Sunday, January 20, 2013

Raw Citrus Cheesecake

This is a strange instance of my Around the USA challenge.  I read Arcadia by Lauren Groff, which was set in a commune in upstate New York.  Everyone in the book lives on homemade bread and soy products, including soy cheese. While these things are made as examples of hippie fare, would seem to get expensive fast.  It isn't the healthiest of diets in the book, as there isn't enough to go around, but the commitment to eating from the land (and not from the grid) seemed to be at the core.

When it came to making something "from New York," I decided to go the "what hippies in a commune would eat these days" route.  I plan on reading other books from New York this year, and that's when I can delve into sterotypical Manhattan cuisine.  (Expect black-and-white cookies, real NY Style cheesecake, and egg creams sometime later!)  Is there anything more modern-day hippie than the raw food movement?  Crackers made of soaked nuts, sprouted grains, smoothies of greens?

Raw Cheesecake
I had been pinning raw cheesecakes in Pinterest for a while now, and I was very curious to experience what one tasted like.  Raw cheesecakes often depend either on avocado or cashew cream to create the cream cheese-custard texture, often with a raw nut crust.  I made a 6-inch cheesecake, and even then the raw cashews cost $9.  Raw eating is expensive, boys and girls.  This recipe also called for coconut oil, which I had on hand, dates, and almonds for the crust.  I used pecans.

The end result?  Well, Nathaniel couldn't eat it without laughing, because it really is slightly ridiculous.  You know it isn't cheesecake.  It doesn't taste like cheesecake.  Yet there you sit, trying to talk yourself into it being cheesecake.  I mean, it didn't taste bad. The creamy nuts and the creamy coconut oil were bright with the citrus.  We'll eat it and not throw it away.  But maybe we could call it a cashew-coconut cream torte or something.  I don't mind eating something called that.  I should also point out that "raw" is not the same as "low-calorie," so don't fool yourself.  Vegan baking can go towards lower calorie, but once you start grinding nuts into paste to replace dairy and adding coconut oil for texture, you are adding a heck of a lot of calories.  Still tasty, still worth doing every once in a while, but I wouldn't use "raw" as an excuse to eat the entire thing.

I based my recipe on one I found at the Fragrant Vanilla Cake blog, but will indicate what I did below.

Raw Citrus Cheesecake
Makes one 6 inch cake
1/2 cup pecans
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 dates, pitted

1 1/2 cups cashews (soaked overnight)
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 Tbsp lime juice
zest of two lemons
zest of one lime
1 Tbsp agave nectar (considerably less than original recipe)
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp coconut oil (warmed to liquid*)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Spray a six inch spring form pan with coconut oil spray (or other oil spray) and set aside.
To prepare the crust, process pecans and salt in a food processor until the nuts are fine crumbs, then add the dates and process until the mixture holds together when squeezed between your fingers. Firmly press crust into the bottom of prepared pan. Set aside.

To make filling, drain cashews and combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth and creamy. Pour over crust in pan and set in the freezer or fridge until it is set, 4 hours or overnight.

*I'm unclear on where the parameters of raw really are.  If I melted the coconut oil, is it still raw?  What if I put this in the fridge?  Please forgive my ignorance.  It is possible this is just rawish. :)

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