|Hard Guyère from Miyoko Shinner's Artisan Vegan Cheese.|
In paging through the book, I could see the influence of Jo Stepaniak's pivotal Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook, one of the first vegan cookbooks I bought and fell in love with, "back in the day." It used to be that there was only one vegan cookbook covering every category [eg, cheese, desserts, various ethnic cuisines]. But herbivorous vegan chefs continue to inspire each other and propel this cooking style forward. Watching plant-based food evolve over the years from crunchy fringe faction into bona-fide cuisine is satisfying, to say the least.
To start, I decided to try making the following cheeses:
- Goat Cheese
- Hard Gruyère
- Buffalo Mozzarella
- Air-Dried Cheddar
|Rejuvelac, fermenting on my counter.|
|Cashew Goat Cheese, in the foreground rolled in Herbes de Provençe|
Miyoko's book is worth it for this cheese alone. The Goat Cheese was my favorite recipe of the bunch, and I will definitely be making this over [and over and over!]. First, it truly tastes like dairy goat cheese--to a "fool an omnivore" degree. The texture. The sharpness. The aroma. Second, it's easy to throw together. I would recommend making this recipe first because it yields an almost instant cheesy gratification. I wound up eating most of the batch on crackers but I did use it to make a few sandwiches. Next time, I'm planning to use in on salads and as a crostini topper. Would also be great in a vegan omelette or quiche.
|Hard Gruyère with a slice missing, Looks like a large Pac-man, no?|
This cheese was also magnificent and another omnivore fooler. Very rich and creamy, thanks to the addition of coconut oil. It was also quite simple to make and it did taste remarkably like dairy Gruyère.
Again, I ate this mostly on crackers – divine! – and it is also delicious as a sandwich spread. [I don't know about you, but I can only eat so much hummus per week!] In fact....
...I even had some for dinner last night with some red wine. I know it looks Spartan for a cookbook author's dinner, but I only had Udi's Gluten Free Whole Grain Bread in the 'fridge [my favorite gluten-free load]. Although my sandwich was delish, this would have been more luxurious on a crusty baguette, with a few apple slices.
|Air-dried Cheddar. Not pretty. Not cheddar-like. But delicious.|
Directions said after cooking to form in molds and air dry on a rack. My mixture was so moist that I had no choice but to dry my 2 resulting cheeses on plates for the first 24 hours, Afterward, they were hard enough to transfer to racks, but they weren't "model" cheeses, as you can see. I chose to air-dry them for 5 days. The result tasted eerily dairy-cheese-like – but not at all Cheddar-like. The cheese tasted more like a stinky French cheese – stinky in a good way. If the recipe name had been "AIr-Dried Stinky French Cheese," my expectations would have been better managed.
|Boconcini, sitting in salted brine.|
Humbled by the Lumpy Cheddar fiasco, I vowed to follow the mozzarella recipe to the letter and was excited to see the "boconcini" coagulate as I dropped them into the brine. This cheese looks like mozzarella. It smells like mozzarella. But unfortunately it does not taste like mozzarella or anything I care to eat. The results were simply inedible; I sucked it up and threw the entire batch out – especially painful since raw cashews are not cheap. My cheese was very grainy, but my biggest beef was the flavor – pasty, not salty enough and just oddly bland. Unfortunately, I found Miyoko's revamped version of the recipe a bit too late.
This book is a lot of fun, I'm glad I own it, and I intend to try to make many more cheeses. Yes, the recipes can be fussy. But in reality, making cheese is fussy – it's a multi-step process that can often take up to a week. I am a beginning vegan cheese maker and just wanted to document my adventures honestly here. Plus, as I said, I am not the most obedient cookbook reader. I am convinced that the texture of the Buffalo Mozzarella and Air-Dried Cheddar would have been better if I had a Vitamix. So maybe it's time for me to get one?
Miyoko also includes recipes for yogurts, sour creams, cream cheese, ricottas, parmesan and nut milk, so I have only scratched the surface. I think she did a fabulous job and has opened the door for the birth of even more inventive vegan recipes. If you are a vegan who misses cheese and are process-oriented, you need this book.