Well as a lot of you might already know, with the help of a bunch of amazingly generous folks, our Kickstarter was a huge success. (For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about.....just watch this.)
Needless to say, after a crazy 17 day push I was more than a little bit worn out! In fact, it's taken me almost two weeks to sort out all my plans and get the "post-kickstarter" balls rolling. So as a thanks to all those who supported the Kickstarter (and a bit of a teaser as to what the book will be like) I'm going to go ahead and release the much anticipated (and promised) Cashew Cheesecake Bites!
Obviously, since I'm posting this recipe for the world to see, I'm sharing this with more than just the Kickstarter supporters, but here's why.....
There's an old adage that says:
"The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is just that little 'extra'."
This is a theme that runs through everything that I do and is something that I always try to come back to, not just in the kitchen, but in all of life. I strive to make everything I do be, in some way or another, unique, creative and always have that little extra. This will be especially true of the book. In fact, the whole concept of the book is more or less built on this one simple principle.
So yes, there are any number of cashew cheesecake recipes out there. And they are all really great. But there's not a lot of ones using fermented cashew cheese as the base.
Typically non-dairy cheesecakes use lemon juice to add the tartness that is associated with dairy based cheesecakes. By fermenting the cashew mixture we can get that wonderfully mingled tart and sweet flavor without having it taste distinctly like lemon. The fermenting process also takes out much of the "cashewy" flavor that so often dominates theses types of cakes. This gives us sooooo many more options when it comes to complimentary flavors and let's not forget about all those "belly friendly" probiotics too!
In truth, this recipe isn't that different from any other non-dairy cheesecake. It takes a few simple preparatory steps but other than that it's pretty basic. And there is the "little extra" that I was talking about. Just a few simple steps added to the "ordinary" and what you get is a treat that's nothing short of Extraordinary!!! It really does taste like cheesecake.
Belly-Friendly No Bake "Cheesecake" Bites
For the filling:
3 cups non roasted cashews* (soaked for 2-4 hours)
3/4 cup full-fat coconut milk
The contents of 3 or 4 probiotic capsules, equivalent to 40-45 billion probiotic strains** (what I use)
1 teaspoon gelatin powder plus 2 tablespoons water
3/4 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup softened or liquid ghee
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
(You can add 1-2 extra tablespoons of coconut milk if needed to keep the batter moving in the blender. However, these will turn out much better if you can manage without the extra liquid)
Vegan Subs: Replace ghee with coconut oil. Omit gelatin, it will be slightly softer. Use vegan friendly sweetener
*It is possible to sub soaked slivered almonds or macadamias here. You may need to adjust the liquid content slightly with each nut. The texture with nuts other than cashews can be more grainy and less creamy.
**Probiotics are used to make a tart cashew cheese, much in the same way as making yogurt. It is possible to use yogurt starter, but unless you know the live probiotic count in your starter it could be difficult to know how much to use to get the desired tartness. Tis is also the potential problem with whey. HERE is a great probiotic that is often readily available in most health stores. I recommend 4 capsules of this particular brand.
For the Crust:
1 cup fine ground almond flour (such as Honeyville)
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons maple syrup (or vegan friendly sweetener)
3 tablespoons ghee (or coconut oil)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
You will need 1 standard size loaf pan (approx. 9" x 5") lined with parchment paper.
For the chocolate coating (optional)
1 bag Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips or 10 oz of your favorite chocolate, chopped
1 Tablespoon Ghee or coconut oil.
Preparing the Cashews:
- The night before making your "cheesecake", combine the cashews and coconut milk in food processor and process until smooth. This will take up to 10 minutes to get the smoothness necessary. Patience is a virtue here. (as seen in the 1st row of pictures)
- At first you might want to stop the processor a few times and push down any cashew that creeps up the sides. Eventually it will move cleanly on it's own.
- You will notice a change towards the end. It will become quite smooth and creamy in color. It should be approx the texture of a smooth ricotta cheese. It doesn't have to be perfect, but the smoother it is, the better the probiotic distributes, which is essential.
- Once the mixture is smooth, you can add the contents of the probiotic capsules to the mixture. Blend again till well combined.
I add the probiotic last just in case the cashew mixture gets too hot for it. Temperatures above 110 degrees can begin to kill the probiotic cultures. It will be warm to the touch but it can't be too hot. Allow it to cool a bit if needed before adding the probiotic. This isn't usually a problem with higher end processors.
- Transfer the mixture to a bowl. Cover the bowl with a lid or a plate that fits and place in your oven with the oven light turned on.
DO NOT turn your oven on to low or warm. Even these low temperatures will kill the probiotics and the mixture will not be able to ferment. This is much like making yogurt or sourdough. You can also use a dehydrator set on low, just be sure the bowl is covered.
- Allow to sit overnight and for at least 12 hours or more. It should be good and sour when it's ready. Times will vary depending on the environment and the quality of the probiotic. Old probiotics or ones that were left out of the fridge will have less fermenting power.
Don't have an oven light? Perhaps one of THESE other options used for making yogurt will work for you.
Making the Crust:
- When you're ready to make the cake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line and grease a standard sized loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving long flaps hanging over the sides of the pan (for easy removal later).
- Combine the almond flour, baking soda and salt, then add the rest of the ingredients and mix until well combined. Press the dough evenly into the bottom of the parchment lined bread pan.
- Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until golden but not too dark. Times will vary depending on the oven and size of pan.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool. You can also skip the crust if you like, or use your favorite crust.
Making the Filling:
- In a small bowl combine the gelatin and the water. Let sit for 3-5 minutes.
- Place the bowl in a larger bowl filled with shallow hot water or microwave the gelatin mixture in short 10 seconds bursts till just melted. You'll know it's ready when the gelatin is liquid and has no graininess left when rubbed between your fingers. Try not to over heat it. :)
- Transfer the cashew cheese mixture, prepared gelatin mixture and the rest of the ingredients to a blender and blend till smooth. This should only take a few minutes with a high powered blender or 5-8 minutes with a regular one.(as seen in the 2nd row of pictures)
High powered blenders work best. If you don't have one you may need to add 1-2 tablespoons more of coconut milk at this time to help it move through the container. The less liquid you have to add and the smoother you can get the mixture, the creamier and more cheesecake like it will be later.
- Pour the batter over the cookie crust in the prepared pan (as seen in the 2nd row of pictures). Smooth the top as needed, cover and chill in the freezer for at least 4 hours or till good and firm.
These are delicous as is or with your favorite chocoalte coating recipe. One easy coating option is listed below.
Making the Coating:
- Melt your chocolate in double broiler with the fat until melted and smooth. Do not over heat.
Cutting and Dipping:
- Remove the cheesecake from the freezer and run a knife along the sides of the cake to help it release from the pan. Using the parchment paper flaps, pull it up and out of the pan. Place it face down onto a cutting board with the "cake side" facing up. Cut into 1 1/2 to 2 inch squares with a sharp knife (as seen in the 3rd row of pictures). If it is too hard, let it sit for a few minutes. Not too long though or the bites will become too soft for the dipping process.
- Using a skewer, pierce the through the cookie side of bites. Using a spoon, pour chocolate evenly over the entire cake bite (as seen in the 3rd row of pictures). It should begin to harden pretty quickly.
- Once coated, I like to place them on a chilled parchment lined cookie sheet so that the bottoms firm quickly and don't spread out.
- Once the chocolate is set you can transfer them to a sealed container and store in the fridge. I don't keep these bites frozen because the chocolate will accumulate condensation, bloom and look bad. I don't like to keep these more than two days. They could be kept longer in the freezer without the chocolate coating,