Today's Vegan MoFo theme is "party!": canapés, finger foods, and shareable appetizers. Since I've been working my way through Miyoko Schinner's Artisan Vegan Cheese cookbook, I decided to bring all of these cashew cheese experiments together into a vegan cheese board!
Artisan Vegan Cheese
Let's talk about Artisan Vegan Cheese! So, I'm about 5 years late to the cheesemaking bandwagon. I tasted all of Miyoko's cheeses at Vida Vegan Con Austin in 2015 before they really hit the market, and was blown away, but was a little intimidated to try making them myself. I knew I'd try someday though.
Two things really inspired me to finally start making cheeses: my friend Kevin Schuder of Fancy Plants Catering, and seeing a video on Miyoko's Facebook page about making a simple cashew cream cheese. I've eaten Kevin's cashew mozzarella in smoked beet caprese, his almond parmesan in lasagna, cotija in some delicious tamales, cream cheese on carrot lox bagels, and feta in a salad. Oh, and fondue!
I wanted to try making a cultured cheese recipe before investing in any special ingredients, so I dipped my toes in (not literally, ew) by making that Cashew Cream Cheese last year. It's a good beginner's recipe because it only requires cashews and non-dairy yogurt—no rejuvelac, carageenen, or days of aging, all of which scared me a bit. I have also made fresh cultured cashew mozzarella, which is starting to become a fridge staple.
Artisan Vegan Cheese Board
After making a few different cheeses and becoming more confident with the techniques (and making rejuvelac), I decided to get to book and really delve in! Here's what I made...
Let me preface this photo by saying that I took these photos before all the cheeses were really finished aging, so some of the cheeses on this board will look different when they're ready to eat.
This Air-Dried Gouda (page 28) will develop a light brown rind (darker than the photo below) after 6-7 days of air drying, and the result is a sharp, creamy cheese inside! This is an ideal cheese for spreading on crackers or toast, or slicing for a salad. This Gouda has probably the closest to an “aged” cheese flavor of all the cheeses I made so far. I’m excited to experiment with more aged cheeses!
Air Drying Tips and Troubleshooting
I did run into a couple of issues with air drying. After letting the cheese solidify in the fridge, it was still very soft, and I could not place it directly on a cooling rack without it falling between the wires. The problem with placing it on a paper towel or cheesecloth at room temperature is that the cheese would constantly be in contact with moisture, making it prone to mold.
My solution was to let it start to dry in the refrigerator for 2 days first, sitting on a paper towel. This helped the cheese begin to form a rind so it could sit on the wire rack at room temperature without falling apart. I still had to place it on cheesecloth on the rack, but this at least allowed for more airflow than a paper towel. In the final days of air drying, it could sit directly on the rack without issue.
Because of the soft texture, the cheese also cracked as it dried. This wasn’t a major issue. I just separated the pieces and salted the newly exposed sides. For future, I’d probably use fewer liquid ingredients than the cheese calls for, and divide the cheese into two containers rather than one big one.
Also worth noting: make sure the salt you use is uniodized! Iodine can kill your cheese cultures.
There are two recipes for Brie in Artisan Vegan Cheese. I chose the Brie recipe on page 12, which is made with cultured cashew cheese, refined coconut oil, and rejuvelac. Because of the high oil content, this one starts to soften significantly after a couple hours at room temperature.
While the cheese was very rich, and had a mellow flavor that melted in your mouth, I don’t think I’d make this one again. There is so much coconut oil in the recipe that, at times, kind of felt like I was eating straight up oil with a cultured flavor.
The Smoked Provolone (page 51) is on the upper left of the board in the photo below. One of the ingredients in this cheese is 1 cup of non-dairy yogurt, so I first made the Cashew Yogurt (page 56) which, by the way, is super easy to make once you get the hang of it. Homemade yogurt forever!
This smoked provolone may be my favorite cheese so far. Without aging the cheese, it’s spreadable and smoky. Half of this cheese disappeared in 2 days by way of crackers and everything bagels.
I air dried the other half of the cheese for 3 days. The aforementioned flavors melded really really nicely, and the cheese developed a mellow sharpness. YUM.
Now that I've tried a few different cheesemaking techniques, here's what I'd like to try next...
Air-Dried Parmesan: I have a new batch of yogurt culturing as we speak. The first step to making this parmesan is making a yogurt-based cheese, then adding a few additional ingredients and letting the mixture culture for almost two weeks. I've realized that air drying cheese isn't THAT scary, and the results are inimitable. I'm ready to try out this parmesan and so I can have grated parmesan on my pasta all winter.
Hard Gruyère: This one shows up in several of Artisan Vegan Cheese's recipes in the second part of the book, and it seems like it would be excellent for sandwiches and toast.
Air-Dried Cheddar: This cheddar goes through two culturing processes, making a sharp cheddar cheese!
Meltable Muenster: I liked this cheese before becoming vegan, so I'd like to try a vegan version! The recipe is yogurt-based and comes together quickly.
Meltable Cheddar: Miyoko writes that this cheese is good for grilled cheese, so sign me up!