Salted Caramel Chocolate Nut Tart
Vegan, Paleo; no gluten, grain, dairy, soy, legumes, egg, citrus or cane sugar
I have prepared this often and I don’t think anyone has eaten it and not released a pleasurable sigh like a happy balloon. Originally a recipe from the excellent gourmandeinthekitchen.com, I have made numerous adjustments, especially to simplify instructions, decrease sweeteners, and make the ganache-style topping creamier. The result is rich and satisfying, so serve in small portions.
The crust is made with almond flour instead of flour from grain, such as wheat or rice. This makes it moist and high protein, but also expensive. Almond flour is made from blanched then very finely ground almonds; purchase from most supermarkets, and health stores, or online such as from the natural grocer.co.nz. Ordinary ground almonds, especially if unblanched, will not bind well. The crust has a believable cookie-like texture that slices beautifully.
Next is a caramel and nut filling – walnuts or hazelnuts are ideal for flavour – and a topping of rich chocolate with a pretty white sprinkle of flaky sea salt. A deservedly classic combination. I’ve kept it for over a week and it still tastes great. Ideal for making ahead when entertaining. The crust can also be prepared or baked ahead and filled later.
Most of my desserts are straightforward. Here there are 3 components to make, but each stage is simple and quick – and definitely worth the effort.
2 cups almond flour*
¼ tsp flaky sea salt
¼ cup (60 ml) cold-pressed coconut oil*
¼ cup maple syrup (or mild honey, but this is not vegan)
In a bowl combine the almond flour and salt. Over low heat, melt the coconut oil. Remove from heat and stir in maple syrup or honey. Pour into flour mixture and stir to combine. Lightly oil a short sided 23 cm (9”) pie dish. Press the mixture firmly onto the base and sides.
Bake at 180°C (350°F) for 12-15 minutes until golden, not dark. If in doubt, slightly under-bake. Remove from oven and set aside to cool to room temperature before filling. If preferred, crust can be chilled overnight or longer.
Caramel Nut Filling:
160g dates (generous 1 ¼ cups)
½ cup (120ml) of warm water
¾ cup walnuts or hazelnuts
2 Tbsp cold-pressed coconut oil*, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract*
Soak dates in warm water for 15 minutes or overnight. In a sturdy frypan, toast the nuts (no oil is needed) over low-medium heat until lightly browned. Watch carefully and stir frequently. Coarsely chop the nuts.
In a food processor add the dates and water, coconut oil and vanilla. Whiz until smooth. Stir in the nuts. Pour mixture evenly onto crust. Chill while preparing Topping.
Ganache-style Chocolate Topping:
¼ cup (60 ml) cold pressed coconut oil*
¼ cup + 2 Tbsp (90 ml) Milk Option*
¼ cup (60ml) maple syrup (or mild honey, but this is not vegan)
½ cup cocoa or cacao powder*
¼ tsp flaky sea salt
In a small saucepan, over low heat, melt the coconut oil. Stir in Milk Option. Remove from heat and stir in maple syrup to combine. Stir in cocoa powder. Beat with a fork or small whisk until smooth. Pour evenly over the nut mixture. Smooth top. Chill for 1 hour or days. Before serving, sprinkle with flaky sea salt (over time some salt melts).
Shopping and Preparation Tips*
• Almond flour: very finely ground from dried, blanched, skinless almonds will give the best result. This makes it act and bind more like flour than just ground nuts or almond meal (which gives a crumbly texture). Purchase from health stores, some supermarkets or more economically online, such as www.naturalgrocer.co.nz
• Cocoa or Cacao powder: Cocoa powder has been roasted (less expensive, more bitter), while cacao powder is not roasted (raw, more expensive, less bitter). Use measure for measure.
• Coconut oil: white, solid and available in jars from health stores and most supermarkets. Best quality is virgin or cold-pressed and organic, such as Ceres brand. Flavour and aroma should be mild. Less prone to oxidation and damage by heat than most other cooking oils. High in medium-chain fatty acids such as lauric acid, which can enhance immunity through antiviral and antibacterial benefits. Most oils and fats contain long chain fatty acids that are harder to break down and more readily stored as fat. Use to replace oil or butter, especially in baking recipes.
• Milk Options: organic cow, goat, soy, oat, almond or hazelnut milk is available in most supermarkets. Or use rice milk – to each cup 1 Tbsp coconut cream or mild cold-pressed oil can be added for more body. Use options in the same quantity as regular milk called for in recipes. Check packet milks for added sugar; ensure soy milk is made from the whole bean (less processed). Pure Harvest is a good brand with many varieties; whole, organic.
• Vanilla and other Extracts: use top quality vanilla without artificial additives; it and other real flavours such as almond are often termed extract (as opposed to faux essence, often labelled ‘vanillin’). Good brands available locally and overseas are: Heilala Vanilla and Equagold. These are in most supermarkets and health stores.