I hold out the jar in disbelief. "Smell this," I command Paul. (And then the next day Felix's teacher and two other parents at the preschool as well.)
It's cream cheese. I blended up some soaked cashews, water, a little soy yogurt, and a pinch of salt. I scraped it into a glass container. Not cream cheese. Twelve hours later, I peaked, I sniffed - not cream cheese. But twelve hours after that? Cream cheese.
Well actually what I did even before I approached the blender was recieve Miyoko Schinner's new book Artisan Vegan Cheese in the mail and then read it. I am so excited about this book. Have you had the chance to check it out yet? Let's discuss.
Next I'm planning on making the meltable mozzarella. Desmond told me on the way to school today that pizza is his favorite dinner. He said this in a slightly wounded, accusational way. It's been awhile since we've made pizza. I think it's been almost hot enough to bake a really good pie on the sidewalk. I'm hoping that at some point in October it will be cool enough to turn the actual oven back on.
So, conditions in Southern California are not currently conducive to the hard air-dried cheeses that age at cool room temperature for weeks, but the recipes are here biding their time for winter. There's gouda and cheddar and emmentaler and parmesan to keep the beer company in our make-shift cellar that used to be called the hall closet.
The recipes are almost all based on the rich creaminess of soaked and pureed nuts and then cultured with some sort of probiotic - yogurt or rejuvelac. Do you want to talk about rejuvelac? It's a fermented grain beverage that you can buy in health food stores, but Miyoko includes very simple directions to make it at home.
I haven't made it beyond the cream cheese though yet. I'm still totally dumbfounded by it. I've been vegan for about 16 years, and opening up that jar was a blast of sensory memory. Cream cheese. I forgot about you.
And now, beyond bagels smeared with cream cheese and strawberry jam to go with my afterschool iced coffee, (Remember the coffee ice cubes?) I'm thinking about cheese cake and stuffed french toast and carrot cake and these cookies and all those other recipes that get their richness and balancing tang from this (previously dairy) product.
From the book Artisan Vegan Cheese by Miyoko Schinner. Excerpted by arrangement with the Book Publishing Company. Copyright (c) 2012. www.bookpub.com
- 2 cups raw cashews, soaked in water for 8 hours and drained
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tablespoons plain, unsweetened nondairy yogurt
- pinch of salt
- Process the ingredients: Put the cashews, water, nondairy yogurt, and salt in a blender. Process until smooth and creamy, occasionally stopping to scrape down the blender jar and move the mixture toward the blades.
- Culture the cheese: Transfer to a clean glass bowl or container, cover, and let rest at room temperature for 24 to 48 hours, depending on how sharp a flavor you want and the ambient temperature (culturing will proceed more quickly at warmer temperatures). For use in cheesecakes that will be sweetened, allowing it to culture for a full 48 hours will create a tanginess that will nicely complement the sweetener. Cover and refrigerate. The cheese will get firmer as it chills.
Storage Notes: Stored in a covered container, Cashew Cream Cheese will keep for about 2 weeks in the refrigerator or 4 months in the freezer.
Mascarpone: The Italian version of cream cheese and the star ingredient in tiramisu, mascarpone is similar to cream cheese, but a little sweeter, milder, and typically softer. To make a nondairy version of mascarpone, allow the cashew mixture to culture for only 12 to 24 hours - long enough to thicken and develop some flavor, but not so long that it gets tangy. It should have a sweet, mild flavor.
Firm Cashew Cream Cheese: To make a firm, block-type cream cheese, press the cheese after it's cultured. Line a small sieve or colander with a double layer of cheesecloth, using enough cheesecloth that hangs over the edges. Put the sieve over a bowl. Put the cheese in the sieve and wrap the ends of the cheesecloth over the top. Put a plate on top and put a 5- to 10- pound weight on the plate - a clean river rock, a container of water, a cast-iron skillet, or whatever you have handy. Let stand at room temperature for about 24 hours to press much of the liquid out of the cheese. (Discard the liquid.) The resulting cheese will be quite firm. Use as is, or flavor with chives, herbs, or garlic.