Monday, February 28, 2011

Dalmation Cheesecake Brownies (VEGAN)

Hooray!  So here is my first post.  This recipe comes from the cookbook Sweet Freedom:  Desserts You'll Love without Wheat, Eggs, Dairy or Refined Sugar by Ricki Heller.  I ordered this from and every recipe that I've tried has been delicious.  Now bear in mind that these will taste slightly different from dairy cheesecake brownies full of sugar.  But I have to say, they're pretty darn close!  I make them regularly.  Since this makes a big batch, you can easily freeze extras (I cut them up and put them in a Tupperware container) and then just defrost a few at a time to calm those cravings!

Cheesecake Topping:
1 pkg (12 oz.) aseptically-packaged firm or extra-firm silken tofu, such as Mori Nu brand (NOT the kind that is packaged in a tub of water)
1/2 cup natural smooth cashew butter
1/2 cup light agave nectar
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp pure almond extract
pinch of sea salt
2/3 cup dairy-free chocolate chips  (NOTE:  I use the grain-sweetened chocolate chips made by Sunspire which are white sugar-free)
Brownie Base:
4 oz. dried, pitted unsweetened dates (18-24 medium dates, not Medjool)
1/3 cup date soaking liquid (see instructions below)
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp Sucanat (or other unrefined evaporated cane juice)
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 Tbsp finely ground flax seeds
6 Tbsp canola oil
1 cup light spelt flour
6 Tbsp oat flour
3/4 cup dark cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9"x13" pan with cooking spray (I use a glass Pyrex dish) 
Soak the dates for the brownie:  In a small bowl, cover the dates with boiling water.  Allow to soak while you prepare the cheesecake filling.
Prepare the cheesecake topping: In the bowl of a food processor, process the tofu and cashew butter until smooth and no pieces of tofu are visible.  Add the agave, lemon juice, vanilla, almond extract and salt and process again, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally, until you have a perfectly smooth mixture.  Turn the mixture into a medium-sized bowl, scraping as much as you can from the processor, but don't bother to wash it (you'll use it again in a moment).  Fold the chocolate chips into the cheesecake mixture.  Set aside.
Make the brownie base: Drain the dates and reserve 1/3 cup soaking liquid.  Using the same processor bowl, whir the dates and soaking liquid until they form a relatively smooth paste.  Add the Sucanant and maple syrup and process again until smooth, allowing the Sucanat to dissolve as much as possible (don't worry if a few flecks of date are visible here and there).  Add the vanilla, flax seeds and oil, and process to blend.  Set aside while you measure the dry ingredients, or at least 2 minutes.
In a large bowl, whisk together the spelt flour, oat flour, cocoa, baking powder, soda, and salt.  Pour the wet mixture from the processor over the dry ingredients and stir to mix well.  Turn the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
Bake the brownie layer for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and pour the reserved cheesecake mixture over it, smoothing the top with a rubber spatula.
Bake for an additional 20-25 minutes or until the top is deep golden brown and the cheesecake has begun to pull away from the sides of the pan.  The middle of the cake should jiggle just a little when you shake the pan, but the rest should be firm (don't overbake!)
Allow to cool completely, then cover and refrigerate.  The brownie should be served cold.  Makes 16-20 servings.

Whew!  Ok, so this may seem a little labor intensive, but trust me--it'll be worth it!