I am insanely excited to share this recipe with you today. It was a true labour of love and at some point, I wasn’t sure if I am ever going to have a ‘cheesecake’ recipe I’ll be proud enough to share.
When it comes to my previous attempts, there were a few issues at play. I do not own a Vitamix or an equally powerful blender so in order to get my cashews blended super smooth, I had to add quite a lot of liquid to them. Normally, this could be remedied by using coconut oil as part of that liquid, which solidifies in cold temperatures giving a cheesecake its texture, but I was not terribly keen on this idea.
As I live on a small island, sometimes it is really difficult to get some things here. The only type of coconut oil I was able to buy was an extra virgin coconut oil, which is healthier but it makes everything taste and smell of coconut. Secondly, I simply couldn’t bring myself to add oil to a dessert that is already pretty indulgent. My heart was set on either making a creamy cheesecake with no oil at all…or nothing
I made quite a few attempts but I will be lying if I said that I enjoyed any of them that much.
As it often happens, just as I was at the point of abandoning the cheesecake mission altogether, I had a true light bulb moment. What if I was to dissolve a small amount of agar agar flakes (vegan gelatine) in the liquid that I use to blend the cashews with? Surely, this will coax my very average blender into giving me a silky smooth cheesecake mixture and help my cheesecake set without any need for oil.
My second idea was to see if aquafaba – the miraculous vegan egg replacement – will help me achieve more creaminess. And guess what? It did. I tasted two versions side-by-side (yeah, it’s tough being a food blogger!) and the one with aquafaba (as opposed to water) was definitely creamier and had a much better texture. I only used half a cup of aquafaba as I did not want even a hint of beany flavour in my final product. Duncan, who has been very critical of my previous cheese-free cheesecake making attempts, loved this cheesecake too, so I think I have finally found my winning, oil-free, cheesecake formula! 🙂
- 12 dates, pitted and soaked in boiling water
- two pinches of salt (optional)
- about ¾ cup / 100 g almonds
- 1 cup / 150 g raw cashews (soaked overnight)
- ½ cup OR 120 ml coconut cream, chilled
- 3½ level tsp agar agar flakes*
- 1-1½ tsp finely grated ginger
- 4 tbsp lemon juice, more to taste
- 4 tbsp maple syrup, more to taste
- ½ cup water OR aquafaba*
- chocolate shavings
- 30 g candied ginger, cut into a small dice
- Cut out 8 circles out of baking paper to cover the bottom of the mould you are going to use for the cheesecakes (I used a standard 12-hole muffin tin). Line the bottoms of the mould with paper circles. I recommend you also place a 1 inch / 2 cm wide paper strip under each cheesecake base as it will make removing these puppies much easier.
- Grind your almonds in a food processor until you get a coarse crumb. Take them out of the food processor and set aside.
- Drain your dates and chop them roughly. My food processor struggled to process an amount of dates this small so I actually turned them into a paste (doesn’t have to be super smooth) in my pestle and mortar. If you prefer using a food processor, I would advise doubling the amount of dates and saving the other half for another use.
- In a bowl, mix date paste with enough ground almonds to obtain a dough that isn’t too sticky yet still holds together well. I prefer doing it by hand but you could also just dump your ground almonds back into the food processor if you’ve used it to blend your dates.
- Mould cheesecake base mixture at the bottom of each muffin hole. Press it down well with your fingers so that there are no gaps / air-bubbles.
- Just before you are ready to start blending the cheesecake, put agar flakes, ½ cup of water (or aquafaba for a slightly creamier end result) into a small pot. Let the mixture come to the boil and simmer on low-medium heat, stirring frequently, until flakes dissolve and the mixture becomes like a runny jelly. You’ll need to work fast as agar sets as soon as it cools down.
- Chuck rinsed cashews, coconut cream, lemon juice, maple syrup, grated ginger and warm agar mixture into a blender – you’ll need to work fast as agar sets as soon as it cools down. Blend, scraping the sides of the blender from time to time as the set agar likes to stay on those. Blend until completely smooth.
- As soon as the cheesecake mixture is super smooth, start dividing it between the moulds. You may need to smooth the tops with a silicone spatula to get an even finish. Decorate each cheesecake with candied ginger and chocolate shavings.
- You don’t need to put these cheesecakes into the freezer as they will set beautifully at room temperature. To remove cheesecakes from the moulds, grab both ends the paper strip and slowly ease the cheesecake out of the mould.
**Aquafaba – water from a can of low-sodium chickpeas or from cooking dry chickpeas at home. I didn’t reduce aquafaba for this application.