Tuesday, July 21, 2009
When I first started writing Holy Cow! almost 20 months ago, I was thinking of it as a recipe log for myself. I was always creating dishes and even if I loved something, I'd soon enough forget how I'd made it. Sometimes friends with whom I'd shared a recipe at some time or the other would serve it to me down the road and I'd go incredulously, "That's my recipe? Really? Can I have it please?"
So finally, tired of my own forgetfulness, I decided to start this, a food blog, where I could log all of my recipes as I created them. Because my blog began not long after I had become a vegan, it also turned into a diary of my views on animal rights and the world in general. I wasn't sure anyone else would be interested in what I wrote, but it was an extraordinarily liberating feeling to write anything I wanted to and put it out there for anyone who cared to see. Not least because as a journalist, I've always had an editor, often ones who don't know what they're doing, telling me what's acceptable and what's not. But here I can say anything I please without worrying about pleasing anyone.
But what I came to love even more over time was that there are people out there who were interested in what I wrote, and in my recipes. Folks who shared my views on a kinder, gentler world where every living creature can co-exist. Although I haven't met most of you in person, I can honestly say I am more comfortable chatting with you than I sometimes am with people I've known for a long time.
So in appreciation of the joy you bring to me, I wanted to share with you this-- one of my most prized recipes ever and one I am prouder of than almost anything else I've ever created. My Mango Cheesecake.
I've always been a cheesecake fan, and the availability of vegan cream cheese and sour cream like the Tofutti brand(I even find it in my local Giant supermarket) makes it really, really easy to have my vegan cheesecake and eat it too.
I use mango pulp that I buy in cans from the Indian grocery store. If you live in an urban area, you are almost certain to have an Indian grocery store somewhere near you where you can find mango pulp. It's important to use this because the sweetness and flavor of the Indian mango is vastly different from the flavor of the mangoes you find here in the United States and it makes all the difference.
I use only one spice in this cheesecake and it is a perfect match for mango: cardamom. Mango and cardamom are, like rosemary and potatoes or basil and tomatoes, a match made in tastebud heaven. Together, they take this cheesecake from simply delicious to absolutely sublime.
You can leave out the vegan sour cream topping, but I think it adds that final wow! to an already amazing cake.
I made this cheesecake for friends who came over for dinner this past weekend and didn't have a chance to take a picture before we cut in, so I don't have any pictures of the full cake.
Desi, who's quite likely my worst critic when it comes to my cooking, is not a cheesecake fan despite his sweet tooth. But even he can't have enough of this cheesecake, and says it's the best he's ever tasted.
Good enough for me!
For the nut crust:
2 cups walnuts (can use pecans)
2 tbsp vegan "butter" like Earth Balance
2 tbsp canola or other vegetable oil
3 tbsp sugar
A pinch of salt
In a food processor, process the nuts until they resemble crumbs. Add the "butter", oil, sugar and salt and process briefly until the mixture comes together.
Pat the crust into the bottom of a 9- or 10-inch springform pan.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake the crust for 10 minutes until it starts to brown and becomes quite firm. Set aside to cool completely. It will be soft to the touch when you pull it out of the oven but will firm up as it cools.
For the mango filling:
In a large bowl, beat until just smooth:
16 ounces vegan "cream cheese" (I used Tofutti's Better-than-cream-cheese)
Scrape the sides of the bowl and the beaters. Add:
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp cardamom powder
Beat until everything's well-blended.
Whip in a food processor or blender 12 ounces of silken firm tofu (I used MoriNu) and 3 tsp of egg replacer powder (this is important because the mango puree is quite liquidy, and you need this to help it firm up).
Add the tofu to the cream cheese in three portions, beating well after each addition.
Add and mix until just mixed:
1 cup canned mango puree (I used the Kesar brand)
Pour the filling into the crust.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place a loaf pan or any other pan filled with water in the oven.
Slide the springform pan on a baking sheet and place in the oven.
Bake the cheesecake for 30 minutes.
Turn the heat down to 325 degrees and continue baking for another 30 minutes.
When the cheesecake is done, the sides will be set and puffy but the center will still jiggle when tapped.
For the topping:
1 cup vegan sour cream (again, I used Tofutti)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cardamom powder
Whip the ingredients together until just blended.
Pour on the cheesecake as soon as it comes out of the oven, and tilt the pan slightly to make sure it coats the top of the cake evenly.
Place the cheesecake back in the oven and bake another 15 minutes.
Remove the cheesecake to a rack and cool completely. Unmold by running a knife around the edge, and then release the springform top.
Chill the cheesecake thoroughly before serving.