Pumpkin Cheesecake! A vegan pumpkin cheesecake. Kind of. I didn’t have margarine so I just used butter for the pecan/brown sugar topping. Oops.
… It didn’t taste much like cheesecake. So if the name erroneously directed you to expect such a flavor, my bad.
But it did taste good.
Adapted from Vegan Pie in the Sky’s NY Times Article
1 recipe Graham Cracker Crust (see Old-Fashioned Chocolate Pudding pie recipe, below), or use a store-bought 9-inch vegan graham cracker crust.
1/2 cup whole unroasted cashews, soaked in water for 2 to 8 hours, or until very soft
1/4 cup mashed banana (about 1 medium banana)
1 (12- to 14-ounce) package silken tofu, drained
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons coconut oil, room temperature
6 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon orange extract or 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/4 cups canned pumpkin purée
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon nonhydrogenated margarine
Pinch of salt
1 cup pecan pieces, roughly chopped
Make the topping first. In a mixing bowl, use a fork to mash together brown sugar, margarine and salt until crumbly, then fold in the chopped nuts and stir to coat with the mixture. Set aside until ready to use.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly spray the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray. Prepare the crust and press it very firmly into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 10 minutes, and move the pan to a cooling rack, leaving the oven on for further baking in a bit.
Meanwhile, prepare the filling: Drain the cashews and blend with the banana, tofu, sugar, brown sugar, coconut oil, cornstarch, lemon juice, vanilla and orange extracts, and sea salt. Blend until the mixture is completely smooth and no bits of cashew remain.
Set aside 1/3 cup of batter. To the remaining batter, add the pumpkin purée, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg and blend until smooth, then pour it onto the crust. Randomly spoon dollops of the reserved batter onto the cheesecake. Poke the end of a chopstick into a batter blob and gently swirl to create a marble pattern; repeat with the remaining plain dollops.
Bake the cheesecake for 45 to 50 minutes, removing the cheesecake halfway through the baking period to sprinkle on the topping. Return to oven to continue baking. Cheesecake will be done when the top is lightly puffed and the edges of the cake are golden. Remove it from the oven and let cool on a rack for 20 minutes, then transfer to the fridge to complete cooling, at least 3 hours or, even better, overnight. To serve, slice the cake using a thin, sharp knife dipped in cold water.
Yield: One 9 1/2-inch cheesecake.
Graham Cracker Crust
1 3/4 cups finely ground graham crackers (crush 10 ounces of graham crackers and measure from this; use remaining crushed crackers for another crust!)
3 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons melted nonhydrogenated margarine, melted coconut oil or canola oil
1 tablespoon plain soy milk or almond milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly spray a 9-inch pie plate with nonstick cooking spray.
In a mixing bowl, combine the graham crumbs and sugar. Drizzle in the oil or melted margarine. Use a spoon to blend the mixture thoroughly to moisten the crumbs, then drizzle in the soy milk and stir again to form a crumbly dough.
Pour the crumbs into the pie plate. Press crumbs into the sides of the plate first, then work your way down to the bottom. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until firm. Let the crust cool before filling.
Yield: Makes one 9- or 10-inch pie crust.
It was pretty simple, all in all. I forgot to soak the cashews so I just let them sit in warm water for the 10 or so minutes I spent gathering everything together–and it was fine. I’ve never worked with coconut oil before this–it’s pretty and pearlescent at room temperature but melts easily, with a subtle coconut flavor that isn’t noticeable in the finished product (if you don’t like coconut).
At least for me, this came out delicious. However, it tasted nothing like cheesecake. The texture was smooth and creamy, but you could really taste the citrus notes in the flavor–they somewhat predominated. I could taste the pumpkin, and oddly, the tofu. Perhaps this is because I did not exactly measure the juice or the zest (oh the lazy cook I am). The pecan topping added a nice texture contrast though. It was fun to swirl the non-pumpkin-ed filling into the top of the rest of the cheesecake–even though the pecans kind of covered up the swirlage, which i thought was kinda dumb. (That’s why there’s whiter/oranger areas of the cheesecake top.)
The crust was super yum and pretty easy to put together. Make sure to bake it until it is fully browned/toasty–the bottom did get a bit soft rather than firm.
This “cheesecake” does taste decadent… after all, it is a creamy dessert in a graham cracker crust with sugar/pecan crumbly topping. But you’re eating tofu, banana, and pumpkin–3 power foods (protein, potassium/fiber, beta-carotene–>vitamin A/fiber, respectfully) plus healthy fats and protein in the nuts. And, it’s super filling!
I’d like to find a way to make this taste more cheesecakey. But it’s definitely not a dessert I regret making.