Sunday, 15 May 2016

Caramel + Cashew Cheesecake Squares (Vegan + Gluten Free)

B A K E  0 0 1.
I finally crossed the finish line this past week as I marked the end of four long ass years at University and it's safe to say that I'm a mixed bag of emotions with regards to non-student life.
Having studied Darwin & Gray as a part of my Masters Degree, one of my post-uni resolutions was to create an online journal to jot down a little bit of what goes on behind the scenes as well as travel adventures, tried and tested (& super tasty) recipes as well as the odd tips that I've picked up running Darwin & Gray to look back on myself as well as sharing with whoever happened to stumble across them. 
To kick off the B A K E journal, I give you these insanely good vegan cheesecake squares, I've adapted them from one of my favourites over at www.minimalistbaker.com. Also, I'm not Vegan but I am Vegetarian and although I used to hate cooking, I have become truly obsessed with it the past few months, finding alternatives or healthier choices has become a bit of an obsession for me so naturally it has translated into my baking. 
Y O U  W I L L  N E E D
(Makes 8 Squares)

C R U S T
100g Pitted Dates
55g Walnuts
A pinch of salt

F I L L I N G 
90g Cashews
1 tbsp Agave
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
60ml Coconut Milk
Pinch of Salt
1 tbsp Lemon Juice
1 1/2 tbsp Olive Oil

F I N I S H E S 
75g Pitted Dates
5 tbsp Hot Water
Handful of broken up Cashews
4 squares of Dark Vegan Chocolate
(Or your favourite chocolate if you're not Vegan)

E Q U I P M E N T  
Food Processor or Blender
Brownie/Loaf/Cake Tin
Baking Paper
Foil

L E T ' S  B A K E   

O N E 
Pop your cashews into a bowl of boiling hot water, set aside for 1 hour to soak then drain all of the water off. 
T W O 
Whilst they're soaking, let's make the crust.....Blend your dates in a food processor until they are crushed into small chunks, empty this and place to one side.
Now add your walnuts and salt to the processor and mix until it is all ground down, now add the dates back into the food processor and blitz again until it is all combined together in a sticky dough. I then tipped this whole mixture into a bowl and brought it together more with my hands. 
Now your crust mixture is ready, line your tin (I used a standard loaf tin) with baking paper to make the removal easier later. Tip your mixture into the tin and press with the back of a spoon to fill the base, place this into the freezer to set.
T H R E E 
Whilst your food processor is sticky from the crust mixture, pop the rest of your dates in with a few tbsp's of HOT water and blend. Keep adding a little more water until it creates a caramel-esque sauce. Place this to one side until it's time to use it. Now give your processor a quick clean. 
F O U R 
Your cashews have been soaking and are now all drained and soft. Throw all of the filling ingredients into the processor and blitz until everything is completely blended down into a smooth cream-like consistency. Have a quick taste and add extra shots of flavour if desired such as Agave for extra sweetness or Lemon juice to make it a little more tart. Now grab your crust from the freezer. 
F I V E 
Time to layer it up!
Your crust should be set (mine only took half an hour) so pour your filling mixture all over the top and spread evenly. Using a teaspoon, dribble your date caramel randomly all over the top and sprinkle on half of your cashews. Now tap your tin on the counter so your caramel and nuts sink a little into the mix.
Cover with foil and keep it in the freezer until it is completely set, it can take 5+ hours to get completely firm so I recommend you make it either in a morning for that evening or at night to be left to set whilst you sleep.
S I X 
Now for the finishing touches. Melt your chocolate, you can either use a bowl over a boiling saucepan or simply use the microwave in 30 second stints until it is fully melted. Drizzle the melted chocolate sauce all over the top of the cheesecake, sprinkle the rest of the broken cashews on the top of the chocolate quickly before it sets. 
Cut into squares, slices or simply eat the whole thing.

Ps. If there is any left, pop them back in the freezer to keep them firm.
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