This will come as a surprise to few (and certainly no one who knows me “in real life”), but I’m a rather strange girl. My taste in just about everything (food included!) is at least a little off the beaten path, and I have a history of doing/saying/wearing/liking/
listening to/being interested in/laughing at things that others may find odd. Oh yes, I was definitely one of “those kids” in high school—straddling the line between nerdy and gothy, the wallflower with dyed hair and unusual clothing, pierced face usually buried in a book.
Speaking of “nerdy,” as many of you may know, my B.A. is in Linguistics, and my #1 love (yes, even above and beyond food!) will always be language. Romance languages were/are my specialty, and though my fluency has faded over the years, I still have a working knowledge of several of them. One that I studied for many years was good old Latin, and it remains among my very favorites. Its grammar’s ridiculous complexity, its frozen-in-time vocabulary, its indelible relation to an ancient culture now extinct but never forgotten…I owe my love for all other Romance languages to Latin, the original Italic tongue. It all goes back to Latin! (Well, in truth, it all goes back to Proto-Indo-European. But actually, that goes back to Proto-Eurasiatic. Really, though, that goes back to Proto-Nostratic…but I digress.)
Where am I going with all this? One quirky pasttime I’ve indulged in for the last several years is having parties for unexpected occasions. For example, my Groundhog’s Day parties are always wild, and a JFK Assassination Anniversary Party I had a few years back was particularly memorable. Last Friday, March 15th, I finally had a chance to have a party that my Latin-scholar-self has been waiting YEARS to host (I had to hold off until the date fell on a weekend, you see)—an Ides of March party! An Ides of March toga party, that is. Yes!
And so my friends and I came together to commemorate the 2057th anniversary of the death of one of my favorite historical figures and one of the all-time greatest badasses that ever lived, Gaius Julius Caesar. It was smashing success. Senātus Populusque Rōmānus!
As with all my parties, I made a themed buffet of snacks, this one full of Roman and Italian finger food:
- Choice of crisp wheaten flatbread (i.e. crackers)
- Choice of cubed cheeses
- Manzanilla olives
- Barhi dates
- Raw almonds
- Fresh red grapes
- Ancient Roman honey cake
- Cinnamon swirl caramel cheesecake bars
- Assorted alcoholic beverages (duh)
What’s that? Oh, did you catch the “Cinnamon swirl caramel cheesecake bars” there? Yeah, they were as amazing as they sound. And despite this rambling introduction, they’re the things I’m really here to share with you today.
I’ve had this idea in my head for awhile now to make a cultured raw cheesecake. I wanted to derive the tang not from lemon juice, but from actually culturing the filling. Thing is, I didn’t want to use probiotic powder—I realize it’s not something everyone has in their fridge at all times, plus it can be difficult to find a nondairy (if desired), loose-powder version, so many people skip over recipes that require it. Instead, I’ve been brainstorming this cultured cheese filling made with…yogurt!
I used a dairy-free, coconut-based vanilla Greek yogurt by SoDelicious—but honestly, you can use whatever kind you like, even dairy yogurt. I recommend Greek-style if you can find it, but if not, regular yogurt will work just fine.
So here you have it: high-raw/no-bake, [optionally] dairy-free/vegan, home-cultured cheesecake bars with a dreamy cinnamon-caramel swirl. Caesar would be proud!
Egg-Free, Gluten-Free, Grain-Free, Soy-Free
Dairy-Free (if dairy-free yogurt is used), High-Raw, No-Bake
- 1½ cups almond flour
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Big pinch of sea salt
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
- 1 cup raw cashews (or macadamia nuts), soaked for 2 hours, drained
- 1 (6-oz.) container vanilla or plain yogurt of choice (I used SoDelicious’ Greek-style coconut milk yogurt)
- ¼ cup coconut nectar (or raw honey)
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Big pinch of sea salt
- ½ cup melted coconut oil
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Line an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper or waxed paper. Use enough paper that an extra inch or two hangs off each side.
- To make the crust, combine the almond flour, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. Add the maple syrup and coconut oil. Using a pastry cutter, a large fork, or your fingers, cut/stir the mixture together until it is crumbly but just starting to clump together. (Alternatively, pulse everything together in a food processor.)
- Transfer the mixture to the lined pan and press it very firmly and evenly onto the bottom. Place the pan in the refrigerator while you make the filling.
- To make the filling, in a high-speed blender (or food processor), combine the soaked-and-drained cashews (or macnuts), yogurt, coconut nectar (or honey), lemon juice, and salt. Blend to combine. With the blender running on low speed, pour in the coconut oil in a thin stream, then blend on high speed until the mixture is completely smooth.
- Transfer ¼ cup of the filling mixture to a small bowl. Remove the pan with the crust from the fridge and pour the remaining filling mixture on top of the crust. Gently tap the pan on the counter to coax any air bubbles out of the cheesecake. Set it aside on the countertop.
- To the ¼ cup filling mixture in the small bowl, add the maple syrup and cinnamon and stir until well-combined. Transfer the mixture to a squeeze bottle, then squirt it in large swirls all across the top of the cheesecake.
- (Alternatively, if you don't have a squeeze bottle, simply randomly drop the mixture in heaping teaspoonfuls across the cheesecake.)
- Gently swirl a knife or chopstick across the surface of the cheesecake just a few times (don't over-swirl).
- Dehydrator instructions: place the cheesecake in a dehydrator at about 105°F for 4 hours.
- No-dehydrator instructions: set the cheesecake on the countertop and leave it there for about 8 hours or overnight.
- After 4 hours in the dehydrator - or 8 hours on the countertop at room temperature - the probiotics in the yogurt will have cultured the cheesecake filling! At this point, transfer the cheesecake to the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or until ready to serve.
- Just before serving, remove the pan from the fridge and carefully lift out the cheesecake using the extra "flaps" of parchment paper.
- Trim off the edges, then cut the cheesecake into small bars or squares. Serve chilled.
These bars were a resounding triumph! The almond crust is melt-in-your-mouth tender, and my idea of culturing the filling with storebought yogurt worked like a charm, imbuing each creamy bite with the authentic tang of traditional cheesecake.
There’s just enough cinnamon in the swirl to give it that “warm” taste, and the coconut nectar and maple syrup intertwine into a deliciously unique caramel flavor.
They’re rich enough that bite-sized portions were perfect for my party guests. Nonetheless, these were the first item on the buffet to disappear!
Do you speak (or have you studied) any other languages?
Do you ever have themed parties?
P.S. If you liked this dessert, you should know that my second book happens to be made up entirely of sweet treats: Practically Raw Desserts!