Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Apple Pie Tartlets a la Mode (Gluten-Free, Vegan)

Hoosband does not give compliments frivolously. If he thinks something is only so-so, it's not getting the Hoosband thumbs up. 

While his honesty is something I treasure, I'm always a little apprehensive to share my healthier creations with him, especially when they're inspired by the traditional version of something he loves. 

So when he came to the table with one of my Apple Pie Tartlets and a scoop of Coconut Milk "Ice Cream," after dinner the other day, I braced myself for the critique. 

"Wow. These are good," he said, taking another bite. "Really good. . . .  How healthy are they?"

"Healthier than anything else you're likely to enjoy this much," I told him. 

I'll be straight with you: This is not a low-calorie dessert. But more-importantly, it is not an empty-calorie dessert.

Packed with protein, fiber, and healthy fats (not to mention vitamins and minerals), this delicious riff on the all-American dessert delivers serious apple flavor and decadence in a perfectly portion-controlled package.

And this time of year, with the hustle and bustle and endless to-do-lists of the holidays, you might also appreciate that these sweet treats take a fraction of the time and effort of an actual apple pie. They're also make-ahead and no-bake, freeing up coveted oven space on the days before the big meal. 

Want to get your kids involved in the cooking process? My two-year old loves helping me push the buttons on the food processor, blender, and ice-cream maker. She can even help press the crust mixture into the muffin liners to form the tartlet shells. She's also pretty good at quality control along the way.  :)

Finally, if you or anyone on your guest list has a sensitivity to gluten, grains, eggs, or dairy, this is one dessert that gets the green-light. And with the Hoosband seal of approval, there's a good chance it'll get the thumbs up from the apple-pie purists in your home, too. 

Apple Pie Tartlets

for the crust:
2/3 cups raw, unsalted cashews
1 cup raw, unsalted walnuts
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon or cassia (Saigon cinnamon)
1/4 tsp fine-grain salt
2 T coconut palm sugar (or brown sugar)
2 T coconut oil

Line six cups of a large or regular-sized muffin pan with muffin liners. Set aside.

Place the cashews, walnuts, cinnamon, salt, and coconut palm sugar in a food processor, and pulse or process until the mixture is very finely ground, like coarse sand, pausing to scrape down the sides and lid as necessary. Make sure not to over-process, which would lead to making nut butter. Add the coconut oil, and process just until the mixture is evenly moistened and sticks together easily when you pinch a clump between your fingers.

Divide the mixture evenly among the prepared muffin liners. Press the mixture firmly into the bottoms and up the sides of the liners, making tartlet shells. Chill the shells in the fridge while you prepare the filling.

for the filling:
3 oz dried (dehydrated, not freeze-dried) apples, unsweetened and unsulphured
2/3 cup raw, unsalted walnuts
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
2 T coconut oil
1.2 tsp fine-grain salt
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon or cassia (Saigon cinnamon)

Rinse out and pat dry the processor bowl, blade, and lid. Place the dried apple pieces in the processor and pulse or process until all the pieces are approximately the size of rolled oats. Remove one cup of the apple pieces and set aside, leaving the remaining pieces in the processor. Add the walnuts to the processor and process until the mixture looks like a scrappy nut butter, pausing to scrape down the sides and lid as necessary. Add the remaining filling ingredients and process until completely smooth, pausing to scrape down the sides and lid as necessary. The mixture will look somewhat like a very thick caramel. Stir the reserved apple pieces into the filling mixture.

The mixture will be very dense and sticky. Use a spoon lightly greased with coconut oil to evenly divide the mixture among the prepared cups and gently spread it out in each one. Chill the tartlets in the refrigerator for at least one hour or until ready to eat.

Tartlets will last for a week, stored in airtight container in the fridge. They're actually even better after a couple of days!

Serve with Coconut Milk "Ice Cream," recipe follows.

Coconut Milk "Ice Cream"
1 can full-fat coconut milk (do not use "lite" or reduced fat versions)
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
8 dried, pitted dates
1/4-1/2 tsp fine-grain salt
1 vanilla bean

If using an ice-cream maker with a freezable canister, freeze the canister for 24 hours or longer for best results.

Place the coconut milk, syrup, dates, and salt in a heavy-duty blender. Use a paring knife to split the vanilla bean lengthwise. Use the dull side of the knife to scrape the tiny beans out of the pod, and add the beans to the other ingredients in the blender.

With the lid secured, blend the ingredients on high until the mixture is completely smooth. The mixture will likely be quite warm from the friction of the blades. Transfer the mixture to a metal bowl (metal will allow the mixture to cool more quickly than plastic or glass). Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator at least one hour--never add a warm ice-cream base to your ice-cream maker!

Freeze the ice cream according to the directions of your machine. If using a Cuisinart machine like this one, first set up the base, then get the canister out of the freezer and set it on the base. Place the scraper in the canister, place the plastic cover over the canister, turn the machine on, and, finally, get the chilled base out of the fridge and pour it into the canister. Right now you're probably thinking, "duh," but trust me, this process is important to get the best results.

When the mixture first starts to freeze, it will look very lumpy and grainy. Do not fear. By the time it is done, it should look smooth and creamy. You will know it is done freezing when it seems to all cling to the scraper in one big mass. Transfer the ice cream into a 12-oz plastic container with a tight-fitting lid, and place in the freezer for at least four hours or until ready to serve. Once completely frozen, the ice cream will be very firm and will benefit from sitting out on the counter for a minute or two for easier scooping.

Makes approximately 8 (1 1/2-oz) or 6 (2-oz) servings.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like these:

Pecan Pie Tartlets

Amazing Pumpkin Tartlets

Macadamia Coconut Lime Tartlets

Chocolate, Pistachio, and Mascarpone Tartlets

Vegan Berry Tartlets

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

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