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Mini pink plant based cheesecake tarts with hazelnut crust

It always amazes me how creamy a sauce or custard can become without any use of milk, cream or eggs. Soaked cashews blended with coconut milk or another liquid will produce an amazing silky cream. Cashews are also very versatile and they do well in savory meals as well as in sweet treats. People who eat strictly plant based may get tired of these nuts from time to time because they are omnipresent in the plant based diet but if you eat a little of everything and you enjoy trying new things, you will love these cheesecake tarts that I prepared with cashews. And they are gluten free as well as dairy free, making them a good option for people who have intolerances. They are also refined sugar free as they are sweetened with maple syrup, a small amount only. They do have quite a few steps and I used a few fancy ingredients such as pitaya powder and maca powder because I wanted to make something extra special but you can certainly make these without adding these two ingredients and obtain something similar, they just won’t be “pretty in pink”.

Ingredients  (12 mini tarts)

Hazelnut crust:

  • 1 cup + 1 tbsp. raw hazelnuts
  • 1 cup regular oats (use gluten free if needed)
  • 1 cup pitted dates (I use fresh Sayer dates but I’m sure Medjool would work)
  • ¼ cup unrefined coconut oil
  • A pinch of salt

Cashew cream:

  • 2 cups cashews, soaked in boiling water for 30 minutes, rinsed and drained
  • ¼ cup coconut oil
  • 1 tsbp. maca powder
  • 1 tsp. good vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp. pitaya powder
  • ½ cup of full fat coconut milk, well mixed
  • Juice from 1 ½ lemon
  • 3 tbsp. maple syrup

Preparation

  • Toast the hazelnuts by putting them on a baking tray and toasting them in a 350 degree oven for approximately 10 minutes. Watch them closely to make sure they do not burn. When you pull them out of the oven, their skin should be pulling apart. Let them cool a few minutes so they are OK to handle and take a clean kitchen towel, put the hazelnuts in the middle, close the towel and rub the nuts in the towel. This can be messy so you might want to do this over the sink. After you’ve rubbed them well, place the towel on the counter and open up gently to remove the hazelnuts which should be skinned. Some of them might still have a little skin, you can try and remove with your hands or you can redo the towel process to get them completely skinless. We remove the skin to remove the bitterness. It does make a difference, I can attest to this because I have tried to make recipes with hazelnuts that still had their skin and they were a little bitter.
  • Prepare a 12 cup muffin tray by greasing each cup with a little coconut oil.
  • Place the skinless hazelnuts with all the ingredients for the crust in a food processor and process until you obtain a crumbly mixture. There shouldn’t be any big pieces left but you don’t want to grind down to a paste either. The crust will be good with some texture.
  • Divide the crust mixture evenly within the 12 cups and press each cup with your fingers to make a little tart crust, pressing on the sides to obtain small borders all around.

 

  • Bake in the oven for 10 minutes until fragrant but again making sure these don’t burn.
  • Remove from oven and let cool.
  • While the crusts are cooling, make the cashew cream by putting all the ingredients for the cream into a clean blender and activating. I made mine with my Vitamix, which is a high powered blender, and it really makes a silky smooth cream. You may have to stop the blender a few times and mix with a spoon to even out the mixture. Taste and adjust. You may want to add a little more maple syrup if you prefer a sweeter taste or some lemon juice for more tang. The texture will be quite thick but easy to spoon into the crusts. Divide the mixture evenly between the crusts and top with a raspberry or other fruit. I filled my tarts with a lot of cream making them look like little cupcakes but you could also make them flatter like traditional tarts, using less cream and freezing the leftovers in little ice cube trays for smoothies.

 

 

  • Refrigerate or freeze for a few hours so that the cream gets firmer. It is possible to keep these in the freezer as well and they will keep longer if you do so. You will want to take them out of the freezer 15 to 25 minutes ahead of time so that they soften a little. I have eaten them straight out of the freezer but the cream part is a little too hard when frozen.

 

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