I have a weird fascination with faux cheeses. In case you’re not sure what I’m referring to, I mean products made with nuts and nutritional yeast, and label themselves as cheese for people who are vegan or dairy free. It might be because, while I like cheese, I am not obsessed with it. I have friends who can eat nothing but cheese for days and they’d be happy. Me? Not so much. I like mozzarella and queso fresco, but I’m not interested in feta and really dislike goat cheese.
To be fair though, it’s less of an obsession and more of a “how close does this taste like the real thing?” curiosity. Or maybe even, “could I like this better than the real thing?” (I would love a goat cheese replacement that I liked.)
I’ve made faux cream cheese and faux grated parmesan, both of which were really tasty and I plan to make again. But this time around, I thought I’d try a Claudia Lucero recipe.
First of all, Lucero is a cheese maker of the traditional kind. I didn’t realize until I had a copy of her new book in my hands, One Hour Dairy Free Cheese, that she’s also the author of One Hour Cheese, a book that I’ve been meaning to pick up a copy of (and has been sitting on my Amazon wish list for over a year now). I won’t lie, her background makes me want to experiment with her faux cheese recipes even more! In my head, I think if a cheese maker can make a faux cheese that she’s proud enough to put into print, then surely the recipe has some merit.
Here’s a quick rundown of the book. The chapters are divided between:
- Chapter 1 – The Basics: Equipment, Ingredients, and More
- Chapter 2 – Wheels, Blocks, and Rounds
- Chapter 3 – Melts and Dips
- Chapter 4 – Schmears and Spreads
- Chapter 5 – Shakes and Grates
- Chapter 6 – Inst-Cheeses
- Chapter 7 – Just for Fun
- Chapter 8 – Make It Yours
- Chapter 9 – Basic Fermentation
- Chapter 10 – Bonus Cultured and Aged Cheeses
- Chapter 11 – Cheese Platter Pairings
One of my favorite features of the book is that every recipe seems to include substitutions, variations, and follow-up recipes. For example, the ingredients for the Lemon Garlic Feta are listed as blanched almond flour, water or dairy free yogurt, sauerkraut, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, tapioca starch, red wine vinegar, sea salt, garlic, oregano, white pepper, lemon zest, and agar agar. Don’t have almond flour? Lucero offers ideas for using almond slivers, cashews, macadamia, or sunflowers instead. No sauerkraut? Fake it with onion and lactic acid. No nutritional yeast? Still not a problem, because you can use garlic, tahini, or miso. Then, the recipe variations included are rosemary feta, and kalamata peppercorn feta. Once the feta is made, you can use it in her recipe for Spicy Beet Salad.
For recipe testing though, I went with the simplest recipe in the book which was the One Bowl Ricotta. It only has four ingredients and a fifth optional ingredient. I used blanched almond flour, sea salt, lemon juice, water, and miso for my batch.
In some respects, while the easiest, this recipe could be the worst to start with. I think for someone who has experimented with faux cheese before, this one might seem almost boring. I tasted it straight, and I tasted it on a cracker. The flavor was quite mild. It probably would have tasted better with lactic acid and dairy free yogurt, but I didn’t have those on hand. (And again, I was purposefully going as easy as possible.) But for someone who hasn’t experimented with faux cheese before, it’s a fantastic beginner’s recipe.
While I don’t think it’s the best faux cheese I’ve made, it’ll probably be the one I’ll end up making the most. It’s just so easy that I’m not sure I’ll be able to give it up, especially if I’m making something for my vegan or lactose sensitive friends. It’s also given me momentum to experiment more with faux cheeses, and given me the inspiration to work with less familiar ingredients to make a more convincing product. I am not saying this lightly. I even ordered some lactic acid online this week just to make more faux cheese.
So, yeah, I highly recommend this book. I’m not sure which recipe to test out next though as they all sound good. (Oooh, maybe I’ll make the Margherita Pizza Melt once my lactic acid arrives at my house.) If there’s a recipe in particular that you’d like to see me make, just drop me a line with your suggestion!
Disclaimer – I received this book from Workman Publishing for this review. I’m not getting paid for this post. The views and opinions expressed are purely my own.