Am an equal opportunity eater. While I don’t subscribe to any particular diet, I like to incorporate elements of each (be it raw, vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, flexitarian, or full-blown carnivorous eating) into my cooking repertoire.
Am intrigued by raw desserts, which blend all sorts of wholesome ingredients — nuts, seeds, dates, pure maple syrup, honey, and cacao — and are neither loaded down with refined sugar nor super sweet. Am always surprised by how just a few ingredients can be transformed (without cooking, per se) into such tasty treats.
That being said, while this dessert utilizes some raw principles, it cannot be classified as “raw,” as I’ve heated some of my ingredients above the 115 degree-temperature limit (I melted the chocolate and roasted the cherries). Then again, wasn’t necessarily going for raw, just wanted a little something out of the ordinary to appease my sweet tooth. I’ve made these tarts twice in the past two weeks; just warning you, they are kind of addictive.
Here’s the breakdown…
Made from nuts (almonds and/or pecans), dates, and a hint of maple syrup (the dates being the “glue” that holds the crust together). Pulsed in the food processor and then pressed into mini tart pans.
The Chocolate Filling
This part takes a little planning, as you need to soak the cashews overnight (ditto for the cashew cream). The soaked cashews, dates, maple syrup, and melted dark chocolate, along with a few other ingredients, go into the food processor until well combined. Spooned on top of the crust, finished with a sprinkling of raw cacao nibs for crunch, and then into the fridge to chill.
The Cashew “Cream”
If nothing else, make the cashew cream and enjoy it on its own or with some fresh fruit. It’s exceptionally good! Soaking the cashews overnight and then blending at high speed make the cashews super smooth and creamy, reminiscent of, well, cream. Just a hint of sweetener (honey) and a splash of pure vanilla extract, and you won’t want to put it down. I can easily lap it up with a spoon straight out of the blender jar. I’ve read that hazelnut “cream” is also good, but have yet to try.
The Roasted Cherries
While you can plop a few raw cherries on top of the tarts and call it a day, I like the taste of the roasted cherries. When roasted in the oven with a bit of fortified wine — such as Sherry, Madiera, Marsala, or Port — the cherries get nice and soft, and a bit caramelized, with a toasty nuttiness. Just watch carefully, as they have a tendency to quickly char.
Chocolate Cherry “Rawish” Tarts
makes 2 3 3/4-inch tarts (refrigerate until ready to eat)
1 cup raw pecans and/or almonds
2 large Medjool dates, pits removed
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
2 teaspoons mesquite powder (optional)
pinch of sea salt
Place all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until well combined. Divide the mixture in half amongst two 3 3/4-inch tart pan with removable bottoms. Press the mixture into the bottom and sides of the tart pans. Set aside.
Note: used a combination of slivered almonds (lightly toasted in a dry skillet) and raw pecans
1 cup cashews
4 large Medjool dates, pits removed
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons Mexican chile powder such as (mild) ancho, (medium) chipotle, and/or (hot) guajillo
3/4 cup shaved dark chocolate (preferably 70% cacao or greater)
raw cacao nibs for topping
Soak the cashews overnight with just enough water to cover, drain. Soak the dates with 1/2 cup of water for 10 minutes (reserve the soaking liquid).
Add the cashews, dates and reserved 1/2 cup soaking liquid, maple syrup, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and ground chile powder to the food processor and process until well incorporated.
Using a double burner, melt the chocolate. Add the melted chocolate to the food processor with the rest of the filling and pulse to combine.
Divide the filling between the two tart pans. Sprinkle raw cacao nibs on top. Place in the fridge to chill, about 1 hour.
Note: used a combination of ancho, chipotle, and guajillo (1/2 teaspoon of each) powder, which collectively impart just a hint of heat on the back of your palate. Feel free to use whatever chiles you like, omit or cut back, according to your preference.
2 cups cashews
1/4 cup honey
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Soak the cashews overnight with just enough water to cover, drain. Add the cashews, honey or agave, and vanilla extract to the blender, with just enough water to cover, about 3/4 cup. Blend on high speed until very smooth and creamy.
Note: this makes more than you’ll need, so you could easily cut in half; then again, when something tastes this good, you’ll want to make the whole batch.
12 ounces fresh cherries
1/4 cup fortified wine (such as Sherry, Port, Madiera, or Marsala), divided
2 tablespoons brown or coconut palm sugar
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Toss the cherries with 2 tablespoons of fortified wine and the sugar. Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of fortified wine, and roast for another 10 minutes, checking and shaking the pan every few minutes to make sure they don’t burn.
Note: you can pit the cherries before roasting or roast with the pit.