Eating the Silents: Little Red Riding Hood’s Cheese Cake (with Vegan Variation)

As most of you probably know, I kickstarted the release of a complete 1917 night at the movies with Kidnapped as the main feature and four shorts that were originally played alongside it. One of those shorts is a silhouette version of Little Red Riding Hood.

In the fairy tale’s title cards, Red tells the wolf exactly what she’s bringing to grandma.

Eggs and butter and jam? Those we know. Cheese cakes? Do they mean the same thing as, like, cream cheese and graham cracker crust affairs we all know and love? Well, quite possibly not. According to Fannie Farmer circa 1918, a cheese cake is made from milk curds and eggs and lemon baked inside a crust.

Cheese curd pies, cottage cheese pies, ricotta pies, those I have heard of. So, I decided to combine a few of these recipes and come up with my own version that would be true to Red’s basket and also be fun and easy for the modern baker. I think I’ve succeeded and best of all, this is an easy recipe that small children can either assist with or cook entirely by themselves.

Just beware of hungry wolves.

For ease, I opted to use pre-baked mini filo shells but you can use any crust you like. Graham cracker or shortbread would be lovely. Just be sure to blind bake it before adding the filling. I have tested this recipe in tiny shells (about one teaspoon) and little tarts (about three tablespoons) but I have NOT made a full-size pie. Red talked about cheese cakes (plural) and I assume she meant something small and dainty.

Ingredients (Dairy):

1 cup full fat cottage cheese
3 tablespoons sugar
Zest of one lemon (preferably Meyer)
Juice of half a lemon
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
A pinch of salt

Pre-heat oven to 300 degree Fahrenheit.

Mix all ingredients until well combined.

Place pre-baked shells on cookie sheet lined with parchment or foil and spoon in filling. This filling doesn’t “grow” much so be generous. This recipe makes about 30-36 1 tsp. tarts.

Bake for 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.

I always recommend using full fat dairy in vintage recipes. This prevents the resulting recipe from turning out tough or unpleasant. I recommend using Meyer lemons if possible but regular lemons are fine. I opted to flavor my cakes with nutmeg because it’s lovely with lemon and the costumes look to be 18th century. We all know about those colonials and their nutmeg!

Tri-corner hat? Check!

I had so much fun that I decided to let my vegan, non-dairy or otherwise not-feeling-that-cottage-cheese-thing readers in on it too! The filo shells I used are vegan/pareve but you may wish to make your favorite vegan crust.

Ingredients (Vegan)

7 oz. soft tofu, drained but not pressed (about half a block)
3 tablespoons coconut sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
2 teaspoons cornstarch
A pinch of salt

Pre-heat oven to 300 degree Fahrenheit.

Mash tofu with a fork until it resembles cottage cheese. Add the other ingredients and mix until well combined. The filling should be about as thick as prepared oatmeal. If it’s too thick, add some non-dairy milk to thin it.

Place pre-baked shells on cookie sheet lined with parchment or foil and spoon in filling. This filling doesn’t “grow” much so be generous. This recipe makes about 30-36 1 tsp. tarts.

Bake for 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.

The nutritional yeast is there to provide a bit of the “cheesy” flavor of the dairy version and the cornstarch takes the place of egg as a thickener.

So, here they are! Cuties!

I served them up with a blackberry compote, which is just blackberries, sugar and a squeeze of lemon cooked on the stovetop until it thickens. You can also use jam, honey, a drizzle of chocolate or caramel… anything, really.

I may or may not have chosen blackberry because it looks like blood. You can’t prove anything.

These are nice little cakes. The texture is going to be a little chunkier than what some folks are used to but you can always put the filling through a blender or food processor if it’s going to be a deal breaker. As you can see, the vegan (it’s in the middle) and dairy versions are pretty hard to tell apart.

I don’t usually go for the whole “trick people into eating a vegan version of meat” thing. (Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with bringing a dish that happens to be vegan and not making a huge deal of the fact.) In my case, I put out a plate of these little cheese cakes without marking which was which and they were devoured and nobody mentioned a difference in flavor.

Side by side, I think you can definitely tell if you are looking for a slight tofu flavor or other vegan hints but in the heat of dessert with plenty of compote, nobody was looking so nobody noticed.

I hope you give these cheese cakes a try! I had a good time and everyone who tasted them enjoyed them. And feel free to tweak. I can see orange zest and cardamom or lime zest and ginger being delightful.

Oh, and you can buy a copy of my program on DVD, if you like.

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