Chicago Soy Dairy sent me four pounds of Teese, their new soy cheese. I hosted a pizza party on Sunday night to see what was what.
When it comes to soy cheese, a key phrase from my days as a cubical inhabitant come to mind: “manage expectations.” And I guess as vegans our expectations have been effectively managed. We don’t require much, if it melts we seem to be sufficiently satisfied. That aftertaste of melted crayons? You know what? We can deal with it. But the thing is, most soy cheeses don’t do a good job of melting and so we’re often left with workarounds like broiling or, god forbid, microwaving and some of us even resort to satanic ritual or boiler room deals with shady characters that promise us they can “make it melt.” Then before we know it, we’re missing fingers and our life savings.
Exclusive photos of the star of the evening, thoroughly undressed!
But let me get straight to the point – Teese forking melts! It doesn’t disentigrate or merely become softish. It melts! And our tasters were also pleased with the taste. General consensus was that it was an improved Follow Your Heart and so it was difficult to discuss Teese on its own merit without mentioning FYH. The taste could be described as tangy and creamy. And, to put it bluntly, one tester said “There’s no nice way to phrase it: it definitely didn’t have the funky smell that FYH has when melted.” Granted, she didn’t care much for Follow Your Heart to begin with. Another tester who was a FYH fan said “It seemed to have lower water content, which made it more cheese-like.” But she thought that it was only a minor improvement to FYH. The only place where FYH won out was that people seemed to think it congealed faster when cooling down.
Patty, our Brooklyn Italian vegan tester and professional pizza model, loving on the Teese
But we’re vegans, who cares what we think, right? Let’s get the opinion that really matters – that of people who eat cheese. Well both cheese eaters at our soiree were impressed. They thought the Teese was best compared to a soft, fresh mozzerella. It didn’t have the stretchy stringiness normally associated with pizza parlor cheese. One of our cheese eating testers thought that it could pass for cheese, the other didn’t think it would fool anyone, but he still enjoyed it. He had, like, 8 slices.
As for me, I loved it. It was a joy to work with and I’m excited to get to the pictures so I’m gonna’ go ahead and shut up and let the pizzas do the talking. Since it’s so image heavy, the pizzas are below the cutsky.
You can order a sample here, for 7.50 a pound. Do it, you won’t regret it.
All pizzas were baked in a 500 F oven, on a pizza stone and a stainless steel pizza tray.
This was the first, and I kept it simple to really see what the cheese was made of. It’s cremini mushrooms, oil cured olives, fresh basil and roasted garlic, baked for 12 minutes. I was really conservative and skeptical, and I think that this pizza, although delicious, kind of shows it. Once I was confident that the cheese would melt, the gloves came off.
There were a couple other native New Yorkers at the pizza party and none of them remember this from the pizzerias of their childhoods – baked ziti pizza! I specifically remember my mom driving to Queens to get it, piling us all into the Cordoba, filling our bellies with pizza and then driving to Laguardia Airport. My mom would open up the sun roof and us kids, my sister, brother and me, would all be looking up as the planes flew in, practically hitting us in the head. We’d all scream and laugh and cry. So this pizza brings back good memories. It’s cashew ricotta mixed with the marinara, put on top of the sauced up crust and covered in plenty of cheese. It was a crowd favorite.
Oh man, do I love fresh basil in the middle of winter, when no one should be able to get fresh basil. This is a marinaraless pizza – pesto, cashew ricotta, cheese and fresh tomatoes. And my testers were supposed to tell me when 12 minutes were up, but they were too busy eating the previous pie that they forgot and so it was overcooked. But as Bob Ross taught us, there are no mistakes – only happy accidents. Some testers really liked how bubbly the cheese got, others just liked the crunchier crust. You can see that the cheese thins out significantly when cooked for this long so while some people liked it, I think that’s where the congealing issues mentioned previously came up. So this pie was a hit, but I’d still advise for a lower cooking temperature. Especially once your oven reall gets going.
Since we overcooked the last pie, I wanted to experiment with a shorter temperature and see what that would yield. This pie was simply roasted red peppers and pesto. Mostly because I forgot to add the sausages, but we’ll get to those next. This was 9 minutes, and I liked the cheese best at this temperature. It was melted and creamy but still toothsome. So once your oven is preheated, I think 9 minutes is the perfect amount of time for a thin crust pizza.
As you can see, things were starting to get all sloppy and out of control, so out comes the fake meat! This pizza was off the chain: pinto sausages, roasted garlic, mushrooms and grape tomatoes. It was fully devoured within minutes. I thought a riot would break out. A riot of mild mannered people sitting in their seats and quietly enjoying their pizzas.
This pizza goes against everything I believe in, but it was born of the dreams of two taste testers. Terry – who is obsessed with pineapple pizza. And deb who is obsessed with the May Wah ham tube. Put them together and stuffs about to get hectic – a pineapple ham pizza with onions. Terry
and Deb loved the combo, and I didn’t hear anyone else complaining. But I did futz around with the baking time and was panned for it. 7 minutes isn’t enough time, they said. Well, let them make their own pizzas.
Seven pizzas in and only now do we get the coveted crust bubble! Check that baby out. This was an herbed breaded eggplant number, affectionately dubbed the eggplant parm pie. People thought they were too full to eat another slice, but once news started trickling in of this pizza’s awesomeness, they obliged. Panko breaded eggplant with rosemary and thyme, fried until tender.
Last but not least, this is my favorite combo lately – broccoli rabe and capers with roasted garlic. Everyone was so stuffed by this point that they took some slices to go, and it was my lunch for today.
So there you have it! A complete pizza success and finally a vegan cheese that melts and tastes delicious. Check out my flickR for more pics, and have a pizza party of your own. Thanks to Steven for hooking me up with the Teese and to Ryan for his continuous work on the perfection of vegan cheese. This is how the revolution will be won, with pizza grease!