This month the Daring Bakers Challenge was Cheesecake Pops. (This is cheesecake scooped into little walnut sized balls, stuck on a lollipop stick and then dipped in melted chocolate, and decorated as you desire.) Yum. But what to do about a vegan cheesecake? I've had a few successes with vegan desserts, but other than the amazing vegan brownies I made recently, I've been somewhat disappointed with the vegan desserts I've tried. Cheesecake seemed particularly daunting, as it is so incredibly delicious as an omni dessert. How could it possibly live up to the original? Time to do some research.
First, I was excited to learn earlier this month that there are enough of us now to have formed a splinter group of Alternative Daring Bakers, wholly sanctioned by the original Daring Bakers. We all play along and follow the same challenge, but because of our varied dietary regimes (vegan, gluten free, etc.), the group has a special forum and held a "bake along" this month. I couldn't participate because it was too early in the morning for me, but I did get some pointers, and many recipe options. Ultimately though, I adapted the Vegan Eggnog Cheesecake recipe from Fat Free Kitchen; if there'd been any vegan eggnog around, I'd have made the original. Anyway, here's my adapted recipe:
2 12.4-ounce package extra firm light silken tofu
2 8-ounce package Tofutti Better than Cream Cheese (make sure to buy the one in the yellow package -- it has no partially hydryogenated oils!)
1 ½ cups sugar
¾ cup almond milk
3 tablespoons lemon juice
6 tablespoons Myer's Coconut rum
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 tablespoons cornstarch
Drain the tofu and place in food processor along with the cream cheese. Blend well. Then incorporate the sugar. Susan at FFV, suggests letting the food processor run for at least three minutes, and I wholly concur. It really blends things together. Then I added all the remaining ingredients and let the processor run for another few minutes.
Because I wasn't making a cake I poured this mix into two small pyrex dishes. This way I could more easily keep an eye on what was going on. If you are making a cake, you might want to consider the traditional graham cracker crust. Susan also offers an oatmeal cookie crust (in her Vegan Eggnog Cheesecake recipe) which sounds pretty good. Or you could simply press some almond pieces onto the sides of the cake after you've removed it from your springform pan.
Bake at 350° F for anywhere between 45 and 75 minutes (no, I'm not kidding -- this is based on what my fellow ADBs experienced). It took me 75 minutes, but you don't want to burn this, and you'll want to make sure it sets a bit before removing it from the oven. That's a delicate balance. You really have to make a mental note as to how "jiggly" it is before you put it in the oven in order to gauge how much the cheesecake has set. It will definitely still jiggle when you remove it from the oven. It will set further while it's cooling and once you refrigerate it. I let mine brown a bit on the top because I was very concerned that it would be too watery. That worked well as Lane got a bowlful of the browned bits to nosh on as I assembled the pops.
If you're making a cheesecake you definitely want to make sure to use a water bath. This prevents the cake from cracking. If you're making the pops, there really is no need, as you can scoop around any cracks that might form. I used the water bath anyway, because that's the way I've always baked my cheesecakes in the past. That may have accounted for some of the additional baking time.
The cakes need to be refrigerated, I let mine sit overnight. Then you scoop out 2 ounces (about the size of a walnut) and roll it into a ball. These go onto a sheet of parchment paper (on a cookie sheet) and into the freezer for at least two hours. After which you dip them into melted chocolate and decorate as you wish (sprinkles, nuts, white chocolate, icing...) My experience was a little harrowing as it was 96° here today, which meant it was probably about 80° in our kitchen. By the time I got to the end of my pops, they were starting to free themselves from the sticks. Why it didn't dawn on me to leave half of them on the freezer is beyond me. Suffice it to say, I felt a little silly when it finally did!
These were a birthday cake for our cousin who is going to be 60 on Tuesday. So I wrote one pop said "Happy" another said "BDay" and a bunch had 60s and squiggles. There were also all the other pops that I simply put on a plate (not as part of the "centerpiece"). I was pleased with the aesthetics of the individual pops, and the overall presentation. I think this makes a fun take on the traditional cheesecake. And the recipe was DELICIOUS! It even passed the omni test (meaning people asked for seconds, and those who didn't know it was a vegan cheesecake, didn't guess).
The Daring Bakers group now has a message board with two public forums. So, if you'd like to see what we're up to, or get tips from other Daring Bakers -- here's the link.
-- Cheers, Jane
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