Sunday 26 August 2012

WW Experiments with Vegan Cheese

It occurred to me yesterday that it is far easier for us to experiment than in our foremothers day.  We have so many cookbooks, tv shows and the web.  I recently saw a couple of ideas for vegan cheese (or cheeze if you are a purist) on Pinterest.  I was able to read a few recipes, compare and contrast, tweak according to my ingredients, check another recipe for triangulation and suddenly I had cheese that I had made all by myself!  With a little help from my friends!

I come from a generation where there are many ways to get there, many versions, many diets, many amazing things to taste.  The more I read and experiment and stock my pantry, the easier it gets.  Yet I am still amazed I made cheese that I could grate on pizza and slice up for a melted cheese sandwich.

Less exciting is the Sweet Potato Pasta Cheese Sauce that I made last week.  It was very nice but not so different to hurry up pumpkin alfredo.  Probably I lost my enthusiasm after I forgot about the the pumpkin I was roasting for it.  The pumpkin chunks were burnt but fortunately I had some whole sweet potatoes in the oven too.

I was lazy and used cashew butter rather than grinding my own cashews.  I am not sure how much of a difference this made.  I will say that if you love eating a spoonful of nut butter then this macaroni cheese is for you.  It may even trick your nearest and dearest.  Take this conversation with E as I finished my bowl of pasta:

GGG: Vegan food is so satisfying.
E: But I thought you said it had cheese in it.
GGG: no I said it tasted cheesey when I was talking about how good this vegan food was.
E: Oh, I probably wasn't listening!
GGG: hurrumph!

I could have probably fooled E with this vegan cheese too.  Yet I was so excited telling him I had made my own cheese and it was vegan.  It is not the first vegan cheese I have tried.  But it was far closer to the sorts of cheese I regularly eat and much quicker.  My previous attempts at cashew goats cheese and almond feta made me happy.  It's just that they took forever to make.  They involved days of soaking, grinding and draining nuts.  I started this cheese at 4pm and was grating it onto pizza at 7pm.

I had been really excited last year when I first saw Veganangela's Cheese.  Recent sightings of vegan cheese on Magic Jelly and Sweet Roots piqued my interest.  Home made vegan cheese that slices rather than spreads were still a mystery to me.  Yet the ingredients list was mostly already in my kitchen.  I combined the recipes to suit what I had.

I worried that I don't tend to use coconut oil.  It is perfect for cheese that you want to firm up at room temperature and melt under heat.  My ingredients seemed to need some extra fat.  Instead of coconut oil,  I used tahini but I think you could use cashew nut butter or white miso.  And here is the dilemma with this cheese.  When I compared grated dairy cheese and grated vegan cheese on pizza, the dairy swims in oil.  It is not something I really want but I think it helps the melting.

My first experiment with the cheese - apart from a slice on a garlic cracker (which Sylvia inexplicably calls pumpkin crackers) - was pizza.  I was impressed at how easily the cheese grated.  I was disappointed that when the pizza came out of the oven, the strands of grated cheese retained their shape.  The pizza tasted good.  In fact when I asked E if he wanted more dairy or vegan cheese pizza he wasn't sure. (Maybe I could have fooled him with this cheese!)

So today I had to try a staple of our house.  Melted cheese on toast.  (Or in this case, on pretzel.)  It didn't look good.  Again it held its shape.  But when I bit into it, the cheese oozed.

My next challenge is that I would like to bake with the cheese.  Not sure what.  Crackers?  Muffins?  Quiche?  The cheese is not perfect.  It is cheesy but would it really fool anyone if I did the comparison?  The colour is more orange than yellow.  Is that because smoked paprika makes everything orange?  Are the flavours too strong?  I would like to experiment more and hope I will.

I am sending this post to Ricki for her Wellness Weekends Event.  Fitting really, as it were her pinterest pins that inspired this cheese.  Thanks Ricki!

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: Raspberry lemonade
Two years ago: Quince Curiosity
Three years ago: PPN Neofolk Buckwheat Pasta Bake
Five years ago: Blues Clues Birthday Cake

Vegan Cheddar Cheese
Adapted from Magic Jelly and Sweet Roots

2 cups soy milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
3 tbsp agar powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
Pinch of turmeric (for more authentic cheese colorl)
1 tbsp tahini (or cashew butter or white miso)
2 tbsp tapioca starch
1 tbsp corn flour (cornstarch)
1 tbsp chickpea flour

Dissolve apple cider vinegar in 1 cup of soy milk in medium saucepan. Set aside for the milk to curdle.  Meanwhile dissolve agar powder in remaining cup adding a little milk at a time (I did this with only 1/4 of the milk as the recipe suggested but it made the agar agar really thick and lumpy when I added it to the mix later so maybe I would try adding the whole cup to the agar agar next time.)  Set aside.

Add smoked paprika, salt, nutritional yeast flakes, turmeric, and cashew butter. Gently bring to the boil (you can add ingredients as it is warming up). Then add soy milk with agar agar and cook for 2-3 minutes to allow agar to dissolve.

Add flours and gently simmer, stirring contantly until it thickens like a roux and is coming away from the sides of the saucepan. Magic Jelly urged readers to use a stick blender to blend the mixture but this seemed quite messy.  Instead I stirred it as vigourously as possible to give it a glossy sheen.  Above is the graininess of the mixture when first coming together compared to the below glossiness.

Pour into a lightly oiled container (or two ramekins like I did) as soon as possible. You can see in the below picture that even with pouring it when hot, it was starting to set as I scraped in the last few bits into the right hand ramekin.

Let cool at room temperature.  I found that within 2 hours I could grate it.  Unmould and keep in an airtight container in the fridge.  (Magic Jelly says it will keep up to a week.)

Sweet potato pasta cheeze sauce
Adapted from Oh She Glows
Serves 4-6

2 baked medium sweet potatoes, peeled and mashed
3/4 cup cashew butter
1 and 1/2 cups milk (I used soy milk), or more
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp sea salt (I used wild garlic salt), or to taste
6-7 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
1/2 tsp yellow mustard powder
1/2 tsp mixed herbs
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp turmeric powder, optional (for colour - I didn't use)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
450g dried macaroni

Cook and drain pasta according to packet instruction (I simmered mine for about 10 minutes).  Mix together the rest of the ingredients.  Add more milk if needed.  It should be of a thick pouring consistency.  Mine was a bit thick and I used 1 and 1/3 cups of milk.  Toss through hot pasta.

On the Stereo:
Big Red Truck: RubHer


  1. Wow Im still so impressed you are making your own chees,e and vegan cheese too...just wow. Love the sound of the pumpkin cheezy macaroni, must try that.

    I think you should try cheese scones with your vegan cheese. They always look good with a bit of coloured cheese speckled in them, and a dash of cayenne pepper...mmmm

    1. Thanks Katie - I was quite impressed with myself :-) I think your suggestion of cheese scones was excellent but I was worried if I made them during the week that they would be uneaten - but will keep that idea for next batch of cheese

  2. You're such a dedicated experimenter, I love it! One day I aspire to try as many new (savoury ;) ) things as you :)

    1. Thanks Hannah - experimenting is fun - and if it makes me an excellent role model, even better :-)

  3. If it looks like cheese...and tastes like cheese...I'm on it! I am waiting on a copy of Artisan Vegan Cheeses to arrive from the good old USA any day now (thank you birthday money!) but your cheese looks amazing! I think I might just experiment with your recipe and see what I can trundle out. Thank you for the recipes AND for the heads up about the other blogs (I am having artery clogging on my rss feed reader!) :)

    1. Thanks Narf - welcome - I have looked at vegan cheese books before and been a bit overwhelmed but maybe I am ready for them now - hope the book is inspiring and you have fun with this recipe

  4. I am so impressed with this, and do share your love for experimenting (and gratitude that experimenting is facilitated by so many online resources). However, my experimenting often seems much simpler than yours! I was interested to note your comment that people who like nut butter would like the macaroni cheese. I do love nut butter but hate cheese! I think I need to actually try some vegan varieties to determine if my taste buds think different about them...

    1. Thanks Kari - as someone who has disliked egg all their life but loves the tofu alternatives, I highly recommend you try some vegan cheeses - especially if you love nut butter as many have nuts in them - especially if like a little nutritional yeast flakes

  5. It looks amazing! I would love to try making this cheese!

    1. Thanks Cakelaw - I was surprised at how easy it is

  6. Whoa! I'm so impressed at your vegan cheese! Definitely going to need to give it a try.

    1. Thanks Joanne - hope you have a go - highly recommend it

  7. Love these Johanna, it would not have occurred to me to set it with agar agar.

    Need to get back into some cheese making.

    1. Thanks Helen - this is less curds and whey and more using agar agar to set the seasoned milk - so it is different from your regular cheese making (I think)

  8. Well done on making your own cheese! I adore the flavours of sweet potato, will have to try and get some cashew butter. I remember randomly having some fruit 'icecream' made with ground cashews and it so gorgeous words fail me!

    1. Thanks Annes - cashews are just so good for a bit of creamy comfort and the sweet potato or pumpkin cut through some of the richness

  9. I'm so impressed with all of your cheese experiments! I need to play around with more recipes, I haven't been won over by any yet and get disheartened by the ones that take days to prepare. I like the sound of this as it's a lot faster and even if the smoked paprika altered the colour slightly, I'm sure it would have added to the flavour.

    1. Thanks Mel - nothing worse than a recipe taking days to prepare and not enthusing you! I think the smoked paprika gave a lot to the flavour - though I don't think Magic Jelly used any smoked paprika - wondered if liquid smoke would colour it less. Good luck with your experiments - this is one that is easy to trial different flavours - I have gone through most of it fairly quickly but also wondered if it would freeze

  10. I just got Miyoko's "Artisan Vegan Cheese" book the other day, so it's all happening around the same time! I've made the mozzarella (which was pretty tasty), and I'm currently culturing the cheddar (it cultures for 24-72 hours), and that's AFTER making the rejuvelac culture, which took about 5 days, so yes, it's lot of waiting around! So yes, instant (ish?) vegan cheese certainly has its appeal. Good to see more people are out experimenting with cheese. If you're interested, give the book a look; it's really interesting. I love all the crazy things that take lots of effort and time; Matt likes things that don't take any longer than 4 hours and can be eaten instantly :P

    1. Thanks James - I am impressed that you are culturing cheese. I quite like the idea of these things that take time and do them occasionally but some days I want to make something and suddenly haven't given myself days to prepare - this is where a cheese like this is great. The book sounds interesting - now I have made a few vegan cheese I am finding myself more interested in it

  11. Wow, your cheese looks great and woohoo that it melted too! That's great! :D

    1. Thanks Lorraine - I was excited it was melty - though then I made another cheese on toast and didn't leave it long enough - it seemed to take more time to get melty than regular cheese - but it wasn't as impressive as Magic Jelly's melted cheese on toast

  12. This looks great! Could I substitute almond milk for the soy milk?

    1. Hi Anne - I think you could use any sort of milk in this - one of the recipes I took this from used coconut milk - would love to hear how you go

  13. I've been meaning to comment on this since I saw it on Wellness Weekend--LOVE this idea and how cool that it melts (well, oozes, anyway), too! I've never been a huge fan of grilled cheese sandwiches, but bet I'd like it made with this cheese.


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