I have been inspired this holiday season by all the amazing recipes other food bloggers are sharing. I was also inspired to try my first-ever cheesecake because I finally bought a springform pan at the Great News Cooking School’s huge summer clearance sale. (You can also make this dessert in a 9″ pie pan, follow the same steps below.)
I was bringing dessert to a Christmas Eve party and one of the hosts is allergic to nuts, so a nut crust was out. Graham crackers are out because of the gluten. Lo and behold, my trusty Joy of Cooking to the rescue with an option for a cereal crust. I had just enough of Barbara’s whole grain crispy rice cereal to work. I made the candied pumpkin seeds from a neighbor’s Halloween pumpkin. (I cut the pumpkin up and cook it for my dog Buddy Girl.)
This dessert competed with a traditional blueberry cheesecake and a gluten-free chocolate birthday cake at the party. Guess what? Even the life-long baker liked my dessert the best. Not bragging here… it was fun to see people so surprised at how much they liked a vegan dessert. The texture is light, a bit more mousse-y than a full cheesecake. It’s also not too sweet, and the pumpkin taste comes through beautifully. The crust was light and crispy, a good alternative to a rich nut crust.
You’ll find the original recipe, including the recipe for candied cranberries (which sound amazing), on Alicia Silverstone’s blog here. And some great tips from the Gluten-Free Goddess on baking and cooling another version of a pumpkin cheesecake here.
1-1/2 C. crushed puffed cereal (at least 6 C. before crushing) or (120 g) nut meal
1/2 t. (1 g) sea salt, divided
4-6 T. (60-90 g) margarine, like Earth Balance
12 oz. (340 g) silken tofu
8 oz. (225 g) vegan cream cheese
3/4 C. (180ml) pumpkin purée
1/2 C. (125 ml) agave nectar
2 T. (10 g) cornstarch
1 T. (15 ml) lemon juice
1 t. (5 ml) vanilla extract
1/2 t. (1 g) cinnamon
1/4 t. (0.5 g) ginger
1/4 t. (0.5 g) fresh nutmeg
Preheat oven to 350F/160C/gas mark 4. Process cereal or nuts and half the salt into fine crumbs in food processor or blender. Add melted margarine, and pulse to combine. If using a blender, put the mixture in a bowl, then add margarine and stir until well-mixed. It should hold together and not be too dry.
Press the mixture evenly into the bottom and halfway up the sides of 9” springform pan. Use a piece of waxed paper to help you press it evenly. Bake 10 minutes, then set on a cooling rack. Leave the oven on.
Purée all the remaining ingredients in a food processor or with a mixer for 3 to 5 minutes until very smooth.
Pour into crust, and bake 70-75 minutes, or until filling is set and the top cracks slightly. Cool on a wire rack, then chill completely in refrigerator, at least 3 hours or overnight. Run a knife around the inside of the cheesecake before releasing the pan. Slice and garnish each serving with candied pumpkin seeds (recipe follows) or candied cranberries.
Candied Pumpkin Seeds
3/4 C. (100 g) raw pumpkin seeds (in the shell are fine, see note)
1/4 t. chipotle powder
1/2 t. (1 g) sea salt
1/4 C. (60 ml) maple syrup
1 t. (5 g) Earth Balance margarine or butter
If using whole seeds from a pumpkin, rinse them well and remove all the strings, then cover with well-salted water and boil for 10 minutes. Rinse and drain.
Note: If using shelled seeds, skip the first step. Mix the other ingredients together and bring to a boil in a saucepan for one minute. Stir in the pumpkin seeds.
Pour the mixture onto a rimmed baking sheet covered with foil or parchment paper. Bake 20-30 minutes at 325F/140C/gas mark 3, stirring every 10 minutes and keeping the seeds spread apart so the syrup can thicken. These can burn easily, so pay attention.
Remove when golden brown and set the tray on a cooling rack. When they are cool, they will harden into a brittle. Break up into pieces and serve as a garnish with the cheesecake or eat as a snack.