I had never heard of it until I moved to Germany, so I was intrigued by the idea of an unfamiliar ingredient. I had been dying to try it for weeks, and so this recipe gave me the perfect opportunity to try.


I kept very close to the original recipe, simply replacing the required blackberries with half an avocado, and adding 2 tsp (10 ml) of fresh lemon juice to counter any oxidation (no one wants to eat a brown cheesecake) and to brighten the rich flavors. After rounds 1 & 2 (the cheese and cookie tests overlapped), the vote was undecided. The hubs preferred the cream cheese, citing a more “cheesecake-y” flavor, but I thought the quark really let the subtle taste of the avocado shine through.

In an attempt to stay somewhat true to the original recipe, I also wanted to incorporate a berry somehow. Mardi's idea of including a blackberry coulis paired with my recent obsession with the strawberry-rhubarb cake at our local bakery (and a sale on local strawberries) inspired me to create a strawberry-rhubarb compote. The best part is: it's all in season. Once the compote was included, we attempted to come to a consensus. I made another round of each cheesecake mix, to see how each stood up to the bold flavor of the compote.  Finally, a decision was made!

The Cookie

When I went to my local store, they didn't have biscotti. I had to find a substitution: ooh! Italian Amarettini cookies, an ultra-crunchy, ultra-sweet cookie that is usually served with cappuccinos. I don't know why I thought the Amaretto flavor would pair well with avocado, but amazingly it does!


The question here was to put the cheesecake mixture on a base of whole or crushed cookies; I personally believe a cheesecake is not a cheesecake without a crust. I couldn't bake a crust (due to staying true to the recipe, and my lack of an oven) but I wanted to incorporate the cookie directly into the cheesecake, as opposed to adding it as a garnish.

What happened during my trials was a surprise; these crispy cookies ended up absorbing a lot of the liquid from the mix during refrigeration. That's not the surprising part. What amazed me was instead of just getting soggy or stale, they actually dissolved into a wonderfully sweet amaretto syrup!

Final Decision

Once I included the sweet-tart flavor of my strawberry-rhubarb compote to the cheesecake, the quark provided the perfect balance. The cream-cheese-compote-combo really drowned out the flavor of the avocado. With the quark, the whole dessert was lighter, allowing the delicate flavor of sweetened avocado to really shine through. It picked up the lemon flavor as well, which mirrored the tartness in the rhubarb as well.

In terms of the base, we decided the crushed cookies were the way to go. They gave a blast of sweetness at the end, while still providing a little crunch, a great contrast to the creamy cheesecake. I found that a tall, thin glass (like a champagne glass) works best at keeping the balance of crunchy cookies, and syrupy goodness, but a ramekin will work just fine too.

If you'd like to try it for yourself, here is my recipe, inspired by Donna Hay.

Avocado Cheesecake Pots, with Strawberry Rhubarb Compote

Servings: 4 - appx. 1/2 cup servings Prep Time: 5 min Cook Time: N/A

Printer Friendly

Here's what you need:

1 cup plus 2 TB (250g) quark
¼ cup (55g) caster (superfine) sugar
¼ cup (60ml) pouring (single) cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Half ripe avocado
2 tsp (10 ml) fresh lemon juice
1 cup Amarettini cookies
½ cup Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote

Here's what you do:

Place the first 6 ingredients in a food processor, and blend until smooth. Roughly crush your cookies (not too fine, or you'll lose all their great crunch).

Take a 6 ounce glass or ramekin and put 2 TB of the crushed cookie mixture in the bottom (more if you'd like). Divide the cheesecake mixture among your glasses, and top with 2 TB compote.

Garnish with sliced strawberries, some fresh Amarettini, and big smiles.


  1. This looks absolutely amazing! WOW! Thanks for playing along - so great to see so many different interpretations of the recipe!

  2. Thanks Mardi! I had a lot of fun coming up with this - Can't wait to see what next month brings!

  3. STUNNING!!! Great job on the interpretation.

  4. Wow that looks great. I wonder if I can find all the ingredients here (at least I know I can find avocados).

  5. Regular cream cheese will work just fine (but since it's a stronger flavor than quark, maybe increase to 3/4 of an avocado, and make sure it's really ripe). You can also use plain old heavy cream, and if you can't find amarettini cookies, crushed biscotti would probably work, or you can just serve cookies on the side (which is what the original recipe suggested).

  6. It looks really lovely....and I am so glad to see I'm not the only one who goes through the trial/error process to get home recipes right. Superb

  7. Thanks! Trial and error is the fun part :) (And it meant my hubs got to eat lots of cheesecake all week, so he was happy)


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