Vegan New York Cheesecake

I have always been a little famous for making cheesecakes for my friends and family but those versions always contained lots of eggs, cream cheese, sour cream and a lion's share of vanilla extract.  Like many folks out there, vegan or not, I won't settle for anything less than the best when it comes to cheesecake.  I ventured out to make a version of New York Style Cheesecake without the use of vegan cream cheese.  The result?  Spectacular.  This baby could be topped with your choice of fruits or the addition of citrus or chocolate but it is also great on it's own.

Fair warning:  This is a VERY time consuming recipe.  Like 3 or 4 days time consuming but it can certainly be made ahead and stored in refrigerator for a good week and trust me, it is completely WORTH EVERY MINUTE!  The Chia seeds act as the "egg" and the cashews act as the "cream cheese".  The Cashew Sour Cream Topping is optional but I suggest you make a batch of it anyway because you will fall in love with the stuff.

Vegan New York Cheesecake

2 Cups Granola (vegan)
1/2 Cup Vegan Butter (I used Melt Brand Honey flavor that is not technically vegan for vegans who don't use honey.)
2 Tablespoons Sugar

1 1/2 Cups Raw Whole Cashews (soaked for 48 hours)
2 Tablespoons Chia Seeds (left whole or pre-ground to a fine powder)
6 Tablespoons Warm Water
1 teaspoon Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons Salt
3 Tablespoons Sugar
4 Tablespoons Vanilla Extract
6 Tablespoons Unsweetened Almond Milk (or other non-dairy milk of choice)

Cashew Sour Cream Topping (suggest making this the night before making the cake)
3/4 Cup Raw Whole Cashews (soaked for 24 hours)
1 teaspoon Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 Tablespoon Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
6 Tablespoons Cold Water

10-inch Springform Pan
Parchment Paper
Baking sheet (with sides)
Food processor (or high speed blender)

For Cashew Sour Cream Topping process all ingredients in food processor until completely smooth.  Put into an airtight glass container in refrigerator overnight.  This is a great staple to have in your refrigerator for sweet and savory recipes of all types so you might want to make a double batch.

For Crust, Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Begin by preparing and pre-baking crust mixture.  Prepare springform pan by wrapping circular section in parchment paper and secure in fastened pan.  Put granola in food processor with 2 Tablespoons sugar and melted vegan butter (melt for about 40 seconds in microwave or on stovetop till just melted).  Slowly drizzle in melted butter while food processor is running.  When mixture is sticky crumb consistency it is ready to put in prepared springform pan.  Press mixture to form even layer on bottom of pan and place in oven for 10 minutes.  Remove and place on wire rack to cool to touch.

For Filling, Turn oven DOWN to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.  For filling begin by adding chia seeds to warm water in a glass bowl.  Stir thoroughly and set aside for about 15-20 minutes.  Place pre-soaked cashews in food processor and process till paste forms.  Add remaining ingredients in the following order (while food processor is running) prepared chia seeds and water, vinegar, salt, sugar, vanilla extract and almond milk.  Be sure to scrape down sides intermittently so ingredients are fully incorporated.  Continue to process mixture until is is creamy.  This may occur quicker if you have a high speed blender but in my food processor it took a good 15 minutes total, processing for a few minutes at a time so the motor wouldn't overheat.  The chia seeds may have a slight crunch but it should not be very noticeable.  If you like a completely smooth texture you can certainly pre-grind chia seeds to a fine powder but they still need to be hydrated in the water to act as the "egg" in the recipe.

By this time your crust should have cooled slightly.  Spray or butter the inside sides of the pan and place strips of parchment paper all around.  The spray or butter should help the parchment pieces to stick to each other.  Pour filling mixture into pan and spread evenly.  Place in 300 degree Fahrenheit oven for 1 hour.  Remove from oven and top with cashew sour cream topping.  I would have used more sour cream topping like the recipe calls for but I just used what I had left over from my dinner the night before.    Place back into the oven for 15 minutes.   Placing back in the oven for 15 minutes with topping is optional as you can also just leave the cashew sour cream raw. The texture of the topping will be much creamier if you DON'T bake it.

Remove cheesecake from oven and allow to cool completely on counter top.  Once cooled, wrap entire cake (pan, parchment and all) in saran wrap and place in refrigerator for 12-24 hours.  Remove fasteners from pan, remove parchment from sides and slice.  Serve alone, with fresh fruit or other toppings of choice.  I will post more pictures of the finished product as mine is cooling on the counter as we speak.

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