I have never understood this whole 'raw foods' trend. Suddenly everything's being converted into what is essentially its 'healthified' version - vegan, gluten free, sugar free and raw. It's been everywhere lately in the form of cookies, bars and even brownies. And while a part of me thinks it's great to focus on using natural, pure ingredients to achieve a similar result, another part of me can't help thinking that it ruins the fun of baking a little. (I mean to me, baking brownies with chocolate, butter, sugar and flour is what actually makes it the process of baking brownies.)
But the beauty of food blogging is having the excuse to bake new and unusual things. So when this month's Sweet Adventures Blog Hop theme was announced to be 'Sweets without Heat', I decided that it was time to try something raw that ordinarily would not be raw, just to see if it lives up to the fuss. I went for what, in its original form, would be seen as a top calorific dessert: cheesecake.
This raw cheesecake has no cream cheese. It has, in fact, no cheese at all. The 'cheesecake' is actually achieved through soaked cashews that have been pulverized in a food processor until creamy, and the tangy flavor comes through the addition of lemon juice. I opted for a vanilla and green tea combination (choice of fruits that would top a cheesecake well aren't in season here at the moment).
Result? It definitely looks like a cheesecake. The texture is almost exactly the same. And taste-wise, it comes remarkably close to what the real one would be. However, I don't think anyone would ever mistake this as the real thing. You will, though, get the pleasure of eating a slice and knowing that it's the far healthier option, and that it is made with natural and raw ingredients. There is something in the simplicity of that which makes the cheesecake charming and a delight to eat.
Having said that, this raw cheesecake will probably make it on the table as rarely as its traditional cream-cheesed counterpart does - that is, rarely. The problem of making desserts raw is that you have to invest a lot more into it - cashews, almonds and what seems to be a key ingredient in raw baking, coconut oil, made a significant dent in my bank account.
This month's SABH was hosted by Nic @ Dining with a Stud. Thank you for such an interesting theme! Go to her site for details on how to link up and check out the other raw desserts at the end of this post.
Raw Vanilla Matcha CheesecakeAdapted from My New Roots and Roost Blog
Makes 1 7-inch cheesecake
Note: I found the lemon juice quantity just a bit too heavy here, maybe it was because I had quite large lemons. I'd probably recommend the juice of 1 and a half lemons instead. Also, there is no way of getting around the food processor - a blender will work too, but you can't do this by hand.
For the crust:
1/2 cup raw almonds
1/2 cup dates
1/8 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
Pinch of salt
For the filling:
1 1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight and drained of any leftover water
Juice of 2 lemons (see Note above)
Seeds of 1 vanilla bean (or 1 tsp vanilla bean paste/pure vanilla extract)
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup honey
2 tsp matcha powder
Line a 7-inch cake tin with cling film, making sure it goes up the sides (for easy removal later on). Set aside.
In a food processor, throw in all the crust ingredients and blitz until the mixture looks crumbly. When you press the crumbs together they should stick. At this point, pour the mixture into the bottom of the cake tin and press down firmly to form a single layer.
Wash out your food processor (or alternatively, switch to a blender). Gently warm the coconut oil and honey over low heat and stir together. In the food processor, add the cashews, lemon juice, vanilla bean seeds, and coconut oil and honey mixture. Blitz on high until the mixture is thick and smooth (may take a few minutes). Scrape out 2/3 of the mixture into the cake tin on top of the crust.
Sift 2 tsp of matcha powder into the bowl of the food processor with the remaining filling and blitz until well combined. Spread the matcha filling on top of the vanilla in an even layer and smooth out the top. Put in the freezer for at least 5 hours.
Take out the cake 15 minutes before serving for easy slicing and dust the top with more matcha powder if you like. Keep cake in the freezer.