November 7th, 2011

Pumpkin Cheesecake With Pecan Crunch Topping

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Serves 8 to 10

Pumpkin Cheesecake

This Pumpkin Cheesecake was among our favorites in Vegan Pie In The Sky! All those autumnal spices with lots of pumpkin flavor and an irresistible pecan crunch topping. It’s so delicious, it makes you feel a little funny. And don’t worry about serving this to even the biggest tofuphobe, they will not complain one bit.

While there are perfectly adequate vegan cream cheeses available in supermarkets, we wanted to come up with a cheesecake formula made with pantry-friendly ingredients, for a few reasons.

One is consistency: different brands will produce different results.

For another, some vegan cream cheeses contain hydrogenated oils. We want to bake with accessible real foods.

Also: the cost. For one recipe, if you’re talking 3 tubs of cream cheese, when all is said and done you’ve just spent a good 25 bucks on a single cheesecake. Ouch! This way, even if you do spend 25 bucks, you have ingredients that will last you awhile and make lots and lots of cheesecakes.

And lastly, well, we just think it tastes better! We worked for months and months to develop the smoothest, creamiest and richest vegan cheesecake base possible. The ingredients we landed on were soaked cashews, coconut oil, banana and silken tofu. The end result is firm but creamy, easy to work with and a dessert that’s a little difficult to not steal bites of. That’s only a bad thing if you care that by the time the guests arrive there’s already a sliver missing.

A few recipe notes before embarking on your vegan cheesecake adventure!

~For the crust, vegan graham crackers can be hard to find. If you can’t find them, you can either make your own, or use gingersnaps. We baked a few of these with gingersnaps and they were amazing!

~Soak the cashews overnight to make quick work of the recipe. You can cover them with plastic wrap if you’re afraid that your kitty will get to them.

~Although this recipe is for a fancy marbled cheesecake, you can skip that step if you’re pressed for time or would just rather not do it. Just mix everything in the filling together instead of dividing the batter and swirling.

~You can use either water packed silken tofu or the vacuum packed kind (like Mori-Nu.) If using Mori-Nu, extra firm silken works best.

For the crust:

1 1/4 cups of finely ground graham crackers or gingersnaps
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons melted non-hydrogenated margarine, melted coconut oil, or canola oil
1 tablespoon plain soy or almond milk.

1/2 cup whole unroasted cashews soaked in water for 2 to 8 hours or until very soft
1/4 cup mashed banana (about half of 1 medium-sized banana)
1 12 to 14 oz package silken tofu, drained
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons coconut oil, at room temperature
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 3/4 cups canned pumpkin puree
3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon nonhydrogenated margarine *or* coconut oil
Pinch of salt
1 cup pecans, roughly chopped

Make the crust:
Preheat oven to 350F and lightly spray a 9 inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray.

In a mixing bowl, combine the 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 pan. Press firmly into the bottom. Bake for 8 to 12 minutes until firm. Let the crust cool a bit before filling. Keep oven on 350 to bake the cheesecake.

Make the topping:
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 the mixture. Set aside until ready to use.

Make the filling:
Drain the cashews and place in a blender with the banana, tofu, sugar, brown sugar, coconut oil, cornstarch, lemon juice, vanilla, orange zest, and sea salt. Blend until completely smooth and no bits of cashew remain, a food processor or strong blender should be able to get the job done.

Set aside 1/2 cup of batter. To the remaining batter, add the pumpkin puree, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg and blend until smooth, then pour it into 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 dollops.

Bake the cheesecake for 45 to 50 minutes. Remove cheesecake halfway through baking and 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 about 20 minutes, then transfer to the refrigerator to complete cooling, at least 3 hours or even better if overnight. To serve, slice the cake using a thin, sharp knife dipped in cold water.

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