I haven’t baked a cheesecake in years because I couldn’t commit to our family of two eating up an entire one. Traditional cheesecakes tend to be heavy, prepared with a lot of cream cheese, and are not easy for me to digest (I’m not great with big doses of dairy). Tofu cheesecakes are a relative novelty in Asia too, which is why I didn’t include a recipe in the Asian Tofu cookbook.
But while working on the Paula Wolfert biography-cookbook, I learned about Italian ricotta cheesecake from one of her recipes that we included in the book. It was super simple to make in the processor and baked up light tasting. I thought of making it with tofu since ricotta and I are not good friends, and I’ve successfully made lasagna with tofu as a ricotta substitute. The textures are similar if you use a medium-firm tofu. Based on past experiences, I figured a “ricotta” tofu cheesecake would work. I put the idea on the back burner until my schedule freed up a bit.
In the new issue of Milk Street magazine that arrived last week, Chris Kimball spotlights the beauty of ricotta cheesecake and has a recipe that he promises to be somewhat fluffy. That reminded me to experiment with making a “ricotta” tofu cheesecake. I wanted a little crust on the bottom of mine. Both Paula’s and Chris’s ricotta cheesecake recipes were crustless, typical of that many Italian cheesecakes. But I love how the graham cracker crust contrasts with the creamy filling in color, texture, and flavor.
I looked in a favorite cookbook, Sweet Times by Dorie Greenspan, published in 1991. She had a honey ricotta almond cheesecake with a graham cracker crust! Dorie’ s use of ground almonds in the filling lent body and perhaps prevented the cheesecake filling from cracking. A cracked cheesecake is a cosmetic issue more than a flavor issue, in my opinion. I was intrigued by aspects of all three of those recipes by Paula, Chris, and Dorie. They informed me in different ways and in the end, I borrowed a bit from each to come up with my own recipe for a tofu cheesecake.
You can put together this recipe in about 10 minutes. Then it just bakes, cools, then chills – perfect for entertaining. We tried the cheesecake about 2 hours after chilling it and it was delicate in texture with refreshingly good lime flavor; an overnight chill made the cake taste even creamier. I used coconut flour and coconut oil for a tropical note. Ditto for the black pepper.
My husband humorously described this honey lime tofu cheese cake as a “bean-and-cheese cake”. The tofu lighted up the cake and made it healthy-ish, he claimed. He wanted to keep the entire cheesecake for us to eat but I finally convinced him to part with half, which I gifted to our neighbors (the ones who give us lemons, plums, and persimmons!).
These pictures and their captions offer you more insights into how my cheesecake came together. Wilton makes great nonstick springform pans; I experienced no leaking issues with this recipe.
The lime is lovely. I used a big one from our tree but you can substitute an orange, tangerine, or lemon. If you’re okay with a little raw egg, taste the filling while you’re making it to ensure the flavors are detectable and to your liking. You can tweak it in the processor because there’s little harm that can be done to the filling.
This is a versatile recipe that you can take in many directions. Have fun with it and report back about what you do!
Honey Lime Tofu Cheesecake
Yield 10 to 12 servings
- ¼ cup virgin coconut oil
- 6 double graham crackers, ground in a food processor into fine crumbs
- 1/3 cup coconut flour
- 1 tablespoon light or dark brown sugar
- ¼ fine sea salt
- 20-ounce block medium-firm tofu, such as Trader Joe's "regular" tofu, cut into chunks and let drain for 3 to 5 minutes
- 8 ounces mascarpone cheese
- 3 large eggs
- ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 ½ to 2 tablespoons coconut flour (use maximum if the tofu is on the soft side)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Rounded ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- Generous ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 large lime, or 2 small limes
- In a microwavable bowl, melt the coconut oil in the microwave via 10 second blasts on high power. (Or melt in a small pan and transfer to a bowl.) Add the graham cracker crumbs, coconut flour, sugar, and salt. Butter, oil, or spray oil an 8 or 9-inch round springform pan. Press the graham cracker mixture in the bottom to form a crust. Set aside.
- Put a rack in the middle position of the oven and heat to 350F.
- In a full-size processor outfitted with the metal blade, combine the tofu, mascarpone, eggs, ½ cup honey, coconut flour, vanilla, salt, and pepper. Use a rasp-style grater to grate the zest of the lime(s) directly into the processor bowl. Squeeze the lime to yield 1 tablespoon juice, then add to the processor. Whirl until very smooth, about 1 minute. Taste and add extra lime juice or black pepper for brightness or edge.
- Pour and scrape the filling into prepared pan. Even out the top by gently shaking it back and forth on your work surface. Slide the pan into the oven and bake for 60 to 70 minutes, until puffed up, golden brown and a little jiggly when gently shaken. Cool on a rack (expect it to deflate).
- Heat the honey in the microwave oven via 15 second blasts to a fluid state (or use a small pan). Gently brush the warm honey on top of the warm cake. Cool for 20 minutes before running a knife around the sides of the pan to detach the cake. Remove the pan wall then cool the cake (still on its base) to room temperature. Replace the pan side, cover with plastic wrap, then chill for 2 hours (or overnight) before cutting and serving. When cutting, wipe the knife clean and maybe dip it in hot water between slices.
Substitution tips! I had coconut flour and coconut oil in my pantry. If you do not have coconut flour, substitute 3 extra sets of graham crackers for the crust and use 1/4 cup of almond flour in the filling. Use butter instead of coconut oil. You can vary the spice, too. Try cinnamon, ground ginger, or ground cardamom, for example; add the spices by the 1/4 teaspoon.
Cuisine Asian American