Thursday, October 10, 2013

AMAZING Pumpkin Tartlets (Vegan, Gluten-Free, and Fabulous!)

Yes, that's right. I said AMAZING.

As we know, I've been on a bit of a tartlet fix (as seen here and here)--and I'm planning at least two more before I force myself to find a new obsession--so I hope you're enjoying them.

In my estimation, the previous tartlets have been good. The chocolate crust on the pistachio tartlets was Oreo-esque in its crave-ability, and the smooth, custard-like filling in the lime tarts made me want to send my cans of sweetened condensed milk sailing straight into the trashcan.

So what warrants the title of AMAZING in today's tartlets?

1) Like both the pistachio and lime tartlets, these tartlets are gluten- and grain-free, loaded with vitamins and minerals, and jam-packed with filling protein and beneficial fats.

2) They contain only natural, minimally processed sweeteners.

3) Unlike the pistachio or lime tartlets, these tartlets are totally vegan-friendly.

4) Amazingly, in light of all of the above, they taste better than pumpkin pie!

That last one is my completely biased opinion, of course, but I hope when you try them, you'll agree.

Here are a few keys for success in this recipe:

1) Use roasted, salted pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds) and raw, unsalted cashews and pecans (otherwise you will need to adjust the salt). Raw nuts retain more of their natural antioxidants, but roasted pepitas have a deeper flavor and make for a crunchier and more attractive garnish.

2) Pulse the crust mixture in the food processor until you achieve the proper consistency. This will assure you do not create nut butter in this step. You are looking for fine, evenly textured crumbs.

3) Process the cashews for the filling into a smooth nut butter with the coconut oil before adding the remaining filling ingredients. Be sure to pause occasionally to scrape down the sides and knock some of the cashew bits out of the lid to achieve the smoothest consistency.

4) Let the tarts set in the fridge for at least 3 hours before preparing the caramel topping. This will allow the surface of the filling to firm up, making it easier to spread the caramel.

5) Heat the caramel mixture slowly over med-low heat so that it does not scorch. As soon as bubbles start to burst across the surface, cook for two minutes and then remove from the heat.

6) Keep the tarts chilled in the fridge until ready to eat.

With the silky texture of pumpkin pie in an all-natural, health-conscious, no-bake, easy-to-make, individually portioned format, these amazing tartlets are definitely something to be thankful for this holiday season.

 Amazing Pumpkin Tartlets

for the crust:
1/4 cup raw, unsalted cashews
1/2 cup raw, unsalted pecan halves
1/4 cup roasted, salted pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)
3 T coconut palm sugar
1/2 tsp ground Saigon cinnamon (aka cassia; real cinnamon would be fine as well)
2 T coconut oil, at warm room temperature so that it is liquid

for the filling:
2/3 cup raw, unsalted cashews
2 T coconut oil, at warm room temperature so that it is liquid
2/3 cup pure pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling; to make your own roasted pumpkin puree, see this post)
1 tsp freshly grated ginger root
1/2 tsp Chinese five spice powder (look for one that contains cinnamon, black pepper, star anise, fennel, and cloves)
1/2 tsp finely ground salt
5 T pure maple syrup

for the garnish:
1/4 cup coconut palm sugar
2 T water
1/3 cup roasted, salted pepitas

Place muffin liners in each of six large muffin cups. I use regular-sized muffin liners in large cups--the larger cups allow the liners to lay out a little wider. If you do not have a large-cup muffin pan, just use six cups in a standard-size muffin pan.

Place all the crust ingredients except for the coconut oil in the food processor and pulse until the pieces are almost uniform in size and the mixture resembles very coarse sand. 

Add the 2 tablespoons of coconut oil and pulse until the mixture resembles moist sand. 

When it is the proper consistency, it will easily stick together when pressed between your fingers.

Divide the mixture evenly among the six prepared muffin cups, firmly pressing the mixture into the bottoms and up the sides to form mini tart shells. 

Chill the crusts in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

Rinse out and pat dry the food processor bowl, blade, and lid. Add 2/3 cup cashews and 2 T coconut oil to the processor and process until you have a very smooth nut butter, making sure to pause once or twice to scrape down the sides and lid. 

Add the remaining filling ingredients and process until completely smooth, pausing to scrape down the sides as necessary. 

Spoon the filling evenly among the six crusts and let set in the fridge for at least three hours before garnishing.

To prepare the caramel, add 1/4 cup coconut palm sugar and 2 T water to a small saucepan. 

Stir to dissolve the sugar, and place over med-low heat, lifting the pan by its handle and swirling gently on occasion. 

As soon as bubbles begin to burst across the surface of the mixture, set a timer for two minutes. 

After the mixture has boiled for two minutes, remove from the heat and allow to cool for five minutes before spooning over the chilled tartlets. 

Sprinkle roasted, salted pepitas over the tops of the tartlets, and return them to the fridge to set completely, at least one hour, or until ready to eat. 

The tartlets will last up to 5 days, stored in airtight containers in the fridge, and should remain chilled until served.

Thanks for reading! Here's to Being the Secret Ingredient in your life.

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