Vanilla Silken Tofu Cheesecake

I have a prettier, updated recipe post for tofu cheesecake if you're interested in looking at nicer photos and an easier to follow entry.

I ordered some vanilla beans on last week and they arrived on Saturday! It was $24 for a 1/2-lb package (about 54 beans) and I was pleased to see that they were huge, plump, and perfect. They came vacuum-sealed so I knew they were fresh and the package had a reseal zipper lock, which was nice and convenient (though, I plan on keeping them in an airtight jar). Vanilla is the 2nd most expensive spice (after saffron) but the flavor is unbeatable.

You can put the split bean (with the seeds scraped out) into your sugar to make vanilla sugar. You can also put the beans into some vodka to make your own homemade vanilla extract.

I'd never used a vanilla bean before (because it's too expensive in the grocery store - $20 for 2 skimpy, meager beans in a little jar) so I wasn't sure what to make. Eventually, I decided on a vanilla tofu cheesecake.

There are a few reasons to make your cheesecake using tofu:
  1. fewer calories (50 calories in 1 tablespoon of cream cheese vs. 10 calories in 1 tablespoon of silken tofu)
  2. tofu contains soy protein, lots of nutrients and minerals (iron, copper, manganese, selenium)
  3. less cholesterol and no saturated fat
Tofu also helps make the cheesecake lighter and fluffier. It's good! Trust me!
1 lb package silken tofu
8 oz. package of cream cheese, softened (room temperature)
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 vanilla bean, insides scraped (or use 1 teaspoon vanilla extract if you don't have vanilla beans)
3 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
3 cups Nilla Wafer cookies (24 to 30 cookies)
1/3 cup chopped pecans (optional)
3 tablespoons butter
1 pinch of salt (optional)
9-inch springform pan (makes it much easier to cut and serve the cheesecake)

**If you want to make this a vegan cheesecake, you can make some substitutions:
  • replace the cream cheese with a 2nd package of silken tofu or use vegan cream cheese
  • replace eggs with 2/3 cup vegan egg substitute
  • replace Nilla Wafers with vegan graham crackers
  • replace butter with vegan margarine
  • add 1 tablespoon lemon juice
I used the microwave: on high for 10 seconds.
Put the cookies and pecans in a ziploc bag. I used a meat mallet to crush my cookies and pecans and I did it on top of a cork pot holder because I have a glass tabletop that I did not want to shatter. Alternatively, you can use a frying pan or a rolling pin.

Zest the peel of one lemon to yield about 1 tablespoon of zest. I used a microplane but you can use a box grater or peel using a vegetable peeler and then mince finely using a sharp knife. Be careful not to over-zest because the white pith is bitter.
Silken tofu is really soft and velvety. To open, I stab a knife into the package and peel off the plastic. Then I drain off any excess water. Doesn't it look so soft and silky?

A pinch of salt to the filling mixture will also bring out the flavors. Salt is often added to baked goods because it enhances the flavors. Plus, the tofu and lemon can have a slightly bitter taste, which salt will suppress on your tongue. However, since tofu is pretty savory and some brands can be a little salty, you might not need it.

Bake the cheesecake in a 350 degree oven for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until golden. I made a simple water bath by putting a cookie sheet filled with water in the oven with the cheesecake to help keep it moist.

The cheesecake does rise and get a bit poofy, like a souffle, so you might see some cracking. Once you refrigerate it, it settles and gets firmer.
you can see the vanilla flecks
Indulge in a second slice, guilt-free :)