img_2093No-bake cheesecakes have been reborn! And just in time for spring flings, bridal/baby showers, and summer buffets. Almonds and cashews set the stage for these creamy, dreamy cheesecakes. And the coconut whipped cream is a brilliant alternative to dairy cream. The flavor is yummier, the texture is fluffier, and holds its shape longer than regular whipped cream.  I had such a difficult time deciding which flavor of cheesecake to make, I made a collection in miniature just so I could sample them. The strawberry is made with orange zest, the raspberry with lemon zest and banded with white chocolate, while the coconut-key lime is…well, I think  you get the picture.(for recipe)

img_2130 I remember almost to the day when no-bake cheesecakes took America by storm. It was 1966. My mother brought home a box of JelI-O cheesecake mix and whipped up a strawberry cheesecake. It was a show-stopping hit at her Tupperware party. Pretty soon permutations were sprouting up faster than Phily cream cheese could keep pace. Overnight Jell-O no-bake-cheesecake became a national sensation. And the concept of refrigerator pies was embraced by the American housewife as the greatest invention since, well, refrigeration. And if memory serves me, it was right about this time when Betty Crocker Cookbook sales took a nose dive, too. Why labor for hours in the kitchen measuring, sifting, mixing, and baking when all you had to do was blend a package of cream cheese with the filling packet, drizzle some margarine over the prepackaged crushed graham crackers, press it into a pie shell, refrigerate, and viola! Instant gratification.

img_2132Nowadays, it’s not solely about convenience, although it’s a consideration. It’s more about eating healthy, and let’s not forget yummy deliciousness. Now if you can combine all three, you’ve hit the trifecta. That’s not to say there isn’t some planning involved, there is. First you have to decide which flavor, or you can combine all three. After that it’s just do ahead stuff. Like soaking the cashews overnight for the filling. Make one large cheesecake, or dress these little darlings up with your favorite citrus fruits, berries, and coconut whipped cream so your guest can sample a variety. Either way, this cheesecake will add a touch of elegance to any buffet table it graces.

Recipe notes: What you will need: 9″ inch tart pan with removable bottom or 6″ spring form pan, Cuisinart food processor or Vitamix, zester, and mixer. Active prep time: 30-minutes. Decorating time: 15-minutes. Yields 8-servings. Difficulty level: Fairly easy

Crust:

  • 3/4-cup whole almonds or 1 -cup sliced ( If you prefer just almonds, use 1 1/4 cups for whole and 1 1/2 for sliced)
  • 1/2-cup cashews (optional)
  • ½ -cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1/3 cup Stevia
  • 1/8 -tsp or pinch of cinnamon (optional)
  • pinch Himalayan sea salt
  • ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
  • 4-Tbsp melted coconut oil

Preparation:

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  1. In Cuisinart food processor, process cashews, almonds, coconut, cinnamon, Stevia and salt until nuts are finely ground.
  2. Drizzle in coconut oil and pulse until mixture clumps together.
  3. If using tart shell with removable bottom, press mixture evenly into shell. For spring form pan, press crust onto bottom about a 1/2 inch thick. In using a spring form pan, you will end up with excess crust which can be used to decorate side of cheesecake. Chill.
  4. FYI: The original recipe calls for the crust to be “raw.” However, if you prefer it toasted, bake @350 for 10-15 minutes or until light golden brown.
  5. Allow to cool. Refrigerate to set crust before continuing with filling.

Filling:

  • 1 ¾ cups raw cashews, soaked in cool water overnight
  • 1- cup Stevia
  • 1-tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2-Tbsp finely ground chia seeds (preferably white) *
  • 2-Tbsp zest** lightly packed
  • 1-cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • pinch Himalayan or sea salt
  • ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
  • 1/2-cup coconut milk*** or almond milk
  • ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
  • ¾ cup (6-oz) extra virgin coconut oil melted. Bring to room temperature before adding to filling. Yields enough for 9-inch tart or 6-inch spring form pan.

* White chia seeds are often used in baking because the color blends more uniformly than regular chia.

**I recommend a peeling zester for longer confetti strands rather than a micro-plane. This is the brand of Zester I use.

**Using real coconut milk gives the cashew cheese a creamier smoother texture.

Strawberry/Blueberry

Same ingredients: add orange zest and optional flavoring of 1-tsp orange extract or 1-Tbsp of Grand Marnier.

Raspberry

Same ingredients: add lemon zest

Key-Lime

Same ingredients: add lime zest, key-lime and coconut extract

Note: key lime tends to have a stronger flavor, so taste test the filling to acquire a balanced proportion. Neither should overpower the other. (For decorating)

Preparation:

Note: I highly recommend that if you have a Vitamix, use a food processor to start and then transfer to the blender for a creamier texture.

  1. Place cashew in bowl, add just enough water to cover them, cover with plastic wrap.
  2. Refrigerate and soak overnight
  3. Next day drain and rinse cashews
  4. Transfer to food processor, add Stevia, chia, vanilla, zest, juice, and salt.
  5. While processor is running, gradually add milk.
  6. Continue for 2-3 minutes until smooth, scraping down side of bowl as needed.
  7. Add the melted cacao or coconut oil and pulse until smooth.
  8. Taste for sweetness and adjust flavoring.
  9. Spoon mixture into chilled shell or spring form pan and spread evenly.
  10. Refrigerate at least 4-hours before unmolding and decorating.

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Whipped Topping:

  • 16-oz or 2- 6.8oz Kara coconut cream in the carton* chilled (available in the Asian section of most markets, or at Asian grocery stores or online.)
  • 2-Tbsp Stevia
  • 1/2-tsp vanilla extract

Preparation

  1. img_2069Chill beaters and bowl.
  2. On high-speed beat cream, add Stevia, vanilla and whip till firm peaks form when beaters are lifted.
  3. Cover and chill.

Note:The difference between success and failure of this whipped cream will depend on the brand used. I don’t recommend using canned coconut cream, I highly recommend a homogenized brand in a carton such as Kara.

Unmold cheesecakes:

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  1. Run sharp knife under hot water.
  2. Insert knife between cake and side of pan and gently run knife around cake to loosen. Unlatch spring to release pan.
  3. Using the palm of your hand, gently press on cake; to avoid cake from sticking and pulling, and slowly lift ring to remove.
  4. Run knife under bottom of crust to release from pan.
  5. Using a spatula, lift cake and transfer to platter for ease of mobility.
  6. Using leftover crust, press crumbs onto side of cake working in circular motion for even distribution.
  7. Wash, slice, and prepare desired fruit, and pre-zest additional citrus.

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For strawberries:

  1. Spread layer of whipped topping to create an anchor for the berries to adhere.
  2. Arrange slices concentrically for 1st ring, and counter concentrically for 2nd ring.
  3. Spoon dollop of whipped topping in center to mound blueberries.
  4. Glaze berries with raspberry or strawberry-basil gastrique (optional)

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For key-lime:

  1. Mound whipped cream in center, and finish with coconut chips.
  2. Arrange lime slices and garnish with zest.

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img_2107For raspberry cheesecake:

  1. Although chocolate banding is optional, if you’re feeling a bit adventurous, it adds a touch of elegance to the cake.
  2. After attaching collar, spread one inch layer of whipped topping inside and arrange berries.
  3. To remove parchment from collar, gently peel away paper; paper should come off easily.
  4. At back steam, hold blunt side of paring knife perpendicular against chocolate.
  5. Using the other hand, pull paper against knife to snap away overlap of remaining chocolate.
  6. Drizzle with raspberry gastrique (optional).

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Recipe inspired by: Bonjon Gourmet