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Skeptics abound in every group. Perhaps someone will say cheesecake isn’t cheesecake without cheese? I prefer to think of cheese as a flavor and technique of food preparation that most people love and a cultured, creamy whole food that has health benefits. Under this definition Dairy-free Fermented Cheesecake has an enthusiastic place in the healthy home’s dessert arsenal! Although this recipe is technically vegan, the cheesecake is great for Paleo, Keto and traditional food enthusiasts. The dessert includes an incredibly fun fermentation process, uses sprouted nuts (easy!), is mindful of phytic acid and proper food preparation for gentle, effective digestion and is full of probiotics. This recipe is also egg-free and GAPS-friendly.
This cheesecake is a fermented nut puree. The cheese flavor comes from the fermentation of the nuts (and/or seeds). The sweetener is added after the fermenting is complete; otherwise alcohol and undesirable yeasts would be produced.
The fermentation step is not difficult; rather, the process is fun! You’ll see more on this below…
Choosing the Ingredients — Nuts and Seeds
I have chosen two nuts to use in the cheesecake, neither of which is technically a nut. I have chosen cashews, which are actually a fruit, because they’re “blonde,” or pale in color, like the color of cheesecake and because they are mild in flavor. Also, having been soaked before pureeing, they are queenly in their creaminess.
I have chosen pine nuts, which are a seed, because they are also pale in color, creamy when pureed, and they have a lovely flavor that adds complexity to the cheesy outcome.
If you can afford raw macadamia nuts, they are the third excellent choice for these same qualities.
(If you’re doing the Keto diet, macadamia nuts and pecans are both great choices. Pecans can be used in part, because they will not be as creamy. Macadamia nuts can be used solely, or combined with pecans.)
Cashews are not raw; so they do not need to be sprouted. (Cashews must be heated considerably in order to be separated at harvest time from a poisonous component with which they grow.) They are often soaked in recipes like this one simply because they blend more easily and become creamier after a 1-2 hour soak.
Pine nuts, however, do get soaked in a saltwater solution, in order to neutralize their enzyme inhibitors and reduce their antinutrients. This is an important step to make the seeds’ nutrition accessible and to make them more digestible.
Which brings me to my next important and exciting point! Fermentation of nuts reduces phytic acid in them. Just like soaking and the sourdough process make grains and nuts more digestible, making cheese out of nuts continues to reduce antinutrients in them, even after soaking. They also become a rich source of probiotics.
Here are the photos so you can see the rapturous process. Fermenting nut puree is a magical experience.
You can see the fermentation that occurred overnight!
- 4 cups cashews labeled raw (although technically all cashews have been pasteurized)
- 2 cups pine nuts , soaked*, see method below in Recipe Notes
- 1.5 cups filtered water
- 3/4 cup coconut oil melted and cooled slightly, divided
- 3/4 cup raw honey (use maple syrup for a vegan version; for Keto version, use favorite Keto sweetener)
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1/4 + 1/8 cup filtered water
- 2 T. sustainably-sourced gelatin Use code BEAUTIFUL10 at check out for 10% off all items; (or use same amount of powdered agar agar for vegan version)
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp. sea salt
- 1/4 tsp. high-quality probiotic see link in article for sourcing
- Place cashews in 4 cups water for 2 hours, to soften.
- Drain and rinse cashews in a colander.
- Place cashews, rinsed wet pinenuts, water, 1/2 cup coconut oil, lemon juice, vanilla, and sea salt into high-powered blender. Puree on high speed 50 seconds. Puree in two batches if your blender can't handle this quantity, dividing the water and melted oil between both batches.
- Add probiotic and puree again, just briefly, 10 seconds.
- Pour puree into medium size deep glass bowl (the smaller surface area the better, no larger than 7 inches across) or jar, pressing down to release any air bubbles. Smooth top surface so it is flat. (Take care not to smear any puree on upper sides of bowl. All puree needs to be neat and flat for next step.)
- Optional step based on temperature: Slowly pour remaining 1/4 cup melted coconut oil onto surface of puree, taking care oil floats on surface instead of mixing into puree, as much as possible. It needs to cover entire surface of puree, and touch all glass edges. (This oil seals puree and creates an anaerobic environment. It is not necessary if you do the overnight ferment in the yogurt maker or in a very warm home. But for longer nut puree ferments of 2 days or more, in cooler homes, it is essential. Either way, this 1/4 cup of oil should be included in the recipe. I personally find it an easy and fun step and do it either way.)
- Loosely cover jar or bowl, so air can escape, but nothing can get in. If your container isn't clear glass, take note of puree's level, making a mark on its outside to indicate height.
- Place container is warm, dark location for 12 hours to 1.5 days, until you see puree become sponge-like and porous with many air pockets. The height of the puree will have risen as well. (Placing container in your yogurt maker can expedite the process so it's done overnight.)
- When puree is fermented empty contents into large mixing bowl.
- Place 1/4 cup water in small saucepan. Sprinkle surface with gelatin. Heat, stirring, for 1 minute, until gelatin is dissolved and water looks foamy. (If using agar agar powder, soak powdered agar agar in 1 cup water for 10 minutes and let it simmer for 5 minutes or until it dissolves completely.)
- Remove from heat, allow to cool briefly and add honey. Stir to mix.
- To the large mixing bowl add gelatin-honey mixture, folding it in gently but thoroughly. Set aside while you make the crust.
- Once crust is made, pour filling into crust and smooth the surface.
- Refrigerate for 3 hours.
- Place cashews into blender. Pulse until a FINE meal is formed. You want as few chunks as possible (without making nut butter). This will help the finished product crust hold together well.
- Add remaining ingredients and pulse again until oil creates a nice even crumble with cashew meal. Do not over-pulse or you will create nut butter.
- Dump crumble into springform pan. Press firmly into base and 1/2" up sides of springform pan.
- Place 1/2 cup water in small saucepan. Sprinkle surface with gelatin. Heat, stirring, for 2 minutes, until gelatin is dissolved and water looks foamy.
- Fold in raspberries and honey. Puree approximately half the mixture.
- Nest fine mesh colander over saucepan with whole raspberries and honey. Pour puree through colander and whisk to remove seeds. Gently fold puree together with whole raspberry-honey mixture, so partial chunks remain.
- After cheesecake has chilled for three hours in fridge, pour raspberry topping evenly over its surface.
- Chill for three additional hours, or overnight, before serving.
Soaking and Sprouting
For every 4 cups of raw seeds or nuts, cover with room temperature, filtered water by two inches, and 2 tsp. sea salt. Stir well to dissolve the salt. Leave out overnight at room temperature to soak. Drain them in a colander; and rinse them well.
(As a side note, regarding cashews, they can not be sprouted. Their shells are toxic and a heating process is used to eliminate the chemical poison and to free the nut (which is actually a fruit) from its lining. Therefore, no cashew we buy from the store is technically “raw,” even if it is labeled thus. Shorter soaking times for cashews are still beneficial; whereas longer soaking times will render them slimy. 2 hours is adequate.)