vegan dark-chocolate + salted caramel cheesecake

Deception is a funny thing. Generally speaking, I’m not a fan, especially when at my own expense, and surely I speak for the majority of the human race here. However, deception is most welcome in one particular instance: dessert. Deceive me all you like. Tell me that dessert is going to be flowing with caramel, studded with crunchy, chocolatey pieces. Brag about its creamy texture and how it can wash my tears away. Tell me its deceptively wholesome – two harmoniously, co-existing words. I’m a big fan.

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Deception describes this very recipe which I’m passing onto you, one that will seem naughty, indulgent, decadent, and believe me, it is, but for all the right reasons. You’ve got cashews and coconut cream lending to the filling’s creamy texture; there’s unrefined rapadura in the silky caramel topping. Oh, and that crunchy base? Heart-healthy nuts and magnesium-rich cocoa. You can’t go wrong. This rich little number is so silky, so smooth, so filling that you’ll only need a little piece to make the world a better place. All the while, you’ll be deceiving yourself.

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vegan dark-chocolate + salted caramel cheesecake – gluten free, vegan + almost raw (caramel topping is cooked) – makes 1×7″ cheesecake – loosely adapted from Deliciously Raw and Bojon Gourmet

you’ll need…

for the caramel topping:

  • 3/4 cup coconut cream (what’s remaining of a 270ml Ayam-brand can after removing 1/4 cup for the filling below)
  • 1/2 cup rapadura sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • cocoa nibs and sea salt flakes, for presentation

for the base – adapted from Deliciously Raw:

  • 1/2 cup macadamias
  • 1/4 cup almonds
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 1.5 tsp dark cocoa (increase to 3 or so tsp if using regular/raw cocoa)
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla powder (or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract)
  • 3 Medjool dates, pitted
  • pinch of salt

for the filling – adapted from Bojon Gourmet:

  • 300g cashews, soaked for 8 hours or overnight, drained
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla powder (or 1 tsp vanilla bean paste/vanilla extract)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 4 tblsp dark cocoa (increase to 6 is using regular/raw cocoa)
  • 1/4 cup coconut cream (I use Ayam brand – the remainder is used in the caramel above)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup melted cocoa butter

here’s what you do…

  1. Begin the caramel by combining all ingredients in a small saucepan and bringing to the boil. Turn down to a simmer and stir occasionally for 20 or so minutes until the caramel has reduced and thickened, then set aside to cool.
  2. While the caramel is cooking, prepare the base. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blitz until mixture is finely chopped and begins to come together. You want the mix to stick together when pressed between your fingers – add another date or two if this does not happen. Press the mix into the bottom of a lined 7-inch springform tin and freeze for now.
  3. For the filling, combine all ingredients except the cocoa butter and blend until smooth. Quickly add the cocoa butter and continue to blend until no more lumps remain (you may need a tamp to keep the mixture moving). Pour the mixture over the base and refrigerate until set (4 hours) or place into the freezer to hasten the process. Keep in the fridge once set.
  4. Spread the cooled caramel over the set cheesecake and sprinkle with cocoa nibs and sea salt upon serving. Lasts 4 or so days in the fridge – if you can keep it that long!
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honey + roast macadamia ice-cream

I was scared of the dark, as most wee ones are, with each and every bump in the night amplified in my head. I would often have a sleepover at my Nonna’s house, and with my Nonno having passed many years earlier, her queen-size bed was only half full. It was my spot when I’d come to stay. She would let me cuddle up next to her, allay my fears by promising (read: fibbing) her toy poodle would scare off any monsters, and just before bed, we’d have a mug of warm milk and honey. Milky-sweet and soothing, it was to help me sleep, and it often did. If I could embody this home remedy in an ice-cream, this is the one.

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Although it’s only the end of winter, I felt it fitting to use up the egg yolks in my fridge in this ice-cream recipe I’ve wanted to try for years. The page had been ripped from a very old issue of New Idea (thanks, Mum) and has significantly yellowed, totally vintage. Creamy, rich and oddly warming, the roast macadamias give it a real grown-up touch, perfectly complementing the honey. Try to use good-quality honey that can lend a distinctive taste as well as sweetness. Serve in your finest waffle cone, or eat straight from container (guilty, as charged).

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honey + roast macadamia ice-cream – adapted from New Idea – refined-sugar free, gluten free

you’ll need…

  • 3 cups whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup macadamias
  • 4 whole eggs, plus 2 extra egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup good quality honey

here’s what you do…

  1. Preheat oven to 180C. Place cream into a medium-sized sauce pan and gently bring to a simmer.
  2. Place nuts on a baking tray and roast for 8 or so minutes, watching carefully so they don’t burn. You want them to be slightly golden brown. Chop roughly.
  3. Place the eggs, yolks and honey in a medium-sized bowl and whisk until combined. Once cream has come to a simmer, slowly pour into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so as not to curdle the eggs. Pour the entire mix back into the saucepan, and place over low heat, stirring constantly until it thickens (about 5-8 min). You want the mix to coat the back of a wooden spoon.
  4. Strain the custard and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions, popping the nuts in about 10 minutes before the end of the freezing cycle (once the ice-cream has significantly frozen and thickened up so the nuts don’t fall to the bottom of the mix). If you don’t have an ice-cream machine, pour into a deep tray, cover and freeze until there is a solid rim of frozen custard around the rim. Transfer to a chilled bowl, beat vigorously with electric beaters, and stir in the nuts. Return to the tray and freeze until firm.

chewy pistachio shortbread + lemon curd sandwiches

I adore the gorgeous green hue pistachios lend to whatever they pair with, whether it be a buttery biscuit or as a pesto rubbed into chicken. It’s vibrancy can brighten up any  dish, and they are fabulously delicious. Whilst craving a quick sweet last night, I envisaged something teaming with the fresh lemon curd I had made earlier in the week. Crispy and short, these biscuits were the perfect fit, and because the only thing better than a biscuit alone are biscuits with delicious things between them, right?

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I made a beeline for the kitchen, annoyed I hadn’t thought ahead and allowed the butter to come to room temperature for any upcoming baking. Then I found this recipe calling for cold butter, prompting a small victory dance. Said dance was repeated when I devoured the finished product. You’ll soon see why!

The silky lemon curd has the perfect acidity coupled with the buttery biscuit, and these babies are so light and more-ish you’ll be tempted to finish the entire batch, which is totally not what we did, honest. Lies aside, these make the perfect midweek treat, being quick, simple, and the best part, they only use one appliance: your trusty food processor.

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chewy pistachio shortbread + lemon curd sandwiches – makes approx 30 ‘sandwiches’, or if done in a half batch, 15

you’ll need…

pistachio shortbread – adapted from epicurious

  • 1.5 cups plain flour
  • 1/2 cup golden icing sugar (simply unrefined icing sugar, sub in regular icing sugar if you cannot find)
  • 1/2 cup unshelled/unsalted pistachios
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 170g chilled butter, cut into 1cm cubes
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

lemon curd – adapted from Sweetapolita

  • 4-6 lemons, depending on their size/juiciness
  • 2 whole eggs plus 4 egg yolks
  • 1 cup raw/golden caster sugar
  • 60g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

here’s what you do…

  1. For the shortbread, process flour, sugar, pistachios and salt until nuts are roughly chopped. Add butter, egg yolk and vanilla, processing until dough comes together into a moist ball.
  2. Weigh the dough, and divide equally in half. Roll each half into a 20x3cm log and wrap in cling film. Freeze for 30 minutes or until firm. For 30 cookies/15 sandwiches, use only one log. For 60 cookies/30 sandwiches, use both.
  3. Preheat oven to 160C (fan forced). Slice log into 0.5cm thick rounds and place onto a lined baking tray, baking until slightly golden on edges (approx 14 min). Cool on trays completely.
  4. For the lemon curd, finely zest lemons until you have 2 tsp of zest and set aside. Juice lemons until you have 160ml of juice. Place into a large heatproof bowl with the zest, eggs and egg yolks, sugar and butter.
  5. Bring a large saucepan to the boil with 1 inch of water (one that fits the heatproof bowl over the top snugly) and then turn down to a simmer. Place the bowl of lemon mixture on top and whisk constantly until thickened, approx 7-10min. To test if it’s ready, put a wooden spoon into the mix and see if it coats the back of the spoon, meaning it’s cooked. Strain into a large bowl, then place into sterilised jars.
  6. To assemble, spread curd onto cooled biscuits and sandwich with another biscuit. Enjoy!

baked ricotta with honey, orange + toasty walnuts

I’m definitely a sweet-toothed-breakfast kinda gal. Not in the sense that I require a batch of breakfast brownies at the ready as I roll out of bed (although, that’s got me thinking…), I just prefer the fruity, lighter options to start the day. I’ve been looking for inspiration, something different to add to the morning repertoire, and after the hubby bought 1kg of the creamiest ricotta for a recipe that only required 100g, I was left with much web-trawling time to find a use for the remaining 900g. I knew where my search would begin.

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Gourmet Traveller always have the most unique and, well, gourmet recipes with a great search function that allows you to find a recipe for any ingredient you’ve got lying around. This one in particular jumped out at me, being won over simply by the recipe’s picture. Oh, and it’s simplicity! The ricotta ends up soaked in this gloriously sticky-sweet honey syrup that permeates every little air bubble within the creamy cheese. I ran out of almonds, so substituted with toasty walnuts, a welcomed addition. I think you could use just about any nut – hazelnuts spring to mind also – and try it with maple instead of honey for a different kick. I kept it gluten free, opting to use almond meal instead of the plain flour. The result is the lightest, most moist and warming wedge of ricotta that paired perfectly with dense wholemeal spelt. So versatile, you could serve it with fresh fruit or as a light dessert – either way, it’s satisfied my mornings sweet-tooth in a relative wholesome way, that’s for sure.

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baked ricotta with honey, orange + walnuts – adapted from Gourmet Traveller – serves 4-6 – gluten free

you’ll need…

  • 40g butter, at room temperature
  • 55g raw sugar
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp almond meal
  • 380g dry, firm ricotta
  • 2 eggs
  • handful of toasted walnuts, roughly chopped
  • for the orange syrup:
    • zest of 1 orange, and juice of half the orange
    • 80gm honey

here’s what you do…

  1. Preheat oven to 240C. Beat the butter, sugar and honey in an electric mixer until smooth. Add in eggs individually, beating until well combined. Fold in the ricotta and almond meal (I use the lowest speed on my Kitchenaid).
  2. Transfer to a greased and lined 9-inch cake tin, smoothing mixture evenly in the pan. Bake for 12-16 min or until puffed and golden (mine took closer to 20 min – just keep a close eye so it doesn’t burn!).
  3. For the syrup, combine ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring until honey dissolves. Spoon it over the baked ricotta and then top with walnuts, serving it with some dark, rich sourdough.

oat + choc chip cookies

I want to blame my pregnancy cravings for my need to have freshly baked cookies within reach at all times, but I know this desire exists equally as much when I am not with child. The making, the baking, the dipping in the milk…it’s all a fantasy of the cookie process that is often lingering in the forefront of my mind.

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But as you know, one cannot snack on sugary, so-calorie-high-it’ll-make-you-hallucinate cookies all the time for the simple fact it’s not good for you (and one’s teeth might fall out). Good for your soul, yes. Good for your insulin levels and general health, maybe not. So, I’m always trawling for recipes that allow me to bend the rules about just how many cookies I can ingest before I head steadily into a sugar coma. And of course, I’m always conscious about the nutrition side of things. Well, ladies and gents, these are my perfect little morsels of heaven.

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I’m truly not a fan of the super-sweet cookie, preferring a much more substantial kind, one that could double as an afternoon snack with a glass of milk, and keep me going ’til dinner. These oat cookies are sweet enough to satisfy your cravings, yet wholesome enough and not likely to spike your sugar levels. Oh, and you don’t even need stirring utensils! All you need is the one bowl and your two hands. I’ve amended the recipe from The Healthy Chef, simply to suit my own tastes and because I can’t leave well enough alone. I’m certain you’ll love these, especially when dunked into a tall glass of milk. If you prefer a more chewy cookie, decrease the sugar to 1/3 cup, although they’ll be slightly less sweet of course. I often make them with the lesser amount of sugar during the week for the kids and make a cheeky batch for the hubby and I with that just touch more sugar. We deserve it.

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oat + choc chip cookies – adapted from The Healthy Chef – makes 12 – wheat free (can be gluten free if oats are certified)

you’ll need…

  • 2 cups/200g rolled oats (traditional style)
  • 50g desiccated coconut
  • 1/2 cup rapadura sugar (decrease to 1/3 cup for a more chewy, less sweet cookie)
  • 60g melted butter
  • 1 free-range egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 100g 70% cocoa choc chips

here’s what you do…

  1. Preheat oven to 150C and line a baking tray with baking paper. Combine all ingredients except the choc chips, mixing and squishing with your hands until the oats start to stick together. Let mixture rest for a few minutes to allow oats to soften.
  2. Add in the choc chips and mix through. Using an ice-cream or cookie scoop (or simply your hands) form into little mounds and place on the tray. You should have around 11 or 12. I use this OXO Cookie Scoop – it’s a lifesaver.
  3. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown, checking half way through. Allow to cool on the tray. Serve with a tall glass of milk, at any time of the day you see fit.

graham-cracker carrot cakes, cream cheese swirl + nutty seed praline

There are 2 reasons why I love carrot cake: it can be wholesome enough to be considered part of your daily veggie intake (ahem) and its cake. Cake! And these aren’t so tooth-achingly sweet that you’ll be speed dialing your dentist for a check up. Plus it has your daily fat intake (cream cheese) and even a little protein in there too (cream cheese) so really, with the carrots, we’re looking at a complete meal right here. All your food groups, wrapped up in one neat, little package. But all that aside, these just taste really good. IMG_20150401_152103 It’s got an interesting addition of graham crackers (or granita biscuits, as we call them down under) which I’ve never tried in a cake mixture before, and while they aren’t overpowering in taste, they definitely add a little something. You won’t need any large equipment for this recipe either (unless you’d like to grate the carrots in your food processor) so it’s super simple. I’ve topped them with my favourite cream-cheese icing, a never-fail, pipeable, not-too-sweet mix which pairs well with the cakes’ earthy tones. Top it with crunchy nut and seed praline, and you’re onto a winner. Now, you just have to find your 4 other daily servings of vegetables, and you can call it a day. 2015-05-05 16.24.47 graham-cracker carrot cakes, cream cheese swirl + toffee praline – makes 9-10 cupcakes – can be made dairy free you’ll need… graham-cracker carrot cakes – adapted from smitten kitchen

  • 1/2 cup plain spelt flour
  • 50g granita or digestive biscuits, finely ground
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 2/3 cup rapadura sugar
  • 100g melted butter (or oil to make dairy-free)
  • 2 small, free-range eggs
  • 180g finely grated carrots (peeled)

cream cheese icing – adapted from annie’s eats

  • 140g cream cheese icing, chilled
  • 45g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 205g icing sugar, sifted
  • pinch of salt

praline

  • 40g pepitas
  • 40g almonds
  • 40g macadamias
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 90g caster sugar

here’s what you do…

  1. For the cakes, preheat your oven to 180C (160C fan forced). Line your cupcake tin with papers, or grease well.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, biscuit crumbs, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar butter and eggs until smooth, then add carrots. Pour wet ingredients into dry and fold in until just combined.
  4. Divide batter evenly between 9-10 cupcake cases (I use this cookie scoop to ensure consistent sizing of my cupcakes). Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle. Remove immediately onto a wire cooling rack
  5. For the praline, line a baking tray with baking paper. Toast the pepitas and nuts in a dry frying pan until slightly coloured and set aside.
  6. Put the sugar in the a small saucepan and place over medium heat (the pan must be big enough so the sugar is one fine layer instead of a thick one). Swirl the pan without stirring the sugar, and allow it to melt and become a mahogany-caramel colour.
  7. Pour the nuts into the saucepan, and working quickly, coat the nuts in the caramel and pour onto the baking tray. Place in the freezer for 10 minutes, or until hardened. Briefly pulse the praline in a food processor to break up into small pieces, or simply chop with a knife. Set aside.
  8. For the icing, combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium speed for 3 minutes. Add in the icing sugar and salt and mix on low for 30 seconds, then increase speed to medium-high for 3 minutes.
  9. To assemble, pipe swirls onto the cakes and top with the praline.

pear, berry + rose breakfast crumble

Here’s an idea: dessert for breakfast (you’re welcome). I urge you to read on and discover a recipe that can be a straight-laced midweek breakfast, or given a touch of naughty to transform it into the sweetest weekend dessert. It will truly warm you from the inside out. Either way, you’ll be getting a healthy dose of nuts, seeds, fruit and heart-loving oats! Neat, huh?

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Between the screaming children demanding their morning cereal, my voracious appetite and my eyes that insist on staying closed, some mornings leave me little (peaceful) time to organise a healthy breakfast before my blood sugar goes way underground. Enter this pre-prepared crumble which can be made 4-5 days ahead, and reheated as you need. I often make this in the evening, when its (you guessed it) peaceful, and sneak in a little taste tester. You’ll find, though, that the juices will thicken and soak more into the ruby-tinged fruit if left to cool down overnight then reheated in the morning.

It only takes 15 or so minutes to reheat in the oven (or microwave it in seconds flat – I do not have this time luxury) and you can do all this whilst having a shower, mopping up cornflakes or realising you’ve no clean clothes to wear to work. Time efficient breakfast – check. Feel free to leave out the rosewater if it’s not your thing, but it does add a beautiful floral note to the fruit. Serve with natural yoghurt, vanilla labne or organic cream.

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pear, berry + rose breakfast crumble – serves 4-5 – wheat free, refined sugar free

you’ll need…

  • 1 large pear, or 2 small ones, sliced thinly
  • 3 cups fresh/frozen strawberries, hulled
  • 1 cup frozen raspberries
  • 2 tbsp rapadura or coconut sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla powder or 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp rosewater or to taste (optional)
  • 1/2 cup almonds, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup macadamias, roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup pepitas
  • 2/3 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup dessicated coconut
  • 2 tbsp melted ghee or butter/coconut oil

here’s what you do…

  1. Preheat oven to 180C. Toss the fruit with 1 tbsp of rapadura sugar, 1/2 tsp vanilla powder, rosewater and a pinch of salt. Place into a 6 cup baking dish and spread out evenly. Alternatively, you could divide mixture between 4-5 baking dishes, baking fresh with the topping upon serving.
  2. Combine the nuts, pepitas, oats, coconut, ghee, remaining vanilla and sugar with a pinch of salt, and sprinkle over fruit in baking dish. Bake for 25 minutes, or until topping is golden and filling is bubbling up the sides a little. To allow juices to soak into mixture, let it cool down overnight and in the morning, take out a serving and reheat, serving with yoghurt or labne.