Wednesday, November 04, 2009
Raw Meyer Lemon Cheesecake with a Coconut Brownie Crust
Let's just say it straightaway: this dessert has a ridiculous amount of fat. But it's raw and vegan, and made of whole foods. The coconut oil is packed with healthy EFAs and lauric acid, while agave is low-glycemic and raw cacao adds a natural caffeine punch.
And if the health benefits don't charm you, the taste will: smooth Meyer lemon filling sitting atop a brownie crust (the crust recipe serves as a fantastically simple energy bar or chocolate macaroon). The flavors and textures balance eachother so nicely: sweet and tart, creamy and crumbly.
Meyer lemons are slightly sweeter than most varieties, with bright golden skins concealing intensely juicy flesh. If you're fortunate enough to live in Southern California, you'll notice them in backyards everywhere. Redeem some overripe Meyers that have fallen onto a sidewalk, or just ask to pick some, and most lemon-rich tree owners will be happy to have their yards relieved of the heavy fruit.
Raw Meyer Lemon Cheesecake
Be sure to zest the lemons before cutting and juicing them. For this, I use a rasp--sometimes sold under the Microplane brand--which removes thin shreds of colorful zest and omits the bitter pith entirely. To remove the juice, I prefer a citrus reamer with a strainer underneath to catch the seeds and membranes. A 2-cup measure is the perfect vessel to hold the liquid; it allows you to measure the amount directly without risk of it spilling over.
For the Coconut Brownie Crust:
1 cup raw walnuts
1 cup dried flaked coconut
2 tablespoons raw cacao powder
3/4 cup raisins or dates
generous pinch sea salt
For the Meyer Lemon Filling:
3 cups raw cashews, soaked for at least 3 hours
3/4 cup fresh meyer lemon juice (from 2-3 lemons)
3/4 cup raw agave nectar
1/3 cup virgin coconut oil (any consistency is fine)
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
zest of 2 meyer lemons
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Make the crust:
Line a 9" round pan with plastic wrap, and set aside.
In a food processor, process walnuts, coconut, and cacao powder until fine but not oily. Add raisins or dates and sea salt, and process again, scraping down the sides as necessary. The crust it ready when it holds together when pressed against the side; if necessary, add water by the teaspoon until it does. Tumble mixture into prepared pan, and pat into the bottom, or use the bottom of a glass to press the crust firmly into the pan. Set aside.
Make the filling:
Combine all filling ingredients in a blender and process until completely smooth, scraping down the sides as necessary. This may take several minutes. Pour filling onto prepared crust. To release bubbles, tap the bottom against a counter several times, then run a knife through the mixture in a figure-8 pattern. Smooth the top.
Transfer to the freezer, and chill until firm and thoroughly cold. This may take up to several hours.
To serve, gently lift with the plastic overhang and transfer to a platter. Ease out the plastic from underneath. Using a small offset spatula, smooth creases from the sides. Cut with a sharp knife, rinsing it with hot water between servings to ensure perfect slices.
Serve with fresh berries or seasonal fruits, and a fizzy or tannic drink to cut the cheesecake's richness.