What? Vegan raspberry dessert!

Steve and I met up with some of my old high school chums for dinner earlier in the summer. I was on the "what to bring" list for dessert and was up to the challenge when I learned that one couple is vegan and another long time friend is following a very restrictive diet, including no gluten. So what's a French style pastry chef to do?! Create of course.

On to the internet to research some options. I decided on a riff of a raspberry lemon chia "cheesecake" from the "Love and Lemons" blog. Curiously enough I also recently taught a vegan class at Sur La Table and found many similarities between this dessert and the one we made in class. The more I read about vegan desserts, the more I realize there are a number of ingredients that act as the base for many recipes. Cashews and Medjool dates are two of them.  While I don't plan to make many vegan desserts, it's good to understand the approach and what goes into them. It's all about learning.

This is basically a three layer dessert, and everything is raw. NO BAKING INVOLVED! Perfect for summer.

It's assembled in a basic 8"x4" loaf pan lined with parchment paper with a 1" overhang on each side.

First the walnut crust. 

This called for Medjool dates, but I used dried apricots instead (had 'em in the house, don't ya know). It's very simple. Measure 1 cup walnuts, choose 4-5 dried apricots and pop them in a food processor with 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt. Process until crumbly then press into the lined loaf pan.

Pop the pan into the freezer while you make the "cheesecake" layer.

"Love and Lemons" gives two options for this layer. The first involves raw cashews soaked for 4 hours, drained and blended with a variety of other ingredients similar to option two. I chose the second option which utilized a store-bought vegan cream cheeze in place of the cashews.

Blend 8 ounces plain vegan cream cheese with 1/2 cup full fat coconut milk, 1/4 cup maple syrup, 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, a tablespoon lemon zest and a teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Pour the filling over the walnut crust and freeze until firm, at least 2 hours.

The raspberry layer is thickened with chia seeds, but, since I didn't have those in my larder, I researched other ways to set a vegan dessert. Coconut flour is one of those thickening options, and guess what? I had some coconut flour at the ready.

Combine in a blender 12 ounces raspberries (fresh or frozen, either way), 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice, 2 tablespoons maple syrup and 2 tablespoons coconut flour mixed with an equal amount of water. Blend until smooth and pour over the frozen "cheeze" layer.

Freeze 4 hours or overnight.

When ready to serve, remove from the freezer about 20 minutes ahead, allowing it to thaw a bit. Lift it out of the pan by the parchment lining, slice and place on plates, letting the slices thaw another 15 minutes so they're not icy.

I must admit this was delicious! Cool and creamy with a nice lemony berry tang. And the group loved it too!