Lately I’ve been more and more determined to learn how to make or bake something more cheesecake-like, or a non-wobbly bar that isn’t dedicated to chocolate (may I be forgiven for such a statement). I also have a kilogram of dried apricots that need to get gone, so altogether a situation presents itself in which many fronts must be satisfied for me to move on to another project. What I ended up with has quite literally hit home – something in the combination of flavour and texture has been giving me powerful food flashbacks, but I can’t remember to what. All I know is that I’ve eaten something very similar before, and I have a suspicion it is Scandinavian in nature. In fact, I suspect it is an accidentally vegan approximation of their baked pancake, but of course I can’t get anyone to confirm that. Is it only me or does that drive people crazy? I’m so tempted to drive over to my dad’s work and let him have a bite because we have a very similar food history. Either way, I’m content! This “cheesecake”, although not sweet, has the perfect consistency and taste to form the basis for many wilder variations, which is of course something one wants in your recipe box as a go-to for modifications based on what’s in the house/fridge.
Come berry season you can bet I’m going to be experimenting with glazes and other extras, or folding in pureed strawberries. Nom nom! One can also easily modify the base – I was so excited to use a “sweet” zucchini pizza base surrogate for this attempt but I’ll also try a shortbread version or a ginger crust in my next versions. That’s right – as long as there’s tofu in my fridge and electricity in the house you can bet this is going to be a regular treat!
I based the recipe on one I found over at Ricki Heller. One can easily spend a few glorious hours on her delicious recipes, so I knew I was in good hands. I make some modifications because I wanted to keep this a light, non-sweet treat, and also because it was highly experimental for future baking purposes. Man-thing also got a tub of ice-cream from his parents so I didn’t want to go overboard on sugar when he was already scarfing that stuff down like flavoured water. He’s really a monster when there’s such things in the house, even using my modified crustless pumpkin slices (a la Chocolate Covered Katie) as pudding fodder (when they serve as a teatime snack for less insane household members!). I have to admit that my pumpkin slices aren’t green anymore, and that I use less sugar and 1/4 cup oat bran. I suspect the lack of green is what convinced Man-thing that they were normal enough to enjoy, since he wasn’t a fan of the old version! So we learn. :p
Ingredients: makes 12 bars/squares
- 1 cup grated zucchini, squeezed dry of moisture in a tea towel or between paper towels after grating
- 2 TBSP applesauce
- 3/4 cup ground oats/oat flour (GF)- you can sub for another flour of choice, such as buckwheat. Just adjust liquid ratios accordingly. It mustn’t be a rock hard ball but neither should it be drippy
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- 1 TBSP carob powder
- 1 tub Nature’s Choice tofu, water pressed out for at least half an hour.
- 1/2 cup cashews, milled into a fine paste (you can add 1 TBSP of soy milk to get it moving along – SO delicious!!)
- 1/3 cup dried apricots, soaked in hot water for half an hour
- 1/4 cup soy/almond milk
- 2 TBSP lemon juice
- 3 TBSP agave syrup (I’m an evil monster and can’t bring myself to use too much agave)
- 1 TBSP lemon extract
- 1 TBSP vanilla essence
How to – crust:
- Preheat to 180C
- Line a bread pan or 8×8″ pan with baking paper/spray the heck out of it. I used a bread pan and then one of my mini loaves because I wanted some height to my goodies.
- Process/finely grate your zucchini, wrap it in a towel or paper towels and squeeze dry. I kept mine in the fridge for 15 or so minutes afterwards, but that’s not necessary if you wring it out properly.
- In your mill grind down your oats to a flour if you cannot buy it ready-ground.
- Add the oats to a food processor and add in your applesauce and vanilla. Spoon in half the zucchini, pulse til combined, then add in the rest a tablespoon at a time until the mixture forms a squishy dough. You may require 1 TBSP or so less of the zucchini, which is why one doesn’t glomp it all in at one time.
- Spoon the crust mixture into your pan and press down with the back of a spoon. Bake for 10 minutes then set aside.
How to – filling:
- Ensure your tofu has been sufficiently pressed clear of water – I wrap it in paper towels in a cloth towel and leave it under a stack of books for at least half an hour.
- After processing your cashew paste put the tofu and cashew noms into the food processor and blend until a paste, scraping down the sides. This should happen rather quickly.
- Add in the apricots and blend, adding milk as necessary – it shouldn’t remain a paste but should rather take on a smooth consistency – the mixture will stick to your spoon, however – it’s not a pourable filling. If you like and are a bit nervous you can add 1/8 extra milk.
- Add in the rest of the ingredients and blend, scraping down the sides where necessary.
- Spoon onto the top of your crust and smooth down with a spatula. Bake for 25-30 minutes until browned on the edges. I over-baked my little loaf pan so it came out a bit dark on the edges but doesn’t actually taste burnt. If you take it out press down near the sides to determine whether you can hear a slight squelching – if so, pop it back in with the heat off for under 5 minutes.
- Place in fridge for 3 hours minimum and then slice. Devour!
Shockingly, when I asked Man-thing what I could change he said nothing. As in, he enjoys it just as is! Usually he’s full of ideas such as adding more sugar or what not, but he was very content with this batch, even saying the idea of a zucchini crust didn’t freak him out. If that isn’t success then I don’t know what is! Next time I might make some light jam to layer between the crust and the cheesecake, but as he said, it’s not even necessary. Yum!
These have a very distinct taste – not at all sweet in the traditional sense but even Man-thing seems intrigued (in a confused manner, because what is the world coming to!) and my colleague, who has been served Scandinavian food before, also agrees that the taste-memory must come from that region of the world. The apricots in this recipe do not really add the basis of the flavour (that comes from the lemons) but they do aid in creating some stability to the filling – essentially acting as a tasty thickening agent. One could easily replace the milk with 1/3 – 1/2 cup peach or apricot juice for a squishier, sweeter fruit filling, but the apricot in this doesn’t disrupt from the point of the bar, which is a sweet, lemon-twinged delight.