Chocolate Caramel Cream Valentine’s Day Tart

chocolate caramel cream tart
chocolate caramel cream tart

With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, I thought I would create a special dessert for my sweetie. It had to be more than decadent. I wanted it to be lavish so he would know how much I loved him. That, and I wanted to enjoy an amazing treat with him. Eying my new tart pan, I decided that a layered tart would be perfect. The indulgent delight I made has several steps, one of which requires advanced preparation, so I am sharing with you a week early to give you time.

My final creation is an amalgamation of several recipes. One of the recipes was not vegan, but it only required a butter substitution. And, although the crust is baked, it didn’t have to be adjusted for high altitude due to its lack of leaveners. So, I brought together a chocolate crust filled with a layer of carmel-like goodness and topped with rich ganache. The combined result is similar to a gooey chocolate bar with a crust. Yes, happy Valentine’s Day to me, too!

Chocolate Caramel Cream Valentine’s Day Tart, with a nod to Rodelle Kitchen, Vegan Richa, and Deborah Durrant

Chocolate Crust

1 cup old-fashioned oats

1/3 cup all purpose flour

1/3 cup dark brown sugar

2 TBS dutch process cocoa powder

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

6 TBS cold vegan Flora Butter

Caramel Cream

3/4 cup pitted medjool dates (8-9 dates)

1 TBS almond butter

1 TBS agave syrup

1.5 TBS coconut oil

1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk

1/8-1/4 tsp fine sea salt, to taste

Chocolate Ganache

1 cup raw cashews

1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/2 cup raw cacao powder

1.75 tsp vanilla extract

Pinch sea salt

1/4 cup melted cocoa butter, allowed to cool but not harden

Advance prep: Soak 1 cup raw cashews for the ganache in cold water for at least 2 hours or overnight in the fridge.

Chocolate Crust: Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line the bottom of a 9” diameter removable-bottom tart pan with parchment paper, and lightly spray with oil. (This size is best. I used my new rectangular pan but had leftovers that I put in a small pan). Using a food processor, combine oats, flour, brown sugar, dutch process cocoa powder, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1/2 tsp salt, and vegan butter. Pulse until mixture resembles wet sand. Firmly press mixture into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Pressing down with the flat bottom of a measuring cup makes this easier. Bake for 12-15 minutes until the crust is firm. Cool the pan on a wire rack before filling the tart.

Caramel Cream: Soak the dates in hot water for 15 minutes. Drain the dates. Add drained dates to a food processor, along with almond butter, agave syrup, coconut oil, 1/3 cup almond milk, and 1/8 tsp salt. Process into a smooth puree. Taste and adjust for salt, the amount dependent on the salt content of your almond butter. Spread a thin, even layer of this caramel cream on the cooled, baked crust.

Chocolate Ganache: Drain soaked cashews and rinse under cold water. To a food processor, add drained cashews, 1/4 cup almond milk, maple syrup, raw cacao powder, 1.75 tsp vanilla extract, and pinch salt. Process for 1 minute. With the food processor running, slowly pour in the melted cocoa butter. Process until the ganache is smooth and glossy; this may take up to 5 minutes. Pour the ganache on top of the caramel layer in the crust. Smooth out with a spatula. Place in the fridge to set. After 15 minutes, remove the tart pan from the fridge and remove the tart from the pan. Peel the parchment paper off of the bottom and place on a serving plate.

Until next time, happy baking!

Pear-Raspberry Tart with Vanilla Pastry Cream

Pear Raspberry Tart with Vanilla Pastry Cream

Pear Raspberry Tart with Vanilla Pastry Cream

Before I went through pastry school, I had never made a tart. I don’t know why but tarts never got my attention. Then, part of my training was to make everything and, in doing so, I discovered something. I love making tarts! The art of pressing the crust ingredients into a shell can be very meditative. There is also the flexibility of making the crust raw or baked. And don’t get me started on fillings or toppings — there are so many to choose from!

For this recipe I began with a vanilla pastry cream filling. Then I chose to roast pears to put on top, as I had pears that needed to get eaten. Next I opted for a raw crust that began as a basic recipe but then got a bit crazy with the inclusion of some Kibo chickpea chips. (It was a creative dare, and they worked beautifully.) I threw in a bit of raspberry jam and fresh raspberries and my creation turned heavenly, although hubby said it needed some chocolate. He can be predictable.

Pear-Raspberry Tart with Vanilla Pastry Cream
(This recipe is separated into components as any or all of the parts may be made ahead and the tart assembled later.)

Vanilla Pastry Cream adapted from Rouxbe Online Culinary School
1 cup raw cashews, soaked for 3-4 hours to soften
3 ounces unsweetened almond milk
1 ounce agave syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of sea salt
Place cashews, milk, agave, vanilla, and salt in a high speed blender. Process on high until very smooth, scraping down the sides of the jar as needed. Place in the refrigerator until you are ready to assemble the tarts. (There will be extra, but it keeps in the refrigerator for a week.)

Tart Crusts
1 mini bag Kibo Himalayan Salt Chickpea Chips
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup almonds
1/4 cup finely chopped dates
1/2 tsp water, as needed
Lightly spray four mini tart pans with vegetable oil spray. Set aside. Place the chickpea chips into a food processor and process into a coarse meal. Pour the meal out into a bowl. (You will only need 1/8 cup of this meal). Put the walnuts and almonds into the food processor and pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Put 1/8 cup chickpea chip meal into the food processor. Add the dates a spoonful at a time, pulsing between additions, until the dates are incorporated and the mixture is crumbly. Add the water, a little at a time, and pulse until the mixture just holds together when pressed with your fingers. If the mixture seems a bit too dry, add another date. If the mixture seems a bit too wet, add a few more nuts. Spread the mixture among the prepared tart pans. Press the mixture thinly, firmly, and evenly onto the sides and bottom of the pans. (You can use a small glass or measuring cup to press down with). Put the pans in the refrigerator until you are ready to assemble the tarts.

Roasted Pears
1 tsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 pear, sliced thin
Preheat the oven to 375F. Mix the maple syrup and balsamic in a bowl. Add the pear slices and toss to coat. Pour the pears along with the liquid into a baking pan, arranging in a single layer. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes. Set on a wire rack to cool completely. Use immediately to assemble the tarts, or store in the refrigerator for up to several days.

ready for tart assembly
ready for tart assembly

To Assemble Tarts
4 mini tart crusts still in their pans
3-4 TBS seedless raspberry jam
Vanilla pastry cream
Roasted pear slices
12 fresh raspberries
For each tart, spread a thin layer of jam over the bottom of the crust. Spoon the pastry cream on top of the jam almost to the height of the crust. Lay several pear slices and a few fresh berries over the pastry cream. To serve, carefully remove the tart from the tart pan. For tips on how to remove a tart from a pan with a removable bottom, see this article.

Until next time, happy baking!

How to Make Essential Vegan Desserts

pear tarts from my final showcase

pear tarts from my final showcase

Earlier this year I mentioned that I was taking an online pastry class from Rouxbe Culinary School. It was a wonderful course that showed me how to refine and challenge my baking skills. Chef Fran Costigan explained techniques and ingredients that enabled me to build a stronger baking skillset. The course has delicious recipes, including the tarts in this photo that I prepared as part of my final dessert showcase. My final project was so much fun, and I was proud of how professional my vegan desserts looked.

The class, called Essential Vegan Desserts, teaches you how to make an array of scrumptious treats. I have shared a few course recipes on my blog, but if you want to join in the baking fun, the next cohort starts July 28. You can get information here. Or you can keep reading my posts and see where my new-found knowledge is taking me. I’m okay with that.