Dessert · Recipes · Vegan

Huh?! VEGAN?! Caramel, peanut & chocolate tart

I am super chuffed about this recipe.  The result tasted so damn good you wouldn’t know it to be vegan and gluten-free (and possibly raw if you go with that option – see note below).  OK so it doesn’t compare to Parisian pastries but it’s still amazing…). AND it came about purely by accident (albeit a forced one…). I really don’t have a sweet tooth and baking, with all its required precision, is my least favourite food genre to experiment with. It’s just too strict in measurements and good results generally require a heap of processed sugar, flour and fat (not that there’s anything wrong with that in a final product if delicious enough… I just don’t necessarily want to put the nasties in my own meals).

Recently I had a killer week at work. Everything that could possibly go wrong did, plus more. A few great guys from the construction team made that week bearable and are solely responsible for the retention of my sanity. I wanted to thank them for their patience and support, and knowing they love their food (and KNOW their food), I thought a happy belly would be the perfect way… so of course I rattled out “I’ll make you a cake!”. No sooner had those words come out did I think:
(a) Why why why!? Baking is not my forte, this is supposed to be a thank you not a punishment…
(b) Maybe I’ll just buy a cake at the local pâtisserie, at least it’ll be good
(c) Must google ‘how to think before speaking methods’ to not shoot mouth off again… (in my defense, ‘Make you a cake’ sounds much more natural than ‘Make you dinner’…)
(d) All of the above
Answer (d).

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But a promise is a promise, so off I went thinking thinking thinking… what to make these burly men who have an impressive ability to pick which croissant comes from which local bakery, have a restaurant ranking system for crème brûlées (too runny, too much crunch, too burnt…), but who also like “real food”. Then, a lightbulb moment:  caramel, peanuts, chocolate – everyone loves that combination…  Dates are caramel-y, cashews are creamy… with a few tricks, no one will ever know it isn’t the ‘real deal’… Try it and watch your family and friends devour every mouthful.  Then calmly say “oh, by the way, it’s vegan”.  I guarantee their reaction will be “HUH?! Vegan?!”. One of the best things about this tart is that it’s really simple – all you need is a good blender or food processor, then it’s just about tossing each of the ingredients (layer by layer) into the machine and letting magic happen…

Caramel, peanut & chocolate tart
Makes 1 tart (9inch / 23cm) (serves 8–16)

Ingredients

Crust
1 1/2C oats (gluten-free if necessary)
1/3C almonds
1/3C walnuts
1/4C maple syrup
1/4C coconut oil (melted)
1/4tsp fine-grain sea salt
1/4 vanilla bean (or 1/2tsp vanilla extract)
Peanut filling
1/3C natural crunchy peanut butter
1/4C chopped dry roasted peanuts
1TB coconut oil
Caramel filling
420g pitted dates (khalas or medjool)
2TB coconut oil (melted)
1 vanilla bean (or 1 1/2tsp vanilla extract)
1/2tsp fine-grain sea salt
Cashew cream
1/2C raw cashews (soaked for >2hrs)
1/4C filtered water
Chocolate layer
80g dark chocolate (>70% cocoa)
pinch decorative sea salt flakes

 

Note: This recipe can be raw too (just don’t bake the base or caramel! Also sub chocolate for raw chocolate and watch peanut butter for raw nut butter). You’ll need to keep it well chilled (ie. frozen) and remove from freezer about it 30mins beforehand. Just note the base won’t be as crunchy, but still delish!

Directions
Preheat oven to 170°C (fan-forced) (if not going for the raw option).

CrustIMG_1975
1. Combine oats, walnuts and almonds in food processor and blend until a fine flour texture (slightly sandy) and slightly sticky (from the nuts). Add remaining crust ingredients and combine well. Dough should be slightly sticky to the touch (add more coconut oil (1/2TB at a time) if required.
2. Press into non-stick (or baking paper lined) tart dish of 9inch / 23cm. Prick a few times with a fork and place a sheet of baking paper with baking beads (or beans) on top to prevent crust from bubbling and steaming during the baking process.
3. Bake for 10-12mins. Remove baking paper and beads from the top, reduce oven to 160°C and bake for a further 10-15mins (or until golden though remember it will be returned to oven with caramel mixture). Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Caramel filling
1. Place dates, coconut oil, vanilla and salt in food processor or blender (whichever is stronger) and pulse. Keep pulsing until dates are finely chopped and increase speed to process mixture until smooth (you can add water to assist you blender, 1TB at a time and not too much!).

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2. Make the cashew cream by combining pre-soaked (and subsequently rinsed) raw cashews with water in a food processor (don’t worry about cleaning it after the date mixture). Process until smooth, frequently scraping down the sides to ensure a completely silky texture.

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3. Return the date mixture to processor and combine with cashew cream. Process until completely smooth, silky and caramel-y. Spread date mixture on crust and bake in oven for 8-10mins at 155°C (fan-forced). Remove from oven and cool in refrigerator (skip this baking step if going the raw route!).

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Peanut filling
1. Heat a small pan and add peanut butter, peanuts and coconut oil until mixture turns to liquid (Raw dieter: sub for raw nut butter and spread over date caramel).
2. Pour peanut filling on top of cooled date caramel. Cool in refrigerator.

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Chocolate layer
1. Melt chocolate over a double boiler (or in the microwave on a low setting) (raw food dieters, watch the temperature if using raw chocolate so it doesn’t go above 43C. Easiest way is to ensure water in double boiler is at 55C max). Spread melted chocolate over cooled peanut layer.
2. When almost set, decorate with sea salt flakes (I used gold but pink would also be pretty).

*Keep in refrigerator but remove 30-60mins before serving.

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Notes
1. These would make great mini tartlets or slice (think caramel slice). Use mini tart pans or a rectangular baking tray to experiment with this concept.
2. Play with the nut flavours in both the base and the filling: hazelnuts or cashews in the base would be delicious, as would hazelnut or almond butter for the filling. I’d probably chop some additional nuts into the filling too as most other (non-peanut) nut butters come in smooth form and I love the crunchy bits.
3. If your dates are not very moist, soak in warm water for 5mins prior to making caramel.
4. I actually used a stick blender to combine the dates and cashew cream because it is stronger than both my blender and food processor.
5. Try decorating with crushed nuts in place of salt.

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