Cashew Cheese

My wonderful friend, Susan of One Green Smoothie hosted a lovely tasting and pop up shop for Oat Bakery in her gorgeous Montecito garden earlier this week and asked if I'd be interested in making some vegan cheese for the occasion. Would I? Hells yeah!!!

I make nut-based, vegan cheese quite often. Vegan parmesan for pasta night, vegan sour cream for vegan taco Tuesday, vegan ricotta* for zucchini lasagna, vegan dips etc but none of these need to be ready for prime time in the looks department.....

Oat Bakery is a new baker in town focused on supplying Santa Barbara (though they have big plans for world domination!!) with healthy and lovingly made breads. Using premium ingredients and nothing unnecessary, Louise, the lovely "Danish baker girl",  also makes incredible dairy free pestos. I strongly encourage you to follow her and grab breads whenever you can - they sell out FAST!!

As Louise tries to incorporate as many superfoods into her breads as possible, I took this as a challenge to do the same with my cheese. I experimented with a ton of weird additions, most of which failed miserably but I finally landed in a good place and came away with two delicious offerings.

 

 

Before you embark on making vegan cheese please note that whilst it's actually very easy to make, it is rather time consuming.

There are shortcuts, but it still requires patience. The first thing you should know, is that Cashews need to soak for about 8 - 12 hours. The longer they soak, the creamier your cheese will be.

8 hours on the counter or 12 hours in the fridge. If you're in a hurry and really want to get things moving, you can also pop the nuts into boiling water and let them soak for about 1 - 1.5 hours. The consistency will be pretty great but I do feel that this method removes flavor and of course nutritional value too.

 
 
 

 Lemony Pistachio Cheese all the Thyme 

  • 1 Cup Raw Cashews (soaked for 12 hours)
  • 1 Clove Garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • 1/8 Cup Lemon Juice
  • Zest of one Lemon
  • 1/4 Cup Water
  • 1 Tablespoon Nutritional Yeast (Nooch)
  • A few grinds of Sea Salt
  • Topping: Crushed Lemon Pistachios, Thyme & Sea Salt

Tangy Hemp & Chia Cheese

  • 1 Cup Raw Cashews (Soaked for 12 hours)
  • 1 Clove Garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • 1/8 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
  • 1/4 Cup Water
  • 2 Tablespoons Hemp Seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon Nutritional Yeast (Nooch)
  • A few grinds of Sea Salt
  • Topping: Hemp Seeds, Chia Seeds and Sea Salt
 
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Chia Seed & Hemp Cheese
 

As you can see, the two cheese have nearly identical ingredients. So, if you'd like to have two cheeses on offer - simply make a double batch of (mostly) one recipe, split in half and add and tweak the few missing items.

How to:

Once the nuts are fully soaked, drain them and toss them into your food processor. Add all other ingredients and blend until smooth, stopping to wipe down the sides whenever necessary. Taste and add more salt, lemon, acv or garlic as your taste buds see fit. Obviously the flavor will develop more over time so be careful not to overpower, unless you're into that!!

If the mixture seems too thick add a bit more water, 1 teaspoon at a time.

 

Once the mixture has achieved your desired consistency, line a bowl with a generous piece of cheesecloth and scoop the mixture into it. Grab up the excess cloth so that the mixture hangs, tie it and hang over a large bowl and pop it into the fridge for a few hours. If this step freaks you out or there's no way that this will fit into your fridge, take the cheesecloth sack and wrap it a few times around with a towel and pop into a bowl or piece of Tupperware before putting it in the fridge. This step is vital to get the excess liquid out and to allow you to form the cheese into molds, so do whatever you can! Do keep the cheesecloth around it though, as this will protect the cheese and prevent it from sticking to the towel. Ideally this would sit in the fridge overnight but that can be rapidly sped up if you change the towel a few times.

 

 

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Once the cheese mixture has had time to drain, line whatever bowl, container, mold that you'd like the cheese to form with cheesecloth and scoop the mixture in and gently pack down.

Cover with the cheesecloth and pop back into the fridge until you're ready to plate. The cheese mixture is still very malleable and will fall apart if manhandled too roughly so avoid unnecessary contact. 

Whilst it's certainly not necessary to add items to the outside, I think this is where you can really have fun with the overall flavor and presentation. Play around with flavors profiles and ingredient pairings. Think about what else the cheese will be served with and try to complement the offering. The cheese itself is quite mild so you really have an interesting canvas to work with! Once plated the cheese will "stand" for approx 1-2 hours before looking a little forlorn. Keep in the fridge until using!

 

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Most importantly, have fun! When you enjoy your time in the kitchen, I swear you can taste it in the food. Don't stress out, if it's not working go to the store, buy a pre-made one and try another time!!!!

 

* To make Vegan Ricotta - simply stop this recipe after the mixture is done in the food processor. No cheese cloth, no more steps, it's done. If you want to make basil ricotta (or any other herb) add a handful of fresh herbs into the mix when blending. Super Easy!!