It’s cheesecake, but not as you know it. This one’s wholesome, healthy, free of gluten and dairy, and yet totally delicious!
The thing is… instead of a biscuit base, there’s almonds, coconut and tahini. Instead of cream cheese, there’s pureed cashews and cacao butter. I know, I know… sounds insane! Why would I do it to myself? Well, as someone who is increasingly gluten-sensitive, not to mention insulin-resistant, I’ve had to face the fact that I can no longer indulge my previous ‘see-food diet’ mentality – you know the one… you see food and you eat it!
So, over the past few months I’ve been buying some cookbooks that promote a healthier way of eating; okay, it doesn’t mean I’ve used ’em straight away, but at least seeing them lying around has helped me get my head around the idea!
One of the cookbooks I bought was Dr Libby’s Sweet Food Story: Real Food Recipes & Wisdom – a collection of sweet treat recipes made with whole and healthy ingredients. Yeah, I know… ‘sweet treats’ and ‘healthy’ in the same sentence? Seriously? I thought that too, hence the reason it’s taken me a few months before I actually committed to making something from it.
But… (drum-roll)… here you have it – classic cheesecake or, should I say, ‘cheesecake’.
So, how did it go? Well, the process itself went swimmingly well – it all felt a bit foreign, of course – pureeing cashews to make the filling felt particularly odd! But it was otherwise pretty darn simple, especially given it was raw rather than baked.
I took the punt of making the cheesecake for a family get-together and prepared myself for some full-on whining and complaining, or at least some good old-fashioned ribbing. But, you know what? Everyone really seemed to like it… even called it delicious. And, I have to say, I was really pleasantly surprised too. I LOVED the filling and the topping in particular – the filling being beautifully smooth and somewhat cheese-cakey in taste, the topping being a beautiful maroon lake of blueberry puree. The base was the component that everyone mentioned as being a bit ‘different’, in that it was quite chewy. It wasn’t that they didn’t like it; rather it was just different texturally from what they were used to.
So, I’d call that a really good start to my foray into the world of healthy sweet treats. Of course, it doesn’t mean that I’m never going to make sugar, dairy and fat-laden desserts again (I haven’t FULLY deserted my see-food diet mentality yet!), but it does demonstrate that it’s possible to have treats that are totally nutritious, yet still darn tasty.
CLASSIC ‘CHEESECAKE’ WITH BERRY COULIS
Ingredients: (Click here for Unit Converter)
For the base
- 2 dried figs, finely chopped
- 1 cup raw almonds, soaked overnight, then rinsed well
- 1 cup shredded coconut
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon tahini
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon filtered water
For the filling
- 1 1/2 cups raw cashew nuts
- 1 cup filtered water
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon savoury or nutritional yeast
- 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
- 100g cacao butter, melted
- Pinch of salt
For the berry coulis
- 1 cup frozen blueberries
- Juice of 1/2 a lime
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1/2 teaspoon psyllium husk
- To make the base, put all the ingredients in a food processor and process until they’re well combined. If you prefer a finer texture, pulse a few times more.
- Spread the mixture into a 21cm (8 inch) springform cake tin, lined with greaseproof paper. Press it down firmly and evenly and pop it into the fridge while you carry on.
- To make the filling, place all the ingredients, except for the cacao butter, into a food processor (personally I found it didn’t work in the food processor – I used my Nutribullet blender to get an ultra smooth blend) and process until smooth and creamy. Add the melted cacao butter to the mixture and process for a further 5 seconds, or until well combined.
- Pour the filling carefully over the base and place back in the fridge. You’ll find that the filling sets up fairly quickly – in my case, it was pretty much set in an hour.
- For the coulis, place the blueberries, lime, honey and psyllium husk in the blender (or food processor) and process until smooth. Pour the puree over the chilled cheesecake (you should find that it is liquid enough to level out itself; otherwise carefully level it out with an off-set spatula) and return to the fridge until you’re ready to serve.
- When it comes time to release the cheesecake from the springform cake tin, do so gently. The puree is quite liquid, though I found that apart from one or two places where it spilled over the side a little, it remained nicely in place.
NB: The cheesecake is best served the day it’s made, though it can be frozen.
Food Photography Info: Canon 550D (EOS Rebel T2i); Sigma 30mm 1.4 DC ‘Art’ lens / Natural lighting