Dec
10

Vegan Cheese . . . Oh, Please

by , under Uncategorized

Apparently one of the hardest things for people looking to become vegetarian or vegan is to give up cheese. I can relate to that. In fact, I’d probably become an ova-lacto vegetarian. But I know many people do give up cheese and become vegans.

Well, let me say they give up the traditional definition of “cheese.” Some don’t have a problem with that. Others–including me–do and would. I can’t imagine a world without cheese. So I started out on my journey of finding a vegan cheese. Oh to be honest, there’s still a dream I’m hoping to fulfill (you might remember–the shop that sells homemade cheeses, breads, jams and jellies, pickles and relishes, and maybe sausages).

First, a word about the word “cheese.” Many people flat-out get angry when someone uses “cheese” to describe a product that does not include dairy. And by dairy, they mean milk from an animal. I’m not going to get into that argument here. But I do tend to call my cheeses “cheese-ish,” but that’s more for an attempt at comic relief.

As with most projects, I started with a Google search for vegan cheese. In case you have any doubts about whether people are interested in it, have no fear. There are lots of recipes. Most call for nut milk, which I didn’t have and wasn’t inclined to change out of my jammies to go get some. So I searched a little further and found one that called for no soy and no nuts. And I had all the ingredients.

Soyless and Nutless Cheese-ish

So what’s in it? Water, oatmeal (regular, not the instant), roasted sweet potato, roasted red bell pepper, nutritional yeast, smoked paprika, sea salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, lemon juice, and dried chives. In case you’re not familiar with nutritional yeast, it’s supposed to provide a cheesy taste.

All of those things I was familiar with and had used. But then there’s the thing that makes the cheese solidify–agar-agar. Agar-agar comes from algae. You may be able to find it in your store, but I had to order. You work with it in a similar way you use gelatin, such as Knox. Bring water to a boil, stir in the agar-agar, and keep stirring until it thickens. Then quickly add to the other ingredients and blend to combine. Chill for at least a couple of hours and then enjoy.

Oh, speaking of blending. When it comes to making vegan cheese, almost every recipe I found noted you need a powerful blender. I can understand the need if using nuts, but I’m not sure why for a cheese like this. Of course, if you have one, you might get a better emulsion. I have a Vitamix, and it worked great. I’ve read that Blendtec also does a great job.

You can mold the cheese in whatever you’d like. Of course, the more flexible, the easier the cheese is to remove. In the photo above, the large wheel (relatively speaking) was molded in a 5-inch, nonstick, springform pan. The smaller ones I molded in a silicone mold.

So the results.

As it cooled, I noticed there was a slight almost oily feel to it. So I left it out of the fridge for a while to dry it a bit. That took care of the feeling. I’ve been trying to think of how to explain the texture and mouth feel, and I’ve not quite come up with a description that some might find off-putting. The closest I can come is Velveeta, but not quite as firm. Don’t get me wrong. This cheese holds up when sliced; it’s just a more gelatinous feel (see what I mean about off-putting?). Now that could be my noviness with agar-agar coming out. However, it’s not stopped me from eating it!

Now for the two most important issues. Does it melt? Kind of. I found it softens more that actually melts. It didn’t seem to matter how thinly I sliced it. Does it taste good? Oh, yeh. Play with the amount of smoked paprika you use. I love the stuff, but the first time I made the cheese-ish, I went a bit overboard with the paprika. Next time, I’m adding hot pepper flakes.

So, I’ll make it again? Sure. In perhaps a slightly different combination. Here’s the recipe.

© Copyright 2016 Ida Walker, All rights Reserved. Written For: The Enabling Cook
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