(Raw) Chocolate Orange Torte

Chances are you’ve heard about the Buy nothing project, by now a worldwide movement based on a gift economy. Local groups are sprouting up all over, connecting people living in the same area. The project was born out of the idea that one man’s clutter can be another man’s treasure, but it evolved into much more than that. Yes, you receive free stuff in the process (and declutter your home of the things you no longer want or need), but more importantly, it builds a sense of community, and closer relationships between neighbors who otherwise might not get to know each other past the occasional wave hello when they’re pulling out of their driveway rushing to the morning meeting. I love the philosophy behind the Buy nothing – reduce, reuse, rethink – and am grateful it put me in touch with like-minded folks I wouldn’t even know are out there. One of my most treasured buy nothing gems were sourdough bread starter and grains to make kefir from, both of which I have been trying to hunt down forever. As it turned out, a nice lady living just a couple of blocks from me had both, and was nice enough to share not just the products, but also her time in explaining how it all works and what to do and not do to keep the delicate cultures alive and thriving, which I appreciated even more!

And last week I was generously gifted another thing that made me happy – a Blender girl gluten-free vegan cookbook. I am a longtime green smoothie addict and have some kind of green drink for breakfast pretty much every day, but despite its name the cookbook isn’t limited to blended drinkable concoctions. There are soups, spreads, drinks, and even desserts in there. The pictures look amazing – I’d eat anything and everything from that book, and plan to try quite a few recipes from there.

And we started with this chocolate orange torte. Raw desserts seem to be all the rave lately, and for a very good reason: They’re mighty tasty, free from artificial sugars, flour, and butter, and they’re also pretty easy and fast to make. This wonderful torte was no exception: All I had to do was pretty much just to blend, grind, mix, and pour, and after giving the cake the appropriate time to firm up in the freezer I was rewarded with a rich, chocolatey finger-licking awesome goodness. It’s not a treat for the calorie-conscious, that’s for sure, but hey, coconut oil is good for you, and all those nuts supply omega fats… and protein… all the things your body needs. Shall we say dessert with benefits? 🙂 How rawsome is that?!

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Raw Chocolate Orange Torte

(adapted from the Tess Masters’ Blender Girl Cookbook)

 Crust:
  • 1 cup (160 g) whole raw almonds
  • ½ cup (80 g) firmly packed chopped pitted dates
  • ¼ cup (18 g) cacao powder, see Note
Filling:
  • 1 cup (240 ml) liquid coconut oil
  • 1 cup (240 ml) freshly squeezed orange juice
  • ¾ cup (180 ml) raw agave nectar, see Note
  • ½ cup (35 g) raw cacao powder
  • 3 cups (420 g) raw unsalted cashews, soaked for 2 hours and drained
  • ¼ teaspoon orange extract
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • pinch sea salt

+ shaved chocolate and orange – for decoration (optional)

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Method:
  1. To make the crust, grease a 7-inch (18 cm) springform pan with coconut oil. Process almonds, dates, and cacao powder in a food processor. If the dough doesn’t hold together, add some more dates. Press the dough into the bottom of the pan and refrigerate.
  2. To make the filling, put all the ingredients into your blender in the order listed and blend until smooth. You’ll have to stop the blender from time to time and scrape down the sides. Pour the filling into the crust, cover the pan, and freeze the torte for 8 hours.
  3. To serve, transfer the tote from the freezer to the fridge at least 1 1/2 hours before serving. Let the torte defrost in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, remove the sides of the pan and cut the torte into slices with a sharp knife. Keeping the slices together, return the cake into the refrigerator and continue defrosting for at least an hour before serving. (The remaining cake needs to be stored in the refrigerator due to the high amount of coconut oil. Take out of the fridge when ready to serve.)
Note:

Even though the cake won’t be technically raw anymore, you can sub raw cacao powder for unsweetened cocoa powder, and agave nectar for maple syrup. I also didn’t have orange extract, and used Grand Marnier in its place. As far as I can tell, it didn’t hurt anything 🙂

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Orange Cranberry Tartlets

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and I’m slowly getting in the mood. I cleaned out the big freezer yesterday to make room for the turkeys. Yes, the plural was intentional. I’ll be buying at least four, maybe more, depending on how many I’m able to cram in there. At this house, turkey is a perfect food for at least two reasons: 1. It’s meat, and my three cavemen won’t survive without meat. To them, life without meat is just not worth living. 2. It’s a lot of meat, so even if I’ll be birdsitting for four hours at first, basting the sucker around the clock, after those four hours are up, I won’t have to cook for at least three days. Which doesn’t mean I won’t set foot in the kitchen, of course, it just means that I’ll have a lot more time for baking what I want. Turkey in this house translates to bliss all around.

Another thing that can’t be missing at our holiday table are cranberries. I can do without the sweet potatoes and green beans, but I absolutely adore anything cranberry – from the special sweet and tart relish to accompany the bird, through cranberry breads, muffins (and martini!), to deep red cranberry color in my closet which works wonders for my complexion! But I digress; back to the kitchen, shall we?

I made these little tartlets around Thanksgiving last year, and I’ll be making them again next week. The base is Italian pasta frolla, a type of sweet and buttery shortbread dough, and the filling is just lots and lots cooked down cranberries with sugar and spices. I made the pasta frolla with regular gluten flour as well as gluten-free flour mix, and the recipe worked either way. The dough does need to be chilled before baking, but if you make the pasta frolla and the filling the night before, the recipe really comes together in a snap.

A great little holiday dessert – a perfect balance of sweet and tart, just the right size so you won’t need to share and won’t need to feel guilty for indulging either, not to mention a dessert that’s beautiful to look at. Just think about all the vitamin C lurking in the cranberries, and dig in!

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Orange Cranberry Tartlets

 Pasta Frolla:
  • 1 3/4 cup (235 g, 8 1/4 oz.) unbleached all-purpose flour (or gluten-free flour mix)
  • 90 g (3 oz.) powdered sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons, 113 g, 4 oz.) cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
Orange Cranberry Filling:
  • 4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • juice and zest from 1 orange
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
+ 1 egg, whisked with 1 tablespoon water/milk – for egg wash
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Method:
  1. Make the pasta frolla (shortbread dough): Place all the dry ingredients into the bowl of your food processor; pulse to combine. Add in the cold cubed butter and pulse couple of times, until the flour mixture resembles peas. Lastly add the lemon zest and the egg/egg yolk, and pulse until the dough forms a ball. Wrap the dough and chill it for at least two hours, preferably overnight.
  2. Make the Orange Cranberry filling: Combine all the filling ingredients in a small saucepan; and cook over low heat, stirring, until the cranberries burst open and the mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. (You are essentially making a quick jam.) Let the cranberry filling cool, cover, and refrigerate until needed. The filling can be made up to 2 days in advance.
  3. Assembling the tartlets: Lightly butter eight tartlet pans with removable bottom. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pasta frolla, and cut out circles a bit bigger than your tartlet pans. Ease the circles of dough into the pans and prick the bottom of the dough with a fork. Fill the tartlets with cold cranberry mixture and decorate the top with scraps of remaining dough.
  4. Chill the tartlets while you preheat the oven to 375 °F (190 °C). When the oven reaches the desired temp, place the tartlets on a big shallow baking pan, give them a coat of egg wash and bake for about 15 – 20 minutes until golden.

(makes about eight 4-inch tartlets)

Fresh Orange Tart

Feeding teenage boys is a doozy. I grew up with two sisters, and had absolutely no idea just how much a boy turning into a man can eat. If you have a little munchkin getting underfoot now, beware: In just couple of years he’ll shoot up seemingly overnight and starts devouring everything in sight. And I mean everything. All the time. Teenage boys are like vacuums: Never-ending suction of food.

You suddenly find yourself in a grocery store a lot more, to keep up with the growing demand. And when you come home and walk in with ten overflowing bags, the hungry creatures are already waiting. (I swear they must have some kind of a sixth sense – normally they can stay buried in their rooms for hours, but when they sense food, they’re in the kitchen in a nanosecond).

“I’m starving! What did you get?”

“You know, the usual: bread, milk, cheese, some peppers and tomatoes… Oh, I’ve also got some bloody oranges so you’ll have something to take to school for a snack.”

“Bloody oranges?” the older one asked with a smirk.

“Oh, those poor guys!” countered his brother. “Did they get into a fight or something?”

“Oh yeah, and it must’ve been a hard one. Look how badly bruised they are!”

They played with me for couple of moments, bouncing ironic comments off each other, having fun at their mother’s expense. (Warning # 2: don’t expect too much gratitude or respect from your teenage offspring. It’s just not what they do, so save yourself some disappointment and wait till they’re about 25). When they finally had enough, they reminded me of yet another nuance of the English language, which, as hard as I try, will never be my mother’s tongue. Bloody orange and blood orange are obviously two very different things: One you wouldn’t want to touch unless you’re a vampire, while the other is a sweet, juicy, crimson colored delicacy. Perfect to make some afternoon dessert from.

So I promptly decided the boys could have something else for a snack (they inhale anything, after all!), and started pondering what to make. Blood oranges have a thin skin, gorgeous dark red flesh, and tart-sweet taste reminiscent of raspberries.  I didn’t want to just hide them in some cake, I think they deserve better: I wanted to give them an opportunity to shine. And I have to say that the combination of a flaky crust, and candied orange slices placed on a bed of a sweet custard turned out to be just the perfect solution.

Beautiful presentation and a bloody good flavor to boot.

Orange tart detail

Fresh Orange Tart

Crust:
  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose four (for a gluten-free crust Bob’s Red Mill Pie Crust Mix works well)
  • ¾ cups (3 oz.., 90 g) powdered sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 1 stick (4 oz., 114 g) unsalted butter, very cold
  • 1 teaspoon fresh orange zest
  • 1 whole egg + 1 egg yolk
Orange-Vanilla Custard:
  • ¼ cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons fresh orange zest
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon orange liqueur (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 20 g (2 tablespoons) cornstarch
Candied Orange Slices:
  • 5 organic oranges, sliced very thin (I used combination of navel oranges and blood oranges)
  • 8 tablespoons of orange marmalade
  • 2 tablespoons of orange liqueur

Oranges in a bowl

Method:
  1. To make the crust: Place flour, powdered sugar, salt, and diced butter in the bowl of your food processor; pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the egg, egg yolk, and orange zest, and pulse until the dough forms a ball. Wrap the dough in a plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
  2. Butter and flour a 10-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Roll the dough between two sheets of parchment paper into a circle, and ease it into the pan. Dock the dough with a fork and put the pan in the freezer while you preheat the oven to 400 °F (200 °C).
  3. Fill the dough with pie weights or dried beans in a parchment paper, and prebake for 10 minutes. Remove the weights and bake for 10 – 15 minutes longer until golden. Let the crust cool completely before filling.
  4. For the custard filling: Preheat the oven to 350 °F (175 °C). Blend all the ingredients for the filling. Carefully pour the filling into the cooled crust. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, until just set but still a bit wobbly in the center. (If the custard browns too quickly, cover the top with aluminum foil.)
  5. To make the candied oranges: Blend orange juice, marmalade and orange liqueur until smooth; pour the mixture into a big, shallow pan.
  6. Slice the oranges into a very thin slices and arrange them in a single layer into the pan. Add water until the slices are submerged, and simmer them on a low heat until they are soft (20 minutes). Drain them well and let cool.
  7. Meanwhile, reduce the syrup from cooking oranges until very thick, jelly-like consistency.
  8. Preheat the oven to 325 °F (160 °C). Arrange the orange slices in a concentric pattern on the custard, brush them liberally with the reduced sweet syrup and bake until the top is lightly browned.

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