Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Vegan Chocolate Cheesecake

When I made the chocolate, peanut butter and banana mousse tart, what I was really looking for was a vegan chocolate cheesecake. I did try making a chocolate version of the raw cashew dreamcake, but it wasn’t really good enough to post. Then I came upon Minimalist Baker’s version, and this one is pretty good! Not quite my ideal vegan chocolate cheesecake yet, but getting closer. I found the crust too crumbly (maybe I should soak my dates longer next time), and the filling was a bit bland, so next time I’d use 8 ounces of chocolate instead of 7 (and that’s what I’m writing below). For the cashews: I always soak them overnight, but if you forget, you could pour boiling water over them and soak them for 1 hour instead.

For the crust
1 cup packed dates, pitted (if dry, soak in warm water for 10 minutes, then drain)
1 ½ cups raw walnuts (or almonds or rolled oats)
3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa or cacao powder
1 pinch sea salt

For the filling
1 ½ cups raw cashews (soaked in water overnight, then drained)
1 large lemon, juiced (scant ¼ cup)
¼ cup melted coconut oil (or any neutral-flavored oil)
1 14-oz. can full fat coconut milk
8 oz. dairy free dark chocolate, chopped and melted
¼ cup maple syrup or agave nectar (or honey, if not vegan)

For the toppings (optional)
vegan whipped cream
chocolate syrup
cacao nibs

Add dates to a food processor and blend until only small bits remain and it forms into a ball. Remove and set aside.

Next add nuts, salt and cocoa powder and process into a meal. Then add dates back in and blend until a loose dough forms - it should stick together when you squeeze a bit between your fingers. If it's too dry, add a few more dates through the spout while processing. If too wet, add more almond or walnut meal. (Mine was too dry, and I added several dates, but only soaked the original 1 cup, and I think I never got the right consistency.)

Line the bottom of a springform pan (8- or 9-inch) with parchment paper. (You can also make 12 individual cheesecakes using a muffin tin, in which case each tin must be lined with parchment paper and, ideally, you should place two strips of paper in an X-shape under each round of paper to make unmolding easier.) Put crust in the pan and carefully press with fingers to distribute, allowing some crust to come up the sides. You can pack it down using the bottom of a glass or ramekin. Set in the fridge or freezer to allow to firm up.

Add all filling ingredients to a blender and mix until very smooth - up to 2-3 minutes. (If it won't come together, add a touch more lemon juice, maple syrup/agave or a splash more coconut milk, as the liquid should help it blend better.) Scrape down sides as needed and blend until very creamy and smooth. Taste and adjust flavor/sweetness as needed.

Pour the filling in the prepared pan (or muffin tins). Tap a few times to release any air bubbles, then cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate until set, about 4-6 hours. Expedite this process by popping them into the freezer for 1-2 hours.

Once set, run a butter knife along the edge of the pan and gently open the pan. You can try to slide the cake off the tray, but I tend not to take any chances and I left it on.

Top with a touch of vegan whipped cream and fresh berries, or serve as is! Store in the fridge (or freezer, for longer-term storage).

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