I’ve found that many of the homemade nut-based vegan cheese recipes I’ve come across in the past have been kinda “meh” and I realized it wasn’t so much the flavor of the cheese as it was the texture.

Often simple ingredients, including, but not limited to, various nuts, lemon juice, tahini, agar and spices, are blended together and then refrigerated for several hours until it forms a solid jelly-esque blob o’ cheeeeze. That’s exactly the kind of cheese you want to slice and serve on a cracker! Or… not.

So when I came across this recipe on Healthy. Happy. Life. for a Baked Vegan Cashew Cheese, I knew I had to make it. Everything is better baked, just ask Charlie Sheen. (high five!)

Armed with a jar of raw cashews, I quickly realized I had a problem. Two, actually. (1) I didn’t have a cheese cloth and (2) I didn’t have the appropriate sized baking dish. It seems our kitchen’s glassware to bakeware ratio is way off balance. Do you and your 12 friends need to double-fist martinis RIGHT NOW? We’ve got you covered. Need to borrow a small oven-safe serving dish? Who do you think we are, the royal family?

Too cheap to buy a small baking dish and too lazy to venture out in search of cheese cloth, I decided to use the recipe as a guide. Using a cupcake/muffin pan, I was able to make mini wheels of cashew cheese and experiment with flavors. Win-win! There’s a lot of down time with this recipe, which is great, but, since you need to soak the cashews for at least 8 hours, it does require you to plan ahead.

The following is a list of ingredients you need to make Baked Cashew Cheese (makes approximately 5 wheels):
• 2 cups of Raw, Unsalted Cashews
• Approximately 1- 1.5 cups of Vegetable Broth (preferred) or Lightly Salted Water
• 1 tsp Salt (or less, if you prefer)
• Cupcake Pan
• Olive Oil (for lightly greasing the pan)

The classic cashew cheese is great, but because I used a muffin pan to make 5 small wheels, I decided to add ingredients to create different flavors. This experimentation has been an ongoing process, but so far I’ve made the following cheeses:
Smoked Guava Sea Salt (I highly recommend checking out the West Village salt shop, The Meadow, for all your salty needs)
Black Truffle + Sea Salt (using a few dashes of black truffle oil)
Black Salt + Black Pepper (goth/not goth: black salt? answer: totally goth)
Double Smoke (using a pinch of smoked paprika + a dash of liquid smoke)
Crushed Red Pepper (I prefer some heat, so I put in approximately 1 tablespoon. It was awesome and, as the french say, trés spicy)
Roasted Garlic (2-3 cloves)

1. Soak the raw cashews in the vegetable broth (or water) for at least 8 hours.
2. Drain the cashews, but reserve about 1/2 cup of broth, maybe more.
3. Combine cashews, salt, and 1/2 cup of broth in a blender or food processor. Blend until very, very smooth. You can add a little more broth if necessary but avoid adding too much. The final mixture should be thick and creamy, not watery or thin.
4. Place the mixture in a bowl and refrigerate for 2-4 hours. This allows the cashew cream to firm up.
5. Lightly oil a muffin pan and preheat the oven to 220ºF.
6. If you are making the classic version, go ahead and spoon the cashew cream into the muffin pan. I usually make 5 wheels per recipe. If you want to play with flavors, then spoon some of the cream into a separate bowl, add your specialty ingredients to taste and then scoop into the muffin pan. Bake for 2 hours at 220ºF. You should be able to gently loosen each wheel from the pan. If they are sticking or tearing, then you can continue baking for 20 minute increments. Just keep your eye on them.
7. Allow the wheels to cool slightly before serving or refrigerate them for several hours and serve cold.

The cheeses pair well with assorted crackers and toasted bread. Hello, cheese board!

Please note: If you do have cheese cloth and a small baking dish (such a fancy, glamorous life you lead!), then I encourage you to make the recipe on Healthy. Happy. Life. I skipped the draining part of her recipe, so I’m guessing that the consistency of the cashew cheese I made is a bit different than hers. She was the smarty-pants who decided to bake the cheese in the first place, so I’d trust her culinary skills over mine, especially considering that, until recently, the only thing I knew how to prepare in the kitchen was cereal.