OK. So, cheesecake pops for a new vegan baker is probably not the best first challenge, but it was a challenge indeed. Each month there is a host/hostess who chooses the challenge recipe. April's challenge was hosted by Deborah of Taste and Tell and Elle from Feeding My Enthusiasms. The original recipe is not vegan, and one of the main rules of the Daring Bakers is to make the recipe exactly as it is written. However, there is a loophole for who Daring Bakers refer to as "Alternative Bakers", that is, vegans, gluten-free, anyone with allergies, etc. So as an Alternative Baker, I set off to veganize the recipe. In place of the cream cheese I used Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese and in place of the eggs I used silken tofu. I also replaced the heavy cream with vanilla hemp milk.
I seriously dislike everything by Tofutti. I was very nervous to use the Tofutti cream cheese for that reason. I had not had it in a long time and was hoping that perhaps my memory was too harsh. Well, it wasn't. I think that stuff tastes like chemicals. I know plenty of people like it just fine, but it just really bothers me. I did not like the taste of my cheesecake batter because of it and was afraid my first challenge would flop.
An interesting thing about this challenge is that it required a hot water bath for the baking cheesecake. I had never used a water bath before so that was new to me. I poured my batter into my cake pan and then placed the cake pan in a larger roasting pan and filled that with boiling water until it reached halfway up the sides of the cake pan. The instructions were to bake for 35-45 minutes. However, at 45 minutes the center was very jiggly so I ended up keeping it in the oven and re-checking at 5 minute increments. It took 1 hour and 10 minutes.
The next step was to let it cool to room temperature and then refrigerate until firm. I refrigerated for about 6 hours and then was eager to make my pops! I scooped the cheesecake into little balls, inserted the Wilton lollipop sticks that I found at Michael's, and stuck them in the freezer. I froze them for about three hours, and by that time I was dying to roll them in chocolate. I melted some Tropical Source chocolate chips and coated the cheesecake pops,, and they looked really good. I put them in the refrigerator to keep cool, but soon enough couldn't resist trying them.
Well, there was that Tofutti taste again, but covered in chocolate it wasn't as bad (which is just further proof that chocolate makes everything better!). I still wasn't loving it, though, and was kind of disappointed. To my surprise, Nate ate 3 of them! He didn't think they were great either, but he at least thought they were edible. The next morning I tried another one and it actually tasted better to me now that it was nice and cold. So all in all, it was pleasant-tasting, just not great.
I did not decorate my cheesecake pops like many of the other bakers did. Be sure to check out the blogroll and see some of these beauties! I did consider making some vegan caramel to drizzle over the pops which probably would have been tasty.
Despite my less than stellar results, I still found this challenge extremely exciting! It was great to learn some new general baking techniques, such as the water bath, and how to make a cheesecake since I had never tried that before, as well as some vegan trial-and-error, such as the whole Tofutti thing. If I make this recipe with non-dairy cream cheese again I will not use the silken tofu, or at least as much, in addition. I think it made the texture a little too mushy, although it did help to mask some of the Tofutti taste.
The best part of the challenge was the Bake-along organized by Natalie of Gluten A Go-Go. Several of the Alternative Bakers started our recipe at 7 AM on 4/12 and chatted via Gmail as we baked. It was like having tech support!