Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Tofu Cheesecake Bars with Coconut Jam and Caramelized Plantains

I wasn't really sure where I was going with this dessert.  It all started as I was skimming through this month's issue of Vegetarian Times, which has a lovely article showcasing vegan dessert recipes from vegan cookbook goddess Isa Chandra Moskowitz.  One of the recipes featured is for pina colada bars. Somehow, that recipe morphed into this.  I pretty much stuck to the original recipe, but decided to forgo the coconut flavored filling and pineapple topping.  Instead, I used the same pre-made Filipino coconut jam that I described in my previous post.  There was a ripe plantain staring at me from my kitchen counter and the rest is history!

Makes 12 bars

2 cups vegan vanilla or chocolate cookies (I used Newman's Own chocolate alphabet cookies)
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon unsweetened almond milk

Cream Layer
1 12 oz. package of extra-firm silken tofu, drained
1 ripe medium banana
1/2 cup coconut milk (low or full fat)
2/3 cup sugar (I used Madhava coconut palm sugar)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons coconut oil (solid)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup coconut jam (store-bought or homemade)
1 ripe large plantain, peeled and sliced (or 2 medium bananas)
1/2 tablespoon coconut oil (or Earth Balance vegan butter)
3 tablespoons brown sugar
Toasted coconut flakes, for garnish
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and coat an 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray.
  2. Crust: Pulse cookies into crumbs in a food processor. Transfer to a bowl, and mix in canola oil and almond milk. Press mixture into the bottom of your prepared pan. Bake for 8 minutes, then cool on a wire rack.
  3. Cream Layer: Blend tofu, banana, coconut milk, sugar, lemon juice, coconut oil, cornstarch, vanilla, and salt in blender or food processor until smooth.  Pour over crust. Bake 55 minutes to 1 hour, or until the top is lightly puffed and the edges pull away from pan. 
  4. Cool on a wire rack until the top is no longer steaming and the baking pan is cool to touch. Cover with foil and chill for 3 hours in the refrigerator.
  5. Topping: Right before serving, melt the coconut oil (or Earth Balance butter) over medium-high heat in nonstick pan.  Add the brown sugar and lay the banana slices on top. Cook undisturbed for 20 seconds, then turn bananas carefully and cook for 20 seconds more. Set aside.
  6. In a small saucepan, heat the coconut jam with 1 tablespoon water for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly until smooth.
  7. Slice the cheesecake into 12 bars and drizzle each piece with coconut jam, top with plantains, and sprinkle with toasted coconut.
Holy smokes.  This was decadent.  Coconut jam makes everything better, but the cheesecake part itself was also pretty delicious.  When you first take it out of the oven and notice that the cream layer is somewhat jiggly, don't fret. It firms up nicely in the refrigerator.   The next time I make this, I'll probably use evaporated cane juice instead of coconut palm sugar.  I've had a lot of good results using coconut palm sugar in muffins and cookies, but it didn't jive so well with the banana cream layer here.  I guess it wasn't as sweet as I wanted it to be (don't judge).  But it still tasted wonderful. Plus, the coconut palm sugar gave the cream layer a nice caramel color.  

There are several components here that you can omit, depending on your tolerance for doing dishes.  :)  You can probably leave out one or all of the the toppings.  But since you have to wait three hours for the cheesecake to set, you might as well conjure up some delightful accompaniments.  Peanut butter drizzle?  Chocolate hazelnut sauce?  Whipped coconut cream?  So many toppings, so little time...