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Friday, June 26, 2015

Vegan Cheesecake

This one goes out to my niece and nephew.

OK, so I know I said I wasn't ever going to do this.  That the notion of substituting ingredients for the sake of avoiding animal products isn't wholly necessary, and that we should all just be content to make new dishes that just don't necessarily include animal products.  

I've said it before, and I do believe it.  It's not that I prefer the animal product version of foods better, it's more just that I feel the non-animal product versions should be able to stand on their own!

Why not, in fact?

And so it is the case with these vegan desserts, that I don't even really want to call 'cheesecake', because that's erroneous and misleading, and doesn't do justice to EITHER cheesecake nor this delicious and ultimately free-standing vegan dessert.

Really, these should just be called cashew coconut dessert tarts, and they (and we) should be totally fine to label them as such!!!



So, this recipe is actually fairly involved, and this took me significantly longer to prepare than I expected.  Even without any 'baking' time.

The two things you'll need to do in advance are:  soak your cashews, and soak your dates.  The cashews for at least 4 or 5 hours (preferably overnight in the fridge though), and the dates for about 10 minutes or so.

But other than that it is just a whole lot of blending in the food processor.

Here is the recipe which I sort of pieced together from various sources online:

  • 1 cup pitted medjool dates, soaked in water for 15 minutes, and then drained and rinsed.
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • dash of cinnamon
  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 2 cups raw cashews, soaked overnight (or at least for 4-5 hours), and then drained and rinsed.
  • 1/3 cup of coconut oil.
  • 2/3 cup coconut milk (especially the 'cream' from the top of the milk)
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • the juice and zest of one large organic lemon.
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp wild blueberries (for colour, I'll explain later).
  • 2 cups wild blueberries (for sauce, again, see later).

So, make the crust first, obvs.

If you can't find pitted dates, just remove the pits yourself, it's dead easy.

Soak em for about 15 minutes in clean filtered water.

Drain them, and then give em a good rinse.

Then throw them in your food processor bowl.

Add about a tsp of lemon zest, and a small dash of cinnamon.

Blend thoroughly.

It should be a big sticky mess, kinda stuck together in a ball.

It's OK if some of the dates are still in largish pieces, as long as it's all sticky and goopy like this.

Now, carefully REMOVE all the dates from the processor.  Scrape as much of it out as you can.

Just set it aside for now, and then put in your cup of raw almonds.

Now blend these by themselves until they are nicely chopped.

Once you've reached a pretty uniform and somewhat small-ish piece state, add the dates back in, and mix together until thoroughly blended.

Carefully spoon equal amounts into your containers, whatever they might be.  I used a greased (coconut oil) muffin tin, but I will not be doing that again.  Instead, I'd recommend what I will opt for the next time I make these, ramekins.  Heck, even bowls would be OK.  They just got a little messy in the muffin pan, if you had some good non-stick muffin liners, maybe that'd be OK too.

Anyway, press this 'crust' down hard with your fingers or a spoon or anything hard and unyielding.  I found the bottom of a parchment-paper-lined mason jar worked well.

And that's it for the crust.  You can place this in the freezer at this point, and it will help to firm them up a bit.

But then it's on to the 'filling'.

Your cashews should be nice and soaked by now, so take them out and give them a good rinse.

And then into the food processor.

At this point, you can unceremoniously just dump everything else in, except for the blueberries.

So, the lemon juice and remaining zest, the syrup, the coconut oil, coconut cream and milk, the salt and the vanilla.

When I mixed this all together, I found that I didn't really LOVE the colour of the filling.  It was far browner than I thought.  I guess I should have expected as much from the cashews, but still...

So, what I did to fix this was to add a handful of blueberries at this point, to mulch them in there, and just for colour.


The result was much prettier and "dessert-looking".


Anyway, that's it.

Just pour this as evenly as you can amongst your crust-containing-containers (whatever those might be).

And then chill in the freezer.

These were kinda really, really hard to remove.  The well-intentioned parchment tabs you see did absolutely nothing, and just ripped off whenever pulled upon.  Like I mentioned earlier, I think next time I will use some ramekins as even muffin liners or papers wouldn't work too well I don't think... I dunno.

Anyway, they were still quite cute and attractive!
Here I've just sprinkled some blueberries on top, but I plan on making a nice compote or sauce the next time I serve these.  Something fruity, and sweet and spicy with maybe a hint of salt (and pepper... yes, pepper... fruit and heat go very well together!  Try it!!)

Anyway, it might behoove you to remove all these guys from their containers, while frozen, and then carefully bag them in freezer bags to go back in to the freezer.  It saves space in the freezer, and makes it easier to grab them later.

So... these guys are vegan and delicious in their own right.  I'm not sure that they come very close to approximating 'cheesecake', but then again, do they have to?

My thoughts are just that they shouldn't even try.  They're great on their own, and can be judged fully on their own merits, which are many.

They are high in calories (very high) but not totally unhealthy.  I mean, really they're just nuts and fruit.  :)

Anyway, you can let these guys thaw a bit before serving, but they are quite good frozen too! Especially on a hot evening!

I imagine future iterations of this will see some interesting and creative means of serving.  I see something with waffle cones maybe.  :)

Anyway, enjoy!  Whether you're gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian, or omnivorian, I'm sure you'll still find these guys quite delightful!