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Cranberry-Walnut Strata

What you need: 

1/2 cup chopped walnuts
16 ounces extra firm silken tofu (I like Mori-Nu)
12 ounces vegan cream cheese
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (I like Red Star)
2 teaspoons orange zest
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
3 cups vegan nog or other thick nondairy milk (I like Silk nog)
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
1 vanilla bean, scraped or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 loaf (about 12 slices) fluffy bread (don't use sourdough, or other dense bread!)
1 cup dried cranberries (I use organic)

What you do: 

1. First, prepare your walnuts by soaking in 1 cup of very warm water for 30 minutes. Rinse well, and they're ready to use. (This process helps eliminate the bitter tannins in the nut; similar to salting eggplant. It will produce a better tasting and crisper nut.) You can pop them in the oven for 10 minutes at 350* F if you want them extra crisp, but it isn't necessary for this recipe.
2. Now, we're ready to begin making the strata. (this should be done the night before) In a blender, puree the tofu, until it is completely smooth. Let the tofu hang out in your blender until it's ready for use. In a large bowl, beat (with a hand mixer) the vegan cream cheese, nutritional yeast, orange zest and orange juice until well incorporated. Slowly, pour the pureed tofu into the cream cheese/orange mixture, and stir.
3. After adding the tofu, beat in the nog, turbinado, and vanilla scrapings (or extract). Spray a 13x9" glass or ceramic (no metal) baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Line the bottom of the pan with bread, tearing and cutting slices until you have a tight fit.
4. Pour 1 cup of the tofu-cream cheese mixture over the bread, sprinkle with 1/2 of the cranberries and walnuts. Make another layer with the remaining bread and top with the rest of the tofu-cream cheese mixture. Sprinkle on the remaining walnuts and cranberries. Cover the strata with plastic wrap and lightly weigh the surface with pie tins (or whatever you use when pressing tofu) being careful not to allow the liquid to overflow from the pan. Once the majority of the liquid has soaked into the bread, refrigerate overnight.
5. The next morning, at least one hour before you're ready to eat, remove the strata from the fridge and allow to come up to a cool room temperature (this should take about 20 minutes.) While the strata is warming up, preheat your oven to 325* F. 20 minutes later, place the strata in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes. If at all possible, let the baked strata stand for approximately 10 minutes to set up.
You can enjoy the strata plain (as we do) or top with maple syrup or fruit spread. This is a somewhat time-consuming recipe, but it is extremely easy. My husband and I have this every year for a holiday breakfast, served with veggie sausage (Gimme Lean), rosemary roasted potatoes with onions, and of course, lots of strong coffee!

Preparation Time: 
30 minutes day before serving, overnight setting, plus 20 minutes inactive prep day of serving, and
Cooking Time: 
Servings: 
8-12

SO HOW'D IT GO?

This was pretty tasty, but I would not call it spectacular, especially given the cost of the ingredients. I really do love the concept, though, and I think that with some tweaking it could be amazing. First off, I'd suggest more sugar in the tofu mixture. It wasn't sweet enough and the flavour of the maple syrup we added on top really didn't "go." I think that adding in a layer of preserves or something instead of just the cranberries would improve things as well. I look forward to playing around with this recipe in the future!

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I forgot to say I  also used vanilla almond milk. 

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I made this for Easter Brunch and served it with Maple Syrup.  Everyone loved it - I didn't even get to take a picture.

I didn't want to spend five dollars on vegan cream cheese so I left it out and added three eggs worth of egg replacer.  I also cubed the bread rather than tearing it into strips.  (My mother swears this gives it a better texture.  She used to make us crust the bread too but screw that.)  I would possibly add more cranberries and walnuts. 

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I use organic white bread, store bought.  If it isn't a fluffy bread, it won't absorb the liquid mixure.  I tried it once with multigrain and it fell apart.

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Do you use bread you make yourself or something you've bought? Do you have a recommendation? The loaves I make myself are pretty dense.

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That looks utterly amazing.  We're gonna have to try this one. 

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The nutritional yeast gets added with the cream cheese mixture.  Sorry for being a little ditzy.  :D

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