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May 17, 2020
Decisions, decisions. There are worse things in life than having to choose between cheesecake fillings. If you're like me, the best job is being the taste tester. When I set off on this challenge, I thought about the key things that determine my direction with any recipe I make for my daughter and jive with her diet: SCD, low carb, taste and texture. And then I thought about you, our customer and your uniqueness. Diets are varied as people so I wanted to make something (and compare them side by side) that are Vegan and Paleo, both common requests we receive from folks.
To be clear, I love cheesecake. Heck, there's a restaurant paying homage to this wonderful dessert. I love it for it's simplicity--a traditional filling often relying on 4 ingredients. For today's challenge I held this premise close in mind because lives are complicated enough and I want something everyone can re-create in the comfort of home.
I tested 3 plain variations to keep it fair. Version 1, "Scratch" SCD/Vegan/Paleo, Version 2, "Fast" SCD/Vegan/Paleo and Version 3 Straight up SCD. All three variations low carb of course.
I took to the internet for inspiration and settled on two variations posted on Food 52 and Life of Happenstance (side note: If you haven't discovered Jennifer's site yet, I highly recommend 👍). Since I decided to keep the filling flavor plain and comply with my testing requirements and availability of ingredients these recipes had to be adapted ever so slightly.
I prepared one "Graham" Cracker Crust using Liberated's Graham Cracker Crumbs. The winner of the challenge to earn pride of place in the crust of course!
Graham Cracker Crust (to fit one 6-in. spring form pan)
Add crumbs and melted butter to mixing bowl and stir until well combined. Using the back of spoon, press against sides of bowl to see if it holds together. It's OK if a few crumbs fall, we're looking for crumbly, but still able to hold form. Press prepared crumbs into a 6-in. spring form pan making sure to press 1-2" up the sides. The key here is to compact the crumbs as tight as possible. If you have a small handheld rolling pin use it. When done, cover and transfer to freezer to set.
Version 1: "Scratch" SCD/Vegan/Paleo Filling ; Prep Time: 24+ hrs.
The night before: Cover the cashews with boiling water, and store overnight in the refrigerator to soak. Soaking the cashews give this recipe the added smoothness required for a rich, creamy cheesecake filling. Don't skip this step! After a good night's sleep, drain and rinse cashews until water runs clear. Next, add liquids to Vitamix or high speed blender finishing with prepared cashews. Starting on low speed, slowly blend ingredients increasing speed until filling is smooth and creamy--there should be no bits or gritty texture. (note: soaking cashews in the fridge overnight makes all the difference here). Pour blended filling into prepared 6" spring form pan and freeze overnight to set. A few hours before serving, remove from freezer, remove from pan by warming the side of pan with hands or warm towel to encourage it to release freely. Transfer cake to plate and place in fridge to thaw.
Version 2: "Fast" SCD/Vegan/Paleo Filling ; Prep Time: 12 hrs.
Add ingredients to Vitamix or high speed blender (be sure to add liquids first, finishing with JOI Cashew Nutbase. Starting on low speed, slowly blend ingredients increasing speed until filling is smooth and creamy--there should be no bits or gritty texture. Pour blended filling into prepared 6" spring form pan and freeze overnight to set. A few hours before serving, remove from freezer, remove from pan by warming the side of pan with hands or warm towel to encourage it to release freely. Transfer cake to plate and place in fridge.
Version 3: Straight Up SCD Cheesecake, Prep Time: 4 +/- hrs.
Instructions (taken from Life of Happenstance)
I dipped a spoon into each filling and had my girl sample. In her words, not mine, "Mmmm...Mmmm....MmMm!" When I asked which one was the winner she said all of them, but I think I prefer the last one the best."
And there you have it, my daughter's pick--Straight Up SCD Cheesecake.
If it were up to me, I'm not sure I could choose so easily. Although I agree that the most traditional tasting cheesecake was her pick, I feel the other two options deserve some explanation.
The table below lists some elements that I looked for and think might prove helpful if you choose to take part the Cheesecake Challenge.
The taste and texture of the Version 1 and 2 were divine. Both plant-based, raw, no-bake options which adds nutritional benefits that is dairy free, animal protein free and delicious. I especially loved proving that there are dairy free cheesecake recipes that rival any cream cheese based version. I chose to give Version 1 an overall rating "3.5" because I am not always a great planner and rarely plan 24 hrs ahead when it comes to dessert.
Version 2 pulled slightly ahead of 2 due to the benefit of prep time. All other elements stacked up right in line with Version 1, but spared me from having to soak cashews. The convenience of having the Cashew JOI plant milk in my pantry was welcomed and greatly appreciated...and saved me 12 hrs of prep time! Pick up yours here
Version 3 was the winner in our house simply due to ease and taste. It's taste and texture truer to the original, but bore some downsides worth mentioning--Diary and Egg. The combination of these two ingredients make it incompatible with Paleo, DF and Vegan lifestyles, but totally legit for SCD.
Version 2 DF, V, P, SCD
And there it is...I hope my Saturday morning escapades in my home kitchen proved helpful as you embark on your own baking journeys.
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