On a recent trip to Toronto, I dropped into the best Greek spot in town, and had a perfect cheesecake. It was nothing like a classic New York variety, with a graham cracker crust and dense texture. This was lighter, and the crust was madness. I spent a bit of time looking up “Greek shredded wheat” until I discovered kataifi, the thinly sliced filo dough that spins into golden brown tufts of pure crunch. This was the base of the cheesecake, and the source of its perfect crunch.
When I ventured to make this myself, I based my yogurt cheesecake off of an old recipe from the 50s, filled with far more eggs and cream than typical recipes. I also, stupidly, baked the filling and crust together, ruining the perfectly crisp crust – so, though I know it seems a bit fussy, you have to bake them separately to get the amazing contrast of textures. Enjoy!
1/2 pound kataifi (or filo dough, very thinly sliced)
4 ounces (one stick) butter
6 cups greek yogurt, plus more, to garnish
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 350F.
Melt the butter and brush the bottom and sides of a 9-inch spring form baking pan (you will have butter left over).
Unroll the kataifi dough and work it with your hands, tearing apart the shreds and gently spreading the strands, so you get a fluffy pile of dough.
Spread the kataifi on the bottom of the pan, about a 1/2 inch deep. Brush heavily with butter.
Bake for about 1 hour (on the middle rack), until dark golden brown and crisp. Set it aside to cool, and then remove it from the pan.
In a standing mixer with paddle attachment, whip yogurt and beat in the sugar and honey. Continue beating until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in heavy cream and vanilla. If at all lumpy, strain through sieve. Pour into the (now empty) pan. bake at 325F for 1 hour. Turn the oven off and leave the cheesecake in the oven 1 hour. Remove from oven and let it cool gradually to room temperature, chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours.
Open the spring form pan, and flip the cheesecake onto the katafi crust. This way, the crust doesn’t get soggy. Garnish with yogurt.