Ok, so this is definitely one of my swankiest cheesecakes. If you’re new to this blog, rest assured I don’t usually dive for the most expensive ingredients I can grab (honest!), but sometimes my taste buds and sense of curiosity get the better of me. And sometimes you have things to celebrate (like being nominated top 21 blogs of 2016 by VegNews Magazine ? — thank you once again to all who nominated and voted for this blog!), so “swanky” seems just right.
Besides, I keep getting requests for alternatives for cashew-based cheesecakes, so you see it all distills perfectly into this delicious Tarragon Lime Pine Nut Cheesecake. While it sounds all “haute” and fancy, it’s really a simple cheesecake with a big name — as per usual, no-fuss, super easy to make, and cake-lovers approved.
Pine nuts make an absolutely lovely substitute for cashews in raw cheesecakes, though there are upsides and downsides to them as a key ingredient of course. Upsides? Beautiful flavor, great soft texture, easy to work with (no soaking required!). Plus it’s different — and I like playing with different. Experimenting and trying new flavors is a never-ending source of inspiration.
Downsides? They are pricey. That’s the biggest downside I can think of, actually. In fact, I can visualize you reading this right now and declaring “unaffordable!”, but here’s the deal: Pine nuts are an expensive nut over here, too. But this is a celebration cake, something for a special occasion, a holiday, to mark a beautiful moment — and creating memorable moments is sometimes worth the tiny splurge. So with all that in mind, it’s a 4″ cake — you won’t need a massive bag of pine nuts, which makes it instantly a lot more affordable than many of the alternatives. PLUS, you may not be able to splurge on pine nuts every day, but on the odd occasion you inherit some or find a good deal, I know you’ll put them to good use with this cake :)
Speaking of pine nuts and memorable moments though — I have the best memories of this nut from my childhood. My uncle would travel to Siberia and always returned with pine cones containing fresh pine nuts — you couldn’t get them fresher than that, and they were the most delectable treat ever. Amazing how food memories can link physical memories so strongly — I remember those visits so vividly, and I think it’s in part thanks to those pine cones, which I can still “taste” in my memory. What I also remember is the difficulty of shelling these tiny pesky nuts — suddenly the price tag starts to make a lot of sense ?
The other accent flavors I chose for this tiny cake are lime and tarragon. Lime balances out the pine flavor quite nicely. Lemon would work beautifully, too, if you prefer. Pine nuts and a bit of citrusy tartness have a great rapport together.
Tarragon on the other hand was a bit of an unexpected inclusion for me. Normally, pine nuts get paired with rosemary — a classic. But I’ll be honest, this whole cake was inspired by a strange curiosity to make something with tarragon to begin with. It’s one of my favorite savory herbs, and one that’s often underused and left unexplored. I love its flavor, though, so thought to give it a try in something sweet and really enjoyed it in this cake. If you can’t find dried tarragon, use a bit of fresh rosemary. And if you can’t find either — skip. The cake will be lovely without, too. But I’m banking on your sense of adventure to get you to give the tarragon a try — such a lovely accent flavor! Tip: if you don’t want to buy a whole jar of spice just for this, look for spices in bulk shops — you can buy a pinch or a tsp at a time for pennies.
P.S. If you need more tips on how to make raw cheesecakes like a pro, check out my book Unconventional Treats.
- ½ cup raw pine nuts
- 1 soft medjool date
- ½ tbsp coconut oil
- ½ tbsp maple syrup
- ¾ cup raw pine nuts
- 6 tbsp maple syrup
- 4 tbsp lime juice (can do a bit less / adjust to taste if you don't like a strong citrus flavor)
- 3 tbsp coconut oil (I used an unscented kind -- so no coconut flavor)
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 tsp dried tarragon (spice)
- ¼ tsp salt
- more fresh pine nuts, dried edible heather flowers (the little pink specs), fresh strawberry flowers (the white flowers), and a few non-edible decorative dried sprigs.
- Process all crust ingredients into a sticky crumble in a food processor. Transfer to a 4" springform pan (or make a few mini-cupcakes / use a lined small dish of a similar size) and press down into am even crust along the base. Place the pan in the freezer while working on the next step.
- Blend all filling ingredients in a high-speed blender into a smooth consistency. Pour this mixture into the springform pan. Decorate with any toppings and freeze for 5-6 hours (or overnight) to set. Enjoy! Store leftovers in the freezer.