Tuesday, September 27, 2005

IMBB #19: I Can't Believe It's Vegan Cheesecake!

I could definately be vegan. A great deal of the foods that I eat are vegetarian and many can be made vegan. I have experimented with vegan baking, which, by and large, has produced some wonderful results. I actually have many other vegan recipes and substitutions that suprise people, from cookies to cakes. Does it seem like I am dwelling on the sweet side? I am. Anyone who bakes will know that the biggest challenge about being vegan is the baked goods. It is hard, and in some cases nearly impossible, to replicate the properties of ingredients like eggs and dairy in baked goods. I will not be trying a vegan flan, meringue or whipped cream in the near future. This isn't to say that it cannot be done, but it certainly won't be easy.

I'm glad that Sam picked Vegan cooking as the theme for this month's IMBB. I think it will increase awareness. Beyond the basics, veganism covers a wide range of eating habits. Many vegans are "activists". They are vegan because they believe that it is wrong to eat/use/exploit animals in any way. No leather, no silk, no wool, no honey. Other vegans share these same beliefs to varying degrees, perhaps eating honey or wool. Just like any other lifestyle, I don't think that this is "incorrect", though I know that many people might disagree. I believe that if you think you are doing the right thing by not using leather or eating animal products, but you still eat honey, there is nothing wrong with considering yourself to be a vegan. I don't know how vegan activists feel about the group of people, ever growing, who are vegan for health reasons. A low fat, vegan diet may slow or stop the progression of some types of cancer, including prostate cancer and lymphoma. Many people eat vegan, but continue to use other types of non-food animal products.
When I make something vegan, I do not tell people - excluding veg friends - that it is vegan. I prefer to suprise them with it once they've already eaten some. This cheesecake got good reviews, even after it was revealed to be vegan. Now, it was not as creamy or decadent as the cheesecake I made before, but I don't think anyone would deny that this is a tasty cheesecake. It was a cross between a dense, New York style cheesecake and a lighter, European style cheesecake. It had a great texture, a bit melting, light and fluffy. I chose to make it lemon flavored, not wanting another dense chocolate dessert, but you could substitute orange or lime juice for the lemon.
I don't think you want to see the nutritional information for my last cheesecake, but this one has no saturated fat and no cholesterol. Per slice, not necessarily by weight, this cheesecake has half of the calories and more than 3 times less fat than the regular cheesecake. Good reason to have seconds!

(Vegan) Lemon Cheesecake

1-14 oz package firm silken tofu
1-8 oz package Better than Cream Cheese
2/3 cup sugar
¼ cup lemon juice
½ tsp almond extract
2 tbsp cornstarch
1-9 inch pie crust

Preheat oven to 350F.
Place silken tofu and vegan cream cheese in the food processor. Process for 1 minute, then add sugar. Process until smooth and no sugar granules remain, 3-5 minutes.
In a small bowl, combine lemon juice and almond extract. Whisk in cornstarch. Pour mixture into the food processor and process until very smooth. Pour into prepared crust and bake for 45 minutes.
Allow to cool at room temperature for 2 hours, then refrigerate overnight.
Serves 10

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