Creating the Little Bird Unbakery's Blueberry Cheesecake last week was quite an undertaking, as there are many recipes within the recipe to produce the final dessert. In general, there's a lot of flipping back and forth with this cookbook, with many recipes referring to a previous bread or nut milk recipe, or requiring activated nuts, which they explain early on. I assume you'd eventually build up a pantry of activated-this and leftover paste-of-that, raw cheeses and milks ready if you commited to this book. Here's how I got on with two key components:
I could have replaced this with water, but as I already had activated almonds I thought I'd give it a go. I flipped to page 30 for the almond milk recipe. Almonds rinsed, I used a stick blender to blend them up with water, vanilla bean powder (which I happened to have handy for my cheescake) and a pinch of sea salt, then strained it through a muslin cloth.
It was so easy! I thought the recipe looked too good to be true - it wasn't. I guess almond milk just isn't that hard to make. This is a great recipe to have on hand, and delicious on its own. I'm not usually a fan of alternative milks but it was pleasant and not as floury as I'd imagined.
The coulis topping on the cheescake was optional, but I wanted it to look like the photo and it didn't look too hard. Coulis is usually a pretty simple sauce to throw together, but with raw food you can't simmer the fruit to thicken the juices, so in this recipe a seaweed known as Irish moss is used as a thickening agent. I have a few friends that make raw cupcakes, so I'd heard of Irish moss, mostly from American recipes. But this is a New Zealand cookbook so ingredients shouldn't be hard to find, surely?
Where can you buy Irish moss? Nowhere in New Zealand as far as I can tell. You can order it online, but I didn't have time for that. I found something called Irish moss at a brew store and thought it'd be fine. As warned by the Irish moss paste recipe on page 33 the moss should (as seaweed naturally does) smell like the ocean. Correct, it stank of the ocean. So I proceeded to soak overnight until it was plump.
After rinsing for about 20 minutes, it still stank of the ocean and tasted like seaweed. I wasn't prepared to ruin my whole cheesecake for the sake of experimentation - clearly I had bought the wrong stuff. I swiftly added the Irish moss to the compost bin.
Fortunately I am not on a strict raw food diet, so realising that I simply needed a thickening agent I replaced it with “Jel-It-In” - a vegan gelatin substitute that's activated through cooking. It contains carrageenan, extracted from Irish moss (you have no idea how much I read about Irish moss on forums - I discovered there's controversy about how healthy it actually is).
To make up for my one non-raw misdemeanor I followed the rest of the recipe verbatim: "Blend everything". Done. I then poured the coulis over the cheesecake, decorated with more blueberries, and placed it in the fridge to set.
Somehow I fluked the Jel-It-In quantity and got a perfect coulis consistency. It definitely added a freshness to the cheesecake and a burst of blueberry flavour. Even on a raw food diet, I'm sure a small amount of cooked sauce won't matter if the rest of the cake is kosher. In fact, a lot of the recipes in this book could be modified to be simply vegan or gluten free if you're not worried about cooking or missing vital ingredients.
I've seen a quite a few Unbakery books in stores in the lead up to Christmas and it appears to be popular, and for good reason too. If you're gluten intolerant, vegan or on a raw food diet this book is a goldmine. Little Bird Unbakery isn't popular for no reason. The food looks and tastes delicious with the added bonus of being incredibly healthy.
However, Unbakery is probably not a great gift for someone who has no interest in being raw, vegan or gluten free. Nor is this a good purchase to make a few casual recipes from - almost every recipe requires either a blender, juicer, food processor, dehydrator, spiraliser or combination of all. It's unlikely you'll have all of these lying around, so its a bit of an expensive commitment to get equipped.