Macy Crowe
The Bulletin

Flipping through the pages of Ina Garten’s “Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That?” or Irma Rombauer’s “The Joy of Cooking,” it’s easy to see the main ingredients for most dessert recipes: eggs, butter and cream.

For some, it’s hard to imagine a dish being satisfying without these ingredients, especially in desserts. However, plant-based foods, also known as vegan foods, have become increasingly popular, which means using substitutes for the aforementioned staple baking ingredients.

Pure Joy Kitchen crafts a chocolate pudding with an avocado base. Salud Raw Foods concocts cupcakes using walnuts, cocoa powder and dates. Bend Pizza Kitchen makes a vegan chocolate pizza called fochocolato. More examples of restaurants serving plant-based desserts include Next Level Burger, Laughing Planet, Angeline’s Bakery and Bonta Gelato.

“You go to vegan restaurants, and they’re doing all sorts of creative things with foods that do have some nice protein content,” said registered dietitian Lori Brizee.

Some diners remain skeptical about the tastes of these foods, but restaurant owners and cooks are working hard to creatively replicate the plant-based flavors of many classic desserts, particularly cheesecake.

“It’s about making it flavorful, and with the right textures; you’ve got to make the textures similar,” said Elaina Love, owner of Pure Joy Kitchen.

‘Cheese’ cake

Six years ago, Barclay Losse, who has Type 1 diabetes, abandoned his regular diet for plant-based foods after his doctor told him that he needed to go on medication to improve his health.

“I have an insulin pump, and one day I went to Applebee’s, and I ordered a cheeseburger, french fries and a beer. I watched my blood sugar go from 88 to 430 in about 35 minutes,” Losse said. “And that was the end of animal products.”

Losse began a vegan diet and saw an almost immediate improvement in his health.

“I went to my doctor and told him that I was going to stop taking medication. He told me that I would die in a year if I did that, and that was six years ago,” he said.

Losse is alive and well. He’s still using insulin, but no longer takes medication for blood pressure or kidney issues. He now owns a plant-based food company, Plant Based Pies. He makes plant-based cheesecakes, which he refers to as pies, out of a commissary kitchen. He delivers them to people’s homes, local grocery stores and restaurants. His pies have been featured at Sip Wine Bar, Dudley’s Bookshop Cafe and The Dogwood Cocktail Cabin.

“For as long as we’ve had his cheesecakes, maybe nine months or a year, I never had a single negative response. (Customers) were surprised that it actually tasted like and had a consistency like cheesecake,” said Tom Beans, owner of Dudley’s Bookshop Cafe.

Losse sells whole 8-inch cheesecakes for $35 with three flavors to choose from — raspberry, strawberry and pumpkin.

Healthy choices

Losse is one of many who’ve turned to plant-based foods due to health concerns.

“I think everybody benefits from eating more plant-based food; most people don’t eat nearly enough vegetables,” Brizee said. “We say minimum five servings a day.”

“I think that people are finding out that their health is being compromised and getting off of all these processed animal products,” said Elaina Love, the owner of Pure Joy Kitchen — a plant-based cafe.

Love opened the eatery in June. Pure Joy Kitchen sits behind Cafe of Life Chiropractic of Bend on Colorado Avenue. The inside is small but bright, with a large chalkboard listing vegan smoothie options. There, she makes and sells vegan cookies, chocolates, cheesecake, pudding and moon pies, in addition to breakfast and lunch offerings. The moon pies sell best.

“It’s kind of like a chocolate brownie, but I’ve evolved it to be darker and richer,” she said. “It has things like sea moss plant in it and coconut oil and cocoa powder and walnuts, and then the filling is Irish moss and coconut.”

Robert Eisenberg, owner of Bend Pizza Kitchen, has expanded his offerings to include a vegan menu of pizzas, salads, sandwiches, soups and some desserts. Desserts include vegan cheesecake, dairy-free gelato and fochocolato, which is a pizza crust topped with Jem hazelnut butter. He also believes more people are turning toward plant-based foods to improve their health.

“I think that as the baby boomers are getting older and they’re going to their doctors and having problems that there’s no doubt that doctors are telling them, ‘You know, you might consider a plant-based diet,’” Eisenberg said. “Like cutting way back on all those animal products.”

Taste and texture

The trick, Love explains, is to make vegan foods similar to animal-based foods in texture, color and taste. “There’s people that need a transition food; they don’t want to just switch over to salads,” Love said.

Corrine O’Shea, owner of Salud Raw Foods, uses juices to enhance the color and appearance of her vegan desserts. Beet juice, spinach juice, turmeric and purple cabbage juice act as natural dyes to decorate her cakes.

O’Shea makes the cheesecakes by combining soaked cashews, almond milk, coconut oil and maple syrup with the cake’s flavor. She then processes dates, almonds, sea salt and vanilla to press into the pan to form the crust. The cheesecake sits in the freezer for five to seven hours. Once it has set, it is ready to eat.

On average, Salud Raw Foods makes and sells a 12-slice vegan cheesecake every day.

“It’s pretty rare that we put a cheesecake out and there’s still some the following day,” O’Shea said. The restaurant would make more, but making the cake is time-consuming: The cashews need to soak overnight, and the cheesecakes must be frozen for several hours before they’re ready to serve. Flavors change daily but have included chocolate mocha, dragon fruit, marionberry and pumpkin. A slice of the cheesecake costs between $7 and $8.50. Whole vegan cheesecakes cost $65.

She works with a variety of ingredients to create vegan sweets. “A lot of the time vegan desserts will be tofu-based, but we do all cashew-based cheesecakes. We use a lot of nuts, maple syrups, a lot of dates and fruits for the most part, and sometimes chocolate,” she said.

She uses coconut oil as a dairy substitute to hold her cakes together. “This is really good,” said Jen Ross, as she tasted Salud’s chocolate and strawberry cream pie. “It kind of has a sorbet-like texture.”

O’Shea got her start by creating a Facebook page announcing that she was making raw, plant-based desserts. Orders started coming in, and she would spend nights making vegan cakes and pies as a side job. As word of her desserts spread, she decided to open her own organic live foods cafe serving lunch, dinner and desserts. Raw means that none of the foods are cooked at a temperature above 118 degrees, so they are still considered “living.”

“I love Salud because I went in there the first time, and they offered me a mason jar to go for only $1 more,” said Ross. “They’re environmentally conscious.”

Dessert options change daily, but a vegan cheesecake and either a cookie, chocolate, truffle, cupcake or brownie is always available.

— Reporter: 541-383-0351,