Saturday, December 31, 2011

Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with a Chocolate Cookie Crust

Whenever I am out for lunch or dinner at a veg restaurant, I pretty much always have to order two things:  seitan and cheesecake.  I am always curious about whether or not the restaurant makes either the seitan or the cheesecake in house.  Most vegan places in the city order from Vegan Treats, which is ok, but not very interesting for me because it makes me think the place isn't super creative, and I feel like once you've tried one of Vegan Treats' items, you have tried them all.  They are also super refined and way too sweet for my tastes!  Anyway, I tried a vegan cheesecake at Blossom about a year ago on Hubby and my Anniversary dinner and wasn't super excited about it.  The cheesecake part of it was super dense and didn't have a lot of flavor.  And instead of a traditional crust on the bottom, it had a dry cake base.  Ugh.  The seitan I also ate there was not homemade, I could tell.  Not to say that it wasn't tasty, because it was, but I was a little disappointed to know that they get it out of a giant 5 gallon bucket, just like firm tofu comes in within a restaurant.  Believe me, it is the strangest thing in the world to stick your entire arm into a gigantic bucket of icy cold water, searching for a chunk of tofu.  Creepy and gross feeling! 

Anyway, I have a base recipe for a cheesecake that I like.  It's nice and creamy, not too dense, and doesn't have that sometimes very artificial tofutti cream cheese flavor.  I would still like to make some changes to it, but I also like it as it is, after I have already made several changes to it.  I also just bought the book from Isa and Terry "Vegan Pie in the Sky", and saw a recipe for a vegan cheesecake that does not call for tofutti cream cheese, which is great!  I'll have to try it!  However, I initially made this recipe when I was interviewing for the position at Vegan Divas as Executive Pastry Chef.  I tested several items, including a carrot cake, chocolate icing (tofu based) and this cheesecake.  I brought them in to the owner of Vegan Divas' husband, Francois Payard to sample.  Now, being a classically trained French Chef, I felt it was a little strange for him to be tasting vegan baked goods, especially a "cheesecake", because I know that it does not taste anything like a "real" dairy cheesecake.  He is also so used to the flavor of dairy, eggs and tons of butter and heavy cream.  He did not particularly like the creaminess of the cheesecake, but afterwards, I brought several pieces to several of my veg friends (what was I to do with the remnants of a gigantic cheesecake with just the Hubby and I at home??), and they absolutely loved it.  Just goes to show what I fully expected to happen.  Anyway, we ultimately placed this recipe into the rotation at Vegan Divas and it sold quite well if I do say so myself!  The crust is a little complicated, so you can just make a cookie crumb based crust if you like, but this is what we did at Vegan Divas.

Vegan Vanilla Bean Cheesecake:

I accidentally used baking powder, not soda, but it was tasty!

Yields 12 Slices

Cookie Crust:
1 1/2 cups white spelt flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder, sifted
1/16 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon egg replacer
1/4 cup filtered water
1/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cup turbinado sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Cheesecake Filling:
3/4  lb. tofutti cream cheese
1 1/2 pkg. aseptic silken tofu
1/2 pkg. tofutti sour supreme
1 cup turbinado sugar
½ cup + 2 tablespoons soymilk
4 tablespoons arrowroot powder
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon agar agar powder
1/2 vanilla bean, seeded

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.  Generously oil a 9" springform pan and set aside until ready to use.
3. In a medium mixing bowl add the spelt flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and sea salt. Whisk together until well combined.
4. In a separate medium mixing bowl, add the egg replacer and filtered water. Whisk until white, frothy and bubbly. Add the remaining ingredients: the canola oil, turbinado sugar, vanilla and almond extracts. Whisk together until sugar dissolves and a thick mixture has formed.
5. Carefully pour the dry ingredients over the wet ingredients and using a spatula, mix until a soft, shiny dough forms. The dough may have to be finished mixing by hand.  Place into the prepared baking pan and press the crust up the sides.
6.  Now prepare the cheesecake filling.  Place the filling ingredients in food processor  and process until completely smooth and silky - this will take several minutes.  Periodically scrape down the sides of the processor to ensure even processing.
8. Pour the cheesecake filling into the pan and twirl to ensure even baking.
9. Bake for about 45-60 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking time.
10. Allow to chill for several hours at room temperature, then refrigerate overnight before slicing.

So Creamy and Delicious!



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