{Quick Cookbook Review}: Donna Hay’s Fresh and Light Berry Slice

June 25th, 2014

 
donna hay berry slice side
Donna Hay's Berry Slice with lemon verbena

Happy Summer! Here's a quick review of one of my latest cookbooks and a summer-ready recipe to get your weekend started:

Donna Hay has long been one of my big inspirations, from her trendsetting food photography to her accessible approach to cooking and design. Her cookbooks are dog-eared references in my home, so I was thrilled to get a copy of her latest one, Fresh and Light, which pretty much sums up the Donna Hay philosophy.

Although I've always found her recipes to emphasize fresh, clean, seasonal flavors, Donna Hay has decided to bring an even lighter touch to her repertoire. The cookbook emphasizes vegetables, alternative grains, and lighter forms of cooking. Donna Hay mentions in her foreword that she doesn't like the word "diet", and I like that this cookbook doesn't sacrifice any of her signature mouthwatering style or culinary creativity. Without reading the book description I don't think I would have noticed it was meant to be a "light cooking" book.

I'm also pleased that there's a substantial dessert section, with frozen yogurts and light breads and fruit tarts. I was particularly drawn to the gorgeous berry slice, which looked sleek and cool and perfect for a warm weekend.

This is essentially a slimmed down cheesecake made with cream cheese and ricotta. There's no crust, but because I like a little crunchy contrast to my cheesecake I threw in a simple graham cracker crust, since these days I always have a lot of graham crackers around the house for hungry toddlers!

Donna Hay berry slice overhead
Donna Hay berry slice from above

I also added in some lemon verbena, one of my favorite summer flavors. Although I usually infuse the leaves into cream or milk, since there are no liquids in this recipes I ground up the leaves with the sugar to make a green-speckled, super fragrant lemon verbena sugar. You can use this sugar in other recipes as well, wherever you want a lovely floral hit of lemon.

lemon verbena plant
My (new) lemon verbena plant

This thin, elegant slice manages to seem sumptuous and satisfying despite its lightness. If you don't make the crust, this dessert takes only minutes to put together and less than half an hour to bake (the crust only adds a smidgen more time, and is totally worth it in my opinion). And now that Isabelle is sharing more and more of our meals, I like more healthy options that we'll feel good about sharing with her. Another addition to the Donna Hay section of our cookbook shelves!

Donna Hay berry slice front
Donna Hay berry slice on graham cracker crust

Berry Cheesecake Slice on Graham Cracker Crust

makes 12 servings
  • Adapted from Donna Hay's Fresh and Light

Crust

  • 3/4 cup (80 g) graham crackers
  • 1/8 cup (38 g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons (25 g) granulated sugar

Cheesecake

  • 1/2 cup (110 g) granulated sugar
  • 20 lemon verbena leaves, washed and dried
  • 14 oz (400 g) ricotta cheese
  • 4 1/4 oz (125 g) reduced fat cream cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon rice flour
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the crust:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8 in x 8 in square pan with parchment paper (one with a removable bottom is best).
  • Pulse graham crackers in food processor into fine crumbs.Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake papers. Pulse graham crackers in food processor into fine crumbs. Add butter and sugar and pulse until combined.
  • Turn out graham cracker mixture into the pan. Use your fingers or a pastry tamper to press mixture evenly across bottom of the pan.
  • Bake in oven for 5 minutes. Remove and let cool while you make the batter.

For the filling:

  • Lower oven temperature to 325 degrees F. Combine sugar and lemon verbena leaves in food processor and pulse until leaves are finely ground into the sugar so all you see are green specks.
  • Add in ricotta cheese, cream cheese, eggs, rice flour and process until smooth and well combined.
  • Pour mixture into the pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until firm. Refrigerate until cold. Top with fresh berries to serve.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of Donna Hay's Fresh and Light. All opinions in this post are my own. This post contains links to my affiliate account at Amazon. Purchasing through the links will give this site commissions. Thanks for your support of Dessert First!

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