Thursday, December 9, 2010

Sharp orange cashew cheddar step-by-step

I've wanted to try this ever since introducing myself to annatto seeds during MoFo.  If these magic seeds can be used to colour milk cheese, why not cashew cheese?

Well, why not?  This version of cashew cheese is my own, though heavily indebted both to Ann Gentry and the Real Food Daily Cookbook and to Joanne Stepaniak's crock cheez recipe from Vegan Vittles.  If you don't have annatto seeds, you can still make this recipe; it will taste the same but the cheese will be a pale yellow-white.

Sharp orange cashew cheddar
makes about 2 cups

1/4 cup canola oil
1 tbsp annatto seeds
1 1/2 + 2 tbsp unsweetened plain soymilk
3/4 cup raw cashews
1 1/2 tsp onion powder
3/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp powdered mustard
3/4 tsp sea salt
up to 1/4 cup nutritional yeast (optional; I didn't use it)
2 tbsp yellow miso
2 tsp red miso
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

A note on agar threads:  agar comes in many forms, and one of the reasons I'm doing a step-by-step is to show you the right kind to use, and how much, since that gave me a lot of grief until I had worked it out by experiment.  I've made cashew cheese dozens of times by now and you can trust me.  This is what you need:

Apart from the amusingly random alphabetization, agar actually isn't delicious: it has no taste at all.  The little recipe on the package is for making vegan jello in case you want to try that, though I'd recommend using juice instead of water for your liquid, or at least adding a little sugar.  The important part is that it comes in strips or threads.  Six Fortune is my favorite brand and you can see it comes in a 1.4 oz packet.  You need half the packet for this recipe.  Just cut it in half with sturdy scissors and put the other half away for next time.  Don't use powder, which has additives that make it good for other recipes but not this one, and I can't vouch for the perfect success of your cashew cheese if you use the lighter, rectangular agar "boxes" (when you see those you'll recognize them at once).

Start by tinting the oil.  Pour the canola oil into a medium saucepan and add the annatto seeds:

Heat over medium-high heat until the seeds are sizzling, then turn the heat down to medium-low and continue to cook about three minutes, until the oil appears coloured and the seeds are dark brown.  Strain out the seeds (being careful: this is, after all, boiling oil):

The tinted oil looks red at this point, but don't worry.  Carefully pour it back into the saucepan, and add the soymilk and the agar threads:

Stir it all together, cover, and bring to a gentle boil on medium heat.  Lower the heat to medium low, cover again, and continue to cook, stirring from time to time, until the threads are melted.  This should take about ten minutes.  Here's what it looks like about halfway done:

You can still see the threads, and the mixture still wants to separate a bit.  Watch that it doesn't boil over, and do stir to keep the agar from congealing on the bottom of the pan and burning there.  Meanwhile, get out your sturdy blender or food processor, and process the cashews until they're powdery but not butter.  Add the spice powders, and pulse a few times to blend:

Up to now, you've been working at a gentle, relaxed pace.  That is about to change.  The agar mixture is now well-incorporated.  When you stir it, you'll find it beginning to congeal on your spoon.  The idea that these cookbook authors are always putting out there that you can use the warm cashew cheese mixture as cheese sauce is, in my experience, a bad one, unless, perhaps, you add a lot more soymilk to the recipe.  The instant this agar mixture begins to cool, it solidifies.  In block cheeze, that's a good quality.  In a cheese sauce, I'd imagine not so much.  Use another recipe that doesn't contain agar for sauces.  Anyway, your agar mixture now looks like this:

You may see a tiny piece of an agar thread or two, but that's okay.  The important thing is that the agar is activated and starting to congeal.  This mixture is thick but the real test is if you have to push solids off the stirring spoon and you start to get nervous that you're not going to be able to pour it into the blender fast enough.  Pour it into the blender, fast, and turn the blender on.  Blend or process until the mixture is as smooth as you can get it.  The friction of the blades should keep the cheese in more or less liquid form while you're doing this.  Scrape down the sides frequently and make sure all the cashew-spice powder is being blended in. 

Now add the lemon juice and yellow and red miso and continue to process until they're incorporated.  Again working quickly, pour or scrape the mixture into a glass or ceramic container (you do not have to oil your container):

Usually I get one pretty one like this and one much smaller ugly one with all the scrapings, which are, you guessed it, pretty much in solid form already.  Cover the container and refrigerate until the cheese is completely cool. 

You can do pretty much anything with this cheese except, of course, melt it...


  1. Oh, not again. My long comment is gone, gone, gone. I was really tired when I wrote it — maybe I forgot to wait for those letters to appear. Who knows. And what did I write? I wondered about the quantity of cashews since I didn't see it in the recipe. Also I haven't seen that strip kind of agar agar. I have the flakes, but I could use the by-weight measure. And how does the cheese taste? I assume good since you make it a lot. Thanks for the descriptive recipe — I really like the photo guide, though I always forget to create one myself.

  2. Zoa, Zoa, Zoa,...

    I need more time, time, time, to try all your fab recipes!

    So, in case I can't find this brand of agar threads...I just need to use half of 1.4 oz, right? Gee, I need to brush up on the old maths.

    I'm definitely keeping this tutorial for future.

  3. Andrea, goodness, thanks for letting me know. The recipe is fixed now. Cashew cheese with no cashews...

    I think the flakes would be fine, going by weight. I just have never seen the flakes except in health food stores, where they cost the earth, so I've never worked with them.

    Hi, Rose: Yes, about .6 oz will do. You do get some leeway with agar and a little more or less won't matter significantly. It was fun colouring the cheese with annatto, but certainly not necessary. It made a cheery orange colour, though!

  4. I'm with Rose. I need to make so many of your recipes. I was thinking of going back to day 1 of your blog and just work my way through.