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 Cashew"Cheesecake" Bites
Makes about 12 1 1/2 inch squares
For the cashew "cheese" cake:
3 cups raw cashews (soaked for 2-4 hours)
3/4 cup full-fat coconut milk
40-45 billion probiotic strains*; amount of capsules will vary (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
For the Crust:
1 cup fine ground almond flour
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons maple syrup
3 tablespoons melted ghee or coconut oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
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.
*Probiotics are used to make a tart cashew cheese, much in the same way as making yogurt. HERE is a great probiotic that is often readily available in most health stores. I recommend 4 capsules of this particular brand.
1 standard 9" x 5" loaf pan
Food processor or high powered blender
For the "cream cheese"
1. To warm the oven, just turn the oven light in before you begin preperations. No other heat is needed. DO NOT turn your oven on to low or warm. Even the lowest temperature will kill the probiotics and and fermentation will not take place.
Note: Don't have an oven light? Another option is to use a dehydrator set on low or a yogurt maker. Try one of THESE other options often used for making yogurt.
2. The night before, combine the cashews and coconut milk in a food processor/high powered blender and process until smooth. This could take unto 8-10 minutes to get the smoothness desired. Patience is a virtue here. (see pictures, first row). stop periodically to push down any cashew that creeps up the sides. Eventually it will move cleanly on it's own.
Note: You will notice a change in texture and movement towards the end. It will become quite smooth and creamy in color and somewhat like the texture ricotta cheese.
3. Once the mixture is ready, add the contents of the probiotic capsules to the mixture. Blend until well combined. Transfer the mixture to a clean medium sized bowl. Cover with a lid or a plate that fits and place in the oven (with the oven light turned on).
4. Let sit in the warmth for at least 12-16 hours or overnight. It should be good and sour when it's ready. If it's not sour, let it sit linger. 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.
Method for the crust and filling:
5. Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Line and grease the loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving long flaps hanging over the sides of the pan (for easy removal later).
6. In a large bowl, combine the almond flour, baking soda and salt and cinnamon. Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl and beat till fully combined. Press the dough evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan.
7. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden then remove from oven and allow to cool completely.
8. While the crust is cooling, in a small bowl combine the gelatin with the water and let sit for 3-5 minutes to bloom. Melt the gelatin with short bursts 10 second bursts in a microwave or warm over low heat until it is clear and all the graininess is gone. Do not let it boil or it will lose it's gelling power.
9. Put the "cream cheese" mixture, gelatin and the rest of the ingredients into a high peered blender and blend until smooth (as seen in the 2nd row of pictures). If needed you can add 1-2 tablespoons more of coconut milk to keep the mixture moving through the container.
10. Pour the batter over the cookie crust in the prepared pan (as seen in the 2nd row of pictures). Smooth the top if needed. Cover and chill in the freezer for at least 4 hours or till good and firm.
Cutting, Dipping & Serving:
11. In a dry bowl set over barely simmering water, melt the chocolate and fat together, then stir till smooth and glossy. Remove from heat.
12. 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 the cake out of the pan, placing it face down onto a cutting board with the "cookie side" facing up (as seen in the last row of pictures). Cut into 1 1/2 to 2 inch squares with a sharp knife. If the cake is too hard, heat the knife in a glass of hot water and while dry before cutting.
13. Use a wood skewer or fondue dipper to pierce each cake piece, then dip and coat with chocolate (as seen in the last row of pictures). The chocolate ail begin to harden quickly.
14. Once fully coated, place them on a chilled parchment lined cookie sheet so that the bottoms firm quickly and don't spread out. Let the chocolate set completely then serve or transfer to a sealed container and store in the fridge.
I prefer to not keep these bites frozen as the chocolate will accumulate condensation, bloom and look unpleasing. Chocolate coated bites can be kept in the fridge for up to 2 days. Uncoated bites can be frozen up to 1 month and dipped before serving.