Holy Mother of Pete. Why haven’t I done this before?
I’m talking about raw cheesecake, and I suppose the reasons I haven’t made one yet now seem like silly excuses. I feel like a frickin’ kitchen magician, people. Join me.
Now, I am not pretending I came up with this brilliant idea – I bet making cheesecake out of nuts has been around as long as vegans have tried making meat out of gluten. I ate more than my fair share of these in California, as raw is all the rage, and there must have been a nut-based cheesecake on every heaven-sent menu my hungry gaze graced. What a mouthful. Needless to say, I was inspired, and a bit more than curious to see if I too could play magician in my own kitchen and turn cashews into cream. Check.
Now onto the flavouring. The rad thing about this dessert, besides its short ingredient list, is its versatility. I chose to make a vanilla/raspberry combo, but please don’t let that stop you from experimenting! If you like blueberries, use ‘em. If you’re a chocolate lover, throw in a few heaping tablespoons of raw cacao (oh yea, that’s the next one). How about trying something more exotic like mango and goji berries? The sky is the limit and your tummy is growling, I can hear it from here. Just remember to use the lemon juice with whatever flavour you decide on – it’s crucial to have the extra liquid for blending, and it gives that tangy “cheesecake” taste you’re after. Yay.
This is one dessert that is seriously hard to mess up. The only snafu is that you need a pretty powerful machine to pulverize the cashews, even after they’ve been soaking overnight. I tried using a food processor and it worked, but the cream wasn’t totally silky smooth, as with my Vita-Mix. I think a good blender with various speeds and settings would do the trick – jack it up to maximum power and see what happens.
Regardless, the filling is delectable, even if not velvety soft.
Cheesecake? Good for me?
Um, yeah. Not as in an eat-for-breakfast-everyday kind of way, but to replace your animal-fat heavy, sugar-laden, digestion-halting regular cheesecake? Absolutely.
Here’s the deal: this cheesecake is raw, meaning that all the powerful vitamins, minerals, and enzymes present in the whole foods you use to make the cake remain in tact. Instead of an atom bomb of empty calories in your belly, you actually have a handful of fruit, nuts, and raw honey swimming around, and your taste buds are none the wiser. Ha! Fooled you again…
The Skinny on Coconut Fat
I get a lot of questions about coconut oil, as it is high in fat and people still seem to be terrified of this. To clear things up, coconut oil does contain saturated fat, but lucky for us, it comes in the form of medium-chain triglycerides (or MCTs). This type of fat differs from the types of fat we normally consume from both plant and animal sources, which are long-chain triglycerides (or LCTs). Without getting too technical, MCTs are easily digested, absorbed, and utilized in the body because their molecules are smaller than those from LCTs. This means that unlike other fats, they require less energy and fewer enzymes to break them down for digestion. They are an excellent choice of fat for active people and athletes as MCTs digest immediately to produce energy and stimulate metabolism. They are also ideal for those who suffer from digestive disorders and are often given in hospitals to provide nourishment for critically ill people who have trouble digesting fat.
Raw Cashew Dreamcake
1/2 cup raw almonds (pecan or walnuts will also work)
1/2 cup soft Medjool dates
¼ tsp. sea salt
1 ½ cups raw cashews, soaked for at least 5 hours, overnight is best
juice of 2 lemons
the seeds of 1 whole vanilla bean (or 1 tsp. alcohol-free vanilla extract)
1/3 cup raw coconut oil, melted
1/3 cup raw honey (solid or liquid.)(Vegans use agave nectar.)
1 cup raspberries (thaw completely if using frozen)
1. Place nuts and dates in a food processor with sea salt and pulse to chop until they are to your desired fineness (process a finer crust longer than a chunky one). Test the crust by spooning out a small amount of mixture and rolling it in your hands. If the ingredients hold together, your crust is perfect. Scoop out crust mixture in a 7” spring-form pan (if you don’t have a spring-form pan, use a pie plate lined with saran wrap), and press firmly, making sure that the edges are well packed and that the base is relatively even throughout. Rinse food processor well.
2. Warm coconut oil and honey in a small saucepan on low heat until liquid. Whisk to combine.
3. In the most powerful food processor / blender you own (you decide which one has the most torque) place all filling ingredients (except raspberries) and blend on high until very smooth (this make take a couple minutes so be patient). If you have a Vita-Mix, absolutely use it.
4. Pour about 2/3 (just eyeball it, you can’t make a mistake!) of the mixture out onto the crust and smooth with a spatula. Add the raspberries to the remaining filling and blend on high until smooth. Pour onto the first layer of filling. Place in freezer until solid.
5. To serve, remove from freezer 30 minutes prior to eating. Run a smooth, sharp knife under hot water and cut into slices. Serve on its own, or with fresh fruit. Store leftovers in the freezer (what leftovers?).