My mother’s cheesecake recipe, which to be fair, was really some other academic wife’s recipe that has a long, “you will die if you reveal this recipe” story connected to it that I’m not supposed to tell, is the best I have ever tasted. Now that there are so many choices in the non-dairy “cream cheese” arena, I thought it was time to attempt to replicate that perfection.
I didn’t do it — but I’m not giving up! The recipe below was easy, fast, and yielded a perfectly good cake that tasted like a ricotta cheesecake. Not my favorite, but probably favored by some who like that style of Italian cheesecake, flat and tangy. One good thing I discovered was that instead of graham cracker crumbs, you can use those Biscoff bistro cookie things crunched up for the crust. I had both a bag of the real thing and a bag of Trader Joe’s knock offs because I had such a pleasant association with getting one with my coffee in Europe. They are buttery-tasting but dairy-free! I’m glad they made such a nice crust since I clearly overbought. Side note: Most store-bought cookies go stale pretty fast in my kitchen cupboards but these kept their crispness for months and months.
In another completely unrelated side-note, I had read that these cookies were being ground up into a Nutella-like spread for bread so I was worried they might get too mushy in the crust. I needn’t have worried — though I still wonder why anyone thought mashed up cookies would be good on bread. There’s no accounting for Belgians though, right? And why not just use the Flemish name, Speculoos? Biscoff is a bad name too. According to their website, the cookies were used “to teach history and chronicle war in Europe.” I’m picturing German chocolate cakes invading the cookies…
Dairy-Free Cheesecake with Orange
2 tubs (8 oz. each) of faux cream cheese (I used Follow Your Heart this time)
6 tablespoons of Earth Balance — melted
1 cup plus 6 tablespoons of confectioners sugar (powered sugar)
2 eggs (couldn’t do vegan — there are lots of recipes for that elsewhere, mostly using cornstarch and arrowroot)
1 tablespoon of orange juice plus zest from an orange
1 tablespoon of Triple Sec orange liqueur or substitute vanilla
2 cups of crushed Biscoff cookies (or 1.5 cups and a 1/4 cup of nuts)
Preheat your oven to 425.
Make the crust by melting the vegan marg and combining with 6 tablespoons powdered sugar, orange juice, and crushed cookies or graham cracker crumbs. Smash this mixture into the bottom of a spring form pan. Some recipes were very fancy, using a drinking glass to get the crust really flat and even. I just used a spatula. You can also pulse the cookies in a food processor but I used my mallet and a plastic bag. You can’t avoid the spring form pan though. You’ve got to have it to make cheesecake.
Bake the crust for 10 minutes. I put the spring form pan onto a cookie sheet but you can also wrap it in foil if you don’t want grease leaking all over your oven.
Let the crust cool well. (You can put it in the fridge at this point but I can’t — too many years at Home Energy magazine to allow me to put hot things in my fridge.)
In a mixing bowl, beat the faux cream cheese and cup of powdered sugar with the Triple Sec or vanilla. Add the eggs, one at a time. At this point, I noticed that the mixture quickly over beat and separated (not a problem with actual cream cheese) so I will be addressing that problem next time around — and also beating the yolks and whites separately, as per my Mom’s actual recipe to see if that yields a taller cake. If your custard separates, a short time in the fridge should fix it. (I did do this.)
Preheat your oven to 350.
Pour the custard mixture into the well-cooled crust. Bake 25 minutes. Open the oven a crack and bake another 5 minutes. Then, turn off the oven and leave the cake in for an hour with the oven cracked open. Try not to make any loud noises or the cake will fall, although this recipe never got particularly tall in the first place! I’m guessing this will be super important next time around.
Cool slightly and go around the edges with a knife before unbuckling or releasing your cake.
P.S., For good vegan baking tips, for those of you who are better than me, check out VeganBaking.net. It’s a great resource.