Next to smoothies, ice cream, and fruit dishes, what else do you need at a summer picnic or barbeque? A cheesecake, that’s what. With more crust and filling options than there are SPFs in a bottle of your sunscreen, this sweet spring and summer mainstay is the blank canvas on which to paint (and eat) your summer dessert creations. As we’re sure you already know, May 26th is Blueberry Cheesecake Day, after all.
To find the first cheesecake, we must travel back in time and across the Atlantic to the 8th century BC. It is said that the ancient Greeks fed cheesecake to their athletes, as the dense combination of flour, wheat, honey, and cheese was a good source of energy (and even used as wedding cake). The Greek writer Athenaeus penned the first known cheesecake recipe in 230 AD; after the Romans took over, they changed it up, using crushed cheese and eggs for the filling and baking it in pastry, which they called libuma. As the Roman Empire spread, so did variations on the cheesecake recipe. Over time, cheesecake made it to the US, where in 1872, cream cheese was invented and the cheesecake transformed. Today, vegans everywhere enjoy cheesecake too, using only plant-based crusts and fillings.
Graham crackers, nuts, ginger snaps, chocolate wafers, flour, no crust at all—the options for cheesecake crusts are pretty much endless. Crushed Oreo cookies? No problem. Pecan-almond-gingersnap? You betcha. The key to a good crust is to use a springform pan, make sure your crust is at least a quarter of an inch thick, and to refrigerate your crust at least one hour before adding the cheesecake filling. If you’re looking for a softer crust, use brown sugar in the crust recipe. It will go mushy faster, however, so only use it if you know the cheesecake will be eaten quickly. (But wait, isn’t that all the time?) You can even buy a premade crust to make it really easy (just make sure to check the ingredients!).
One of the best things about vegan cheesecakes is that we have a plethora of options for our filling (take that, dairy!). Vegan cream cheese and silken tofu are the top two filling bases: some of our favorite brands include Kite Hill, Tofutti, Daiya Foods, Wildwood, and Nasoya. After you arm yourself with the proper ingredients, the sky is the limit for filling options. Throw in fruit, chocolate, peanut butter, pumpkin purée, mint, or myriad other sweet and delectable options.
The Finishing Touches
Some people think making cheesecakes is difficult, which is a shame, because they’re missing out on deliciousness! One of the hardest parts to get right is the filling; oftentimes, it can be a challenge to keep it from getting lumpy. To make sure there are no lumps in your cheesecake-making journey, make sure all filling ingredients are at room temperature when you combine them. Secondly, it is important to combine your tofu and cream cheese together before adding in sugar, vanilla, mix-ins, or whatever else your creative culinary mind comes up with. This will improve the cheesecake’s texture. Lastly, when you’re finished baking your delicious summer treat, make sure to let it cool completely before eating. It’s going to be hard, no doubt about it, but it’s important to let the cheesecake set properly before diving in.
From praline pumpkin to blueberry, here are some cheesecake recipes that make our mouths water by simply reading the ingredients lists.
Photo by Hannah Kaminsky