Italian “Cashewcotta” Cheesecake
Makes one 8 inch cheesecake
Italian cheesecakes are a subtle departure from the brick-solid, American-style confections; this cashew and tofu based lovely has the slightly grainy texture not unlike Italian ricotta cheesecakes. Though two cups of powdered sugar may sound like a lot, this cheesecake is still less sweet than it’s American-style counterparts. An aromatic touch of citrus and almond extracts, no crust or toppings (traditionally they’re served plain, but I’ve included an easy fresh strawberry topping if you must), make this my new favorite easy cheesecake. It’s even very nice served still slightly warm after baking, but the flavor and texture will deepen after it’s been chilled overnight.
Ingredient tip: Extra firm silken tofu is the best choice for this cake; as of this writting Mori-Nu makes extra firm silken available in shelf-stable boxes. Firm silken can also be used; the texture of the cake may be slightly softer.
Note: the size of the pan is important here for a cheesecake with a nice height; 9 or 9 1/2 inch pans will produce a much thinner cake, though still delicious. Reduce baking time by 10 to 12 minutes depending on the size of the pan.
1 cup unroasted, unsalted cashews
24 ounces (two Mori Nu boxes) extra firm silken tofu, drained
2 tablespoons virgin coconut oil, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon white rum or brandy
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon orange extract or grated zest from 1 orange
½ teaspoon lemon extract or grated zest from 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons powdered sugar, for sprinkling
1. In a small bowl cover cashews with 2 inches of hot water and soak overnight or until cashews are very soft and no hard bits remain.
2. Preheat oven to 350° F and spray the insides of an 8-inch round baking pan with cooking oil spray. Line bottom with a round of parchment paper cut to fit the bottom of the pan.
2. Drain the cashews, place in a blender and add the tofu and coconut oil. Pulse until the mixture is completely smooth; depending on how powerful the blender is this can take 1 to 3 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients, except for the 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar, and pulse until very smooth and use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the blender frequently.
3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and use a rubber spatula to get every last drop of the batter from the blender into the pan. Lift the pan a few inches off the kitchen counter and drop a few times to help release some of the larger air bubbles from the batter. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until the top of the cake feels firm and the edges are just starting to turn golden.
4. Remove from the oven and set on a wire rack to cool for 25 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the cake and stretch a piece of plastic wrap on top of the pan. Place a large dish on top of the pan and invert the cake pan. Tap the bottom of the pan a few times to release the cake, lift the pan and peel off the parchment paper. Now place a serving dish on top of the cake and invert one more time, then remove the plastic wrap from the top of the cake. Sprinkle the top with the 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar (sift the powder through wire mesh sieve and gently tap it over the top of the cake for a pretty, even coating of powder). You can also skip the additional flipping of the cake if you don’t mind looking at the bottom of the cheesecake. Store the cheesecake tightly wrapped in the refrigerator. For cleaner slicing of this cake, try using a plastic knife.
Fresh Balsamic Strawberry Topping
Makes about 2 cups of topping
A light strawberry topping to spoon on top of individual slices of cheesecake. This can be made up to 2 hours before serving the cake, but only top the cake immediately before serving.
1 pint fresh strawberries
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons good quality balsamic vinegar or white balsamic vinegar
1. Clean and remove the stems from the strawberries. Slice into thin 1/4 inch slices and combine with remaining ingredients. Let stand for at least 5 minutes before serving.
2. To use frozen strawberries, slice unthawed berries, combine with the remaining ingredients, and set aside, stirring occasionally until the berries are completely thawed.