Everybody loves cheesecakes. Given their reputation, I tried a slice years ago and, sadly, it made no good impression on me. It was stale and too sweet, as I remember. I had no interest in giving it another try afterwards...until I became vegan and started baking heavily. Not having much to compare with, it wasn't easy finding a good vegan recipe, especially since there weren't many available last year. Jolinda Hackett's tofu cheesecake recipe on About.com seemed perfect and I went with it.
Now, vegan cheesecakes don't have a good reputation because of tofu. I noticed that many people focus more on getting a good texture and less on the taste. Well, tofu has quite a bland, vegetable taste...but that's the beauty of it - it absorbs the flavour of anything it combines with. So when you follow a basic recipe, improvise. Add cocoa and maple syrup for a deep taste, add orange/lemon zest and juice for a tangy flavour, add cinnamon, allspice, mint, vanilla, rum, peanut butter, even sneak in some fruit - sky's the limit for what you can turn a simple recipe into. More importantly, don't overload the cake with sugar in order to mask the taste of tofu, after all you want people to enjoy it and eat more.
This particular recipe doesn't have anything spectacular in terms of flavour, but that's just what I loved about it - simplicity. I topped it with some freshly made strawberry jam and the combination was delicious. Silken tofu, egg replacer and corn starch give it a smooth yet dense texture, making it more custard-like than creamy. I welcomed this change with so much delight, I ended up eating almost half the cake that day. I didn't have maple syrup, so I used agave instead. Later on I made it with plum jam and that was so much better.
My conclusions after trying this recipe:
- you can't go wrong with it;
- you can omit the egg replacer and corn starch for a softer, creamier texture;
- blend tofu until very smooth and keep the oven temperature on moderate, otherwise the liquid inside will start simmering and evaporating too fast, creating small inaesthetic holes in the cake and giving it a curdled texture.
This recipe makes a 20 cm (8") cake.
Using a removable bottom pan, line the bottom with parchment paper. Mix 1 cup crumbled/powdered rich tea biscuits with 3 Tb melted butter and 1 Tb agave syrup. Arrange into the prepared pan and press down with your fingers or the back of a spoon to form a compact even layer. Refrigerate while making the cream.
Ingredients for cheesecake:
- 1 tub (225 g) cream cheese (choose trans-fat-free version available in health food stores)
- 1 pack (349 g) firm silken tofu
- 1/3 cup corn starch
- 1/3 cup soy milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 Tb agave syrup
- 2/3 cup powdered sugar
- 1 Tb freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 3 tsp egg replacer
- 2 Tb water
- 2 Tb sunflower oil
- Preheat oven to 325°F (160° C).
- Blend tofu until smooth.
- Whisk egg replacer with the 2 Tb water until frothy.
- Add all ingredients to tofu except oil and blend on medium till incorporated.
- Add the oil and blend for a few seconds on low.
- Pour over the prepared crust and even out with the back of a spoon. Bake for 40-50 minutes until just barely firm and still jiggly in the middle. The edges will be slightly puffed up.
- Remove from the oven, cool on a wire rack and refrigerate for a few hours to firm up.
- Carefully remove from the pan, peel off the paper and place on a serving plate.
- Add the topping and cut into slices.
Easy Strawberry Jam
1 1/2 cups medium strawberries - cut some of them in half and leave the rest whole. Sprinkle with 3-4 Tb sugar and let sit for an hour to release juice. In a small pan on low heat, bring to a simmer and stir occasionally until it thickens. Remove from heat and add some lemon juice. Taste and adjust if necessary. Let cool and add to the cake. To make plum jam, use 1 1/2 cups and cut some into quarters, others in half.
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