The Breakdown of Gracias Madre’s Guava Cheesecake

Executive chef Justin Haefler isn’t vegan himself, but he loves the challenge of creating tasty vegan dishes at Gracias Madre in Newport Beach. “I feel like I’m constantly learning and growing, and it’s rekindled my love and passion for food.”
Photograph by Emily J. Davis
  1. Filling: “One of the most commonly used ingredients in the vegan world as a replacement for cheese is cashews,” Haefler says. “We soak them to get a softer texture. We blend them with coconut milk, guava puree, agave for sweetness, and nutritional yeast to give it that cheesy flavor. Add coconut oil and beet juice for color and flavor. Soy lecithin powder helps it set, which takes roughly three to four hours.”
  2. “We make the crust from date paste, cacao nibs, cacao powder, and vanilla. That goes into the food processor to break down the cacao nibs. Then you fold in vanilla and salt.”
  3. “We finish it off with a little guava puree and beautiful pansy flowers.”
  4. “The house-made granola is the finishing touch. If you take away the granola, which has grains, it becomes gluten free. We try to make as many dishes gluten free and nut free as possible.”  

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