Vegan cheesecake (gluten free)

I must confess, even before I went vegan, I had never had cheesecake. I had read about it, heard about it on The Big Bang Theory (Penny worked at the Cheesecake Factory) and seen pictures of it. But I’d never actually tasted it. So this recipe is an attempt to bring to life my imagination of what a cheesecake would taste and feel like. I’ll never personally know whether or not it mimics non-vegan cheesecake exactly, but either way this recipe is absolutely delicious: silky, creamy ‘cheese’ layer and chewy crust. And you don’t even have to take my word for it; the three non-vegans who had some were positively raving about it. 😀

The recipe is not entirely original; before making this I read up on the chemistry of vegan cheesecake, going through tons of recipes online, and they’ve all influenced my version to some extent. So unfortunately I can’t credit any single recipe for inspiration, but I must thank the vegan blogger community for the wealth of knowledge.

The cheese layer in non-vegan cheesecake is made with dairy cream cheese, egg yolk and other heart stopping ingredients. In this vegan version I substituted a coconut cream custard with some starch to help it set (think creamy eko). For the crust, instead of the traditional graham crackers and butter I used cashews and dates (so this is actually gluten free). You can use vegan crackers if you like, but the cashews create an entirely different texture – chewy rather than crunchy.

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What you will need

*makes 12 small servings

For the cheese layer

+ 1 cup coconut cream (chill the can overnight)

+ 2 tablespoons arrowroot powder (or cornstarch)

+ 1/4 cup brown sugar

+ 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

+ 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

+ 1 teaspoon vinegar

For the crust

+ 1/2 cup cashew pulp (the leftover ‘chaff’ from making strained cashew milk)

+ 6 pitted dates

 

How to make it 

Crust 

Step 1: Dry the cashew pulp by baking on low heat for 30 minutes to an hour. Take care to avoid browning – lower the heat if necessary.

Step 2: If using dried dates, soak in hot water for an hour, then remove the seeds. Blend the dates with the cashew pulp using a food processor until the mixture starts to clump together.

Step 3: Cut baking paper roughly into 1.5 cm x 6 cm strips. Fold and press them into  each cup on a cupcake pan so that the ends stick out (see photos). You’ll need them later to pull the cheesecakes out.

*I used a cupcake pan which of course has sloping sides but if you have a mini cheesecake pan with vertical sides, the end result would looks nicer.

One tablespoon at a time, serve the crust mixture into the cupcake cups and press down firmly. Use the bottom of a glass or bottle to get a uniform surface.

Step 4: Bake the crust at 150 degrees Celsius for 30 mins. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Cheese layer

Step 1: Dissolve the brown sugar in a few tablespoons of hot water, then pour into a saucepan to simmer on low heat. Stir continuously until it begins to thicken slightly (careful not to let it burn!) and then turn off the heat and allow to cool.

Step 2: Open a can of coconut cream from the bottom end. Carefully pour out the cream, leaving the watery residue in the can (keep this to add to a smoothie later). Mix the baking soda into the coconut cream. Add the coconut cream to the cooled syrup and stir well to combine. Simmer on low heat for a few minutes and stir continuously.

Step 3: Dissolve the arrowroot starch in 2 tablespoons room temperature water. Add the mixture to the coconut cream. Leave to simmer for 5 minutes while stirring continuously. The mixture should thicken to about the consistency of pap; it should be completely smooth with no lumps.

Step 5: Stir in the vanilla extract and vinegar, and turn off the heat. Allow the mixture to cool for a few minutes.

Step 6: A tablespoon at a time, pour the cheese mixture over the crust in the cupcake pan.

Step 7: Raise (about 4 cm high) and drop the cupcake pan on the work surface three times to eliminate air bubbles.

Step 8: Bake at 150 degrees Celsius for 45 mins or until the cheese layer firms up.

After the pan has cooled, cover with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for at least 6 hours before serving. When ready to serve, use a butter knife to go around the sides and loosen the cake, then use the paper strips to pull it out carefully. Enjoy while cold 🙂

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