This week David risked life and limb in the name of testing out Megan May's first cookbook, 'The Unbakery'. It was a delicious cliff-edge...
I have very vivid memory of trying the Little Bird Unbakery cheescake for the first time. I took three bites before my throat started to swell. It contained Brazil nuts, which, fun fact, I am very allergic to. I couldn't tell if this cheesecake was so memorable because it was delicious or because of my near death experience, either way I wasn't ready to take the risk and taste it again anytime soon. But when I heard this was to be my next book review I had only one word in mind. Cheesecake. Luckily, this recipe contained zero mention of my arch nut-nemesis. I checked, and in a 2013 version of the recipe there were brazil nuts in the base (I'm not crazy).
There's a lot of preparation involved in this cheesecake. The evening before the unbaking was to begin, I soaked almonds to 'activate' them. There is a bit of talk about activating nuts in the book, apparently it 'helps remove the natural enzyme inhibitors that make (nuts) difficult for our bodies to breakdown and digest'. I duly soaked them for 12 hours and then rinsed.
I don't own a blender but just about managed everything in a food processor. I blended the dried coconut to as fine a flour as I could.
While this was happening I began melting the cold pressed coconut oil in a bain-marie as detailed on page 270.
Then I remembered the vanilla bean I'd earlier attempted to dry out in order to make vanilla bean powder. Yeah you read that correctly, vanilla bean powder. I hadn't heard of it before and having tried a specialist spice store I had no idea where to buy it and I didn't really have time to order it online. Fortunately the Unbakery book says you can simply throw a bean or two in your dehydrator (there isn't much you can make without a dehydrator in this book) and then grind it up. I don't have a dehydrator but I put one in the oven at a very low heat the night before ready to turn into powder.
It worked! You can get about 1 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla powder from one pod, enough for this cheesecake anyway.
I added the melted coconut oil to the vanilla powder, almonds, cashews (regular raw cashews, as no mention of activating) dates, salt and coconut flour for the base. I blended the mix until a couscous-like texture developed. I then lost confidence and blended with more water. I potentially overdid it, but was hopeful. One of the great things with raw food preparation is that you can taste your creation throughout the making process. I thought the base wasn't salty enough for me so I added an extra pinch of salt.
With the base pressed into a cake tin lined with plastic wrap I moved onto the filling. I couldn't find any young green coconuts as specified by the recipe, so resorted to a drinking coconut. This meant there was time for a nice little coconut milk break.
I scooped the flesh of the coconut into the food processor with cashews that had been soaking for a couple of hours, and the rest of the filling ingredients except the coconut oil and berries. Once combined I attempted to slowly add the melted coconut oil while still blending... I may have spilt a bit of coconut oil and had to melt more coconut oil and then forgot to take pictures while doing this. But it was all okay.
The filling is DELICIOUS. I was tempted to forget the setting and just eat a bowl of this with a spoon, but that wouldn't have made for good photos.
In the recipe it says to pour half of the mixture into the cake tin, add blueberries to the remaining mix, blend and then pour on top. However in the photos it shows this the opposite way around; blueberry mixture at the bottom, white cheesecake mixture on top. This doesn't matter but I wanted mine to look like the photo so I poured half into a bowl and added the blueberries to the other half to pour in first.
Then with a spoon I made some swirls. In retrospect I think I could've swirled more but I erred on the side of caution and I guess it looked ok.
Then it went in the fridge overnight while I tried to work out if I was doing the right thing with Irish moss for the blueberry coulis. I have a bit to say about the coulis, so I will save that for next time.
It was so delicious, I wasn't disappointed by my memory, and was overjoyed that it didn't almost kill me this time. The cheesecake was so soft and had such a delicate flavour, perfect in combination with blueberries that don't have a particularly strong flavour. It was a little gritty but I am sure with a good blender you'd get a smoother cheesecake. The base was a little thick too, and I think I overdid the amount of water as it was chewy and moist (not ideal qualities for a cheesecake base in my opinion).
My brother who isn't into healthy food tried it and said it was as good as most regular cheesecakes (high praise from him). It's so light. It's great.
But it is quite expensive...I think the whole cheesecake cost me about $50-60. I was disappointed with the wrinkles that the plastic wrap left on the outside of the cheesecake, in the picture it is so smooth! I suspect some form of acetate trickery!
Is it healthy to eat a whole cheesecake? I guess even if it's made with nuts, coconut, fruit and honey it's probably still not healthy to eat the whole thing in one sitting. I fought temptation and took the whole thing (minus slice) to a friend's birthday. She is dairy intolerant and was thrilled with it!