On this summer solstice, strawberries are sweet and fresh and make a perfect dessert. A cheesecake would make a beautiful way to present them, or so I thought. I tried several types of recipes – entirely raw, with a cashew cream base, with macadamia nuts – and none of them turned out quite right. I couldn’t get textures and flavors that were reminiscent of a classic cheesecake. Admittedly I had never made a cheesecake before, vegan or not, but I didn’t think it should be this hard.
After much trial and error, which included a gummy dessert that was inedible, I decided to combine the parts of recipes that I liked to make the perfect whole. I chose a baked crust that added hemp seeds for a change of taste and then combined it with a strawberry cheesecake recipe where I replaced vegan items for their non-vegan counterparts. With a few more minor tweaks, including more flour for altitude and blueberries as a colorful garnish, I achieved a cheesecake worthy of a summer celebration.
Summer Celebration Strawberry Cheesecake adapted from a Hemp Hearts Crust and a Strawberry Cheesecake
1 1/2 cups + 2 TBS almond flour
1/2 cup hemp seeds, lightly crushed
scant 1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon
5 TBS coconut oil, melted
2 TBS agave nectar
1 pound fresh or frozen strawberries, washed and stemmed
1/4 cup vegan sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
1/4 oz vegan gelatin, strawberry flavored or unflavored
1 pound vegan cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup vegan confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups strawberry topping (see above)
1/2 cup soy creamer
blueberries for garnish
For crust: Preheat oven to 350. Whisk together almond flour, hemp seeds, salt and cinnamon. Stir in coconut oil and agave nectar. Using your hands, spread mixture into a greased 9” springform pan. Flatten using the bottom of a glass. Bake for 12-13 minutes, until golden brown along the edges. Set aside to cool.
For strawberry topping: In a pot, add strawberries, sugar, vanilla bean pod and seeds and 2 TBS water. Cook over medium heat until strawberries are soft. Remove vanilla bean pod and use an immersion blender to puree the fruit. Sprinkle gelatin over 2 TBS cold water in a small bowl. Allow it to sit for 2 minutes. Transfer gelatin to the strawberries and gently cook over low heat, whisking just until gelatin is completely dissolved. Remove from heat. Reserve 3/4 cup strawberry mixture for the cake top.
For cheesecake: In a stand mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar on medium-low speed with paddle attachment until smooth. Add vanilla extract. Add strawberry topping, except reserved 3/4 cup. In a separate bowl, whisk creamer. Replace stand mixer attachment with the whisk attachment. Add creamer to cheesecake batter and whisk until it is all combined. Pour cheesecake into prepared pan. Tap pan gently on counter to bring any air bubbles to surface. Let it sit, uncovered, in refrigerator for 2 hours or until it is set to the touch. Once cheesecake is set, pour remaining 3/4 cup strawberry topping over it. If the topping has set up in pot, gently heat it for a minute, just until it is pourable. Place the cheesecake back into the refrigerator and allow to set, uncovered, for another 30 minutes, or until the topping is set. Decorate with blueberries. At this point it is ready to serve or you can cover the cheesecake with plastic and it can sit in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Before unlocking the springform pan, run a knife around edge of the cheesecake to loosen it.
Until next time, happy baking!