Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Baking in the raw

As a blogger of integrity (or BoI), I feel it's important to record my failures alongside my successes. This is an account of one of those failures. I've recently, and I blame working from home for this, decided to make raw 'baked' goods. It started innocently enough. I like to bake, but am trying to eat less sugar, so I've been getting away from my usual food blogs and looking at ones with healthier baking options. I'm not particularly interested in raw 'baking' or vegan treats, but it seems most of the low-sugar options lead back to these sorts of sites. I found a raw brownie recipe that was composed entirely of ground walnuts, dates, cocoa powder, and dried cherries. They were decent, although crumblier and not holding a candle to the egg, butter, and sugar rich brownies of last post.

After the brownie experiment, I was left with some expensive dates. Since dates seem to be the sweetener of choice for most of the raw baking sites I'd found, I thought I owed it to myself to try something a little more ambitious. Enter: the raw vegan cheesecake. Now I'd made a dairy free cheesecake before for my lactose intolerant sister using that fake tofu-based cream cheese, but as she isn't vegan, I loaded that sucker with eggs. Thus this experiment was a horse of a different color. I chose a simple lemon cheesecake adapted from a number of different recipes. For the crust, I mixed:
  • 1 1/2 cups of nuts
  • 1/2 dates
in the food processor until I had a gooey, crumbly mixture. I used a mixture of walnuts, almonds, and pecans because I tend to have dribs and drabs of all nuts floating around. I suspect any nut would do. I then pressed this mixture into a springform pan.

The crust part of this experiment went along swimmingly.

The filling was composed of:
  • 3 cups soaked cashews
  • Juice and zest from 2 lemons
  • 1/2 honey
  • 1/2 coconut oil (melted)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
The filling is where things started to go awry. I think the first issue was that I under-soaked my cashews. Being a non-vegan, and having never soaked nuts before, I took them out when they seemed plenty water logged. I think it had been about 3 hours, but in hindsight it might have been closer to 2. The second issue is that you really need a good food processor for this. I have only a tiny one, so I had to do it in batches. It didn't seem to be working well, so I transferred to a blender, and when that failed, back to the food processor. Despite my many efforts, the concoction never did quite take on the consistency of cheesecake filling. I've had delicious raw cheesecakes before, so I know cashews are capable of amazing things. Mine however, whether from poorly soaked nuts or improper kitchen appliances, tasted good but still maintained a rough texture, not unlike finely ground nuts.

My kitchen post "cheesecake" filling making. Much like my attempts to replicate mall pretzels, I have come to the conclusion that just paying for a piece of cheesecake on those rare occasions that I do go to raw restaurants is probably worth it. $10 no longer seems unrealistic.

After leaving the cake in the fridge for 4 hours to firm up, I tried a piece. Only it didn't look as appetizing as I had hoped, so, in the spirit of true failure, I turned to refined sugar. I'd originally planned to decorate the surface with fresh raspberries because I consider fresh raspberries to be a panacea for all baking ills. However, fresh raspberries are currently not available at any price in the two fruit markets by my house, so I settled on blackberries. But blackberries seemed too tart to just drop on top whole...so I ended up cooking them into a sauce with a couple of tablespoons of sugar and some water. The result:

Not the prettiest dessert I've ever made, and the texture left something to be desired, but the taste was actually pretty good!

I'm not entirely ready to give up on raw "baking." Mostly because I still have half a package of dates and the only other thing I know to do with them is stuff them with almonds and wrap them in bacon (although now that I've written it out...I might just do that...). Hopefully, my next project will be another one for the success column.


  1. It is not nice to try to fool mother nature. A cheesecake needs cream cheese. That dessert must have cost a lot in time and money. Meanwhile, I have tried 3 different variations on Malta pudding.

    Chop up the dates and put them in muffins.

  2. Oh my goodness--malva pudding is one of the best things there is! One of the biggest things I miss about SA. Definitely have a few more for me!