Remember in exams you would get points for showing your working? Even if you didn’t get the correct answer? Well, that’s exactly what this series is all about. Learning to make new dishes takes time and quite a bit of trial and error so here I’ll talk about the fails as well as the successes.

This post is all about the lemon and lime cashew cheesecake.

Much of this was new for me. Discovering lecithin, fermenting cashews, creating jelly with agar, using mousse rings and praying the mixture was firm enough to hold its shape, you know, as well as making a cheesecake with no cheese in it…

SO HOW DID I DO?

LEARNING 1: MISE EN PLACE IS KEY

It’s the first thing I discovered when learning to cook, but mise en place (french for ‘putting in place’) is absolutely vital before starting a recipe. Mise en place means gathering everything needed for your dish, measuring ingredients and making sure you’re completely prepared to get cooking. It can also mean being mentally prepared, something I didn’t think much of until I had several failures and understood the patience required to cook something new.

Have you ever thought you had all of your ingredients only to find that halfway through cooking you don’t have enough of something, or you didn’t prep and item early enough? If yes, you need mise en place in your life.

In this cheesecake, preparation is everything. The cashews take at least 48 hours to ferment and the almonds at least 12 hours to soften in a jar of water. You want cheesecakes on Thursday? Start preparing on Tuesday. Apart from the nut preparation, I needed to source the agar flakes from a health food store, find some mousse rings and learn the best way to use them.

CHEESECAKE 1 – THE GUINEA PIG

Tasting notes: The base tasted great. As for the ‘cheese’ part, I couldn’t concentrate on that because the texture was SO grainy.

Texture notes: The structure of the base was spot on in terms of sturdiness, but the cheesecake itself was like putting a spoon of wet sand in your mouth. Disgusting. I hadn’t substituted anything from the original recipe (yet!) so figured I was missing a step in the process. What was the grain texture? I’m not 100% sure but I think it was the cashews and lecithin powder. I needed to make it smoother.

CHEESECAKE 2 – TOO THIN

Texture notes: A week earlier I’d been making milk with straining cloths so thought if I strained the mixture to get rid of the grain, the result would be creamy smooth and good to go. Initially, I thought I’d cracked it after putting it through the cloth. The consistency was smooth and I knew this because I kept putting my finger in to check.

However, do you see the mixture seeping into the base? Yeah, I do too. Everything that gave this mix structure was now in the straining bag and it was far too thin. Now if you want your cheesecake in a jar and aren’t too fussed on presentation, fine, but not here! This would never set in a mousse ring and that’s one of my big goals as part of this recipe.

Tasting notes: I definitely got lemon and lime from it, not as sharp as I’d like but it a good start. I like my cheesecake to have a big citrus punch so there’s work to do on quantities of zest and juice here.

CHEESECAKE 3 – CONSISTENCY BANG ON. IT’S TIME TO NAIL THE FLAVOUR AND PRESENTATION

Texture notes: The grainy consistency issue was a facepalm no-brainer once I’d sat down to think for a minute. Stick it in a blender. That was all I had to do. I’d made the mix in a food processor but it hadn’t run it through the blender to make smooth. Problem solved. It was still thick enough for a mousse ring but had a super smooth silky texture. Yas.

Tasting notes: On first taste of cheesecake 3, I still didn’t get that instant ‘wow’ factor, but as I worked my way through it continually got more delicious. A slow burner, but in a positive way. I think the citrus hit on this needs pumped up more for impact, but not too much that you lose the sweetness the agave brings.

Presentation: Well it didn’t fall apart, which was my main concern. The cake slipped out of the mousse ring no problem, but this needs more colour (the word ‘meh’ springs to mind on this photo) and I need to figure out how to level the top of the cake exactly flat to add the perfect jelly topper.

THE AGAR JELLY

The sad part of this is I can’t stand jelly. Truly. The texture of it in my mouth ‘geez me the absolute boak’, but holy shit agar is one of the most amazing things. When I used it I was reminded of the first time I used aquafaba, it felt like magic had taken place. I turned a bottle of lemonade into jelly by literally adding a sprinkle of some magic dust and simmering in a pan. Mind. blown.

Texture notes: Honestly, a pretty spot on. I used 1 1/4tbsp per 1 cup of liquid and left the agar the bloom in the liquid for 10 minutes before simmering (bloom = let it rest in the liquid, don’t move it, don’t stir it). Once set, i took the mousse rings and cut the circles to place on top of the cake.

Tasting notes: according to trusted sources (because I can’t bring myself to try this), it gets a 4/5. I think I’ll keep the flavour on the jelly smooth and light to counterbalance the extra zest I want to add to the cheesecake. The colour looked a bit bland when place onto the cake, so time to play about with how it looks.

CHEESECAKE 4 – INGREDIENTS AND QUANTITY CHANGES

Big changes on this version. Here’s what’s new:

  • I changed out the Oatly milk for homemade almond milk.
  • I added zest flakes into the cheesecake mix as well as on top.
  • The agar jelly got a boost of green colouring
  • I went full agave instead of half agave half maple syrup
  • The layers are different. Jelly now being in the middle instead of on top

Hello there

I’m Gina, a Scottish lass teaching myself how to cook great plant-based grub while learning about our food system.

Also contains off-topic posts about running and music.

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