• Stir It Up: V is for Valentine — and vegan
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     | February 07,2014
     
    Photo by Kate Lewis

    A dairy-free chocolate tart with a nutty almond crust is a perfect way to say “I love you” on Valentine's Day. The photo and recipe are from “Vegan Chocolate” by Fran Costigan.

    Valentine's Day (just a week away) is all about love. And chocolate.

    So it's not surprising to fall in love with a book about chocolate. What is surprising is that the book in question is “Vegan Chocolate” by Fran Costigan. She makes chocolate desserts to die for, but because they are vegan (no animal fats, including butter), they are much healthier for your heart.

    Costigan adopted a vegan diet after her first job as a pastry chef, when she found herself suffering from digestive problems and fatigue. She felt great on her regimen, she writes, but missed dessert. Back in the '90s, she says, vegan desserts were mostly “mediocre to awful” — heavy, gummy, “health-food-style” creations. The worst offenders were carob sweets passed off as chocolate. She set out to remedy that; her book is proof that she has.

    A vegan diet — or even a partly vegan diet — has been recently promoted by more mainstream writers like Mark Bittman of The New York Times as a way to lose weight and lower cholesterol while helping reduce the high concentrations of greenhouse gases that result from cattle and dairy farming. What better day than Valentine's Day to say “I love you” to that special someone, or your kids, or the planet?

    Raspberry Chocolate Silk Tart

    (See note)

    Yield: One (9-inch) tart or pie

    For the crust:

    ½ cup all-purpose flour

    ½ cup all-purpose whole-wheat pastry flour

    ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

    ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

    ¾ cup whole almonds, toasted and ground into a fine meal

    ¼ cup mild-tasting extra-virgin olive oil, or other neutral vegetable oil, plus more for greasing the pan

    ¼ cup pure Grade B or Dark Amber maple syrup

    1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract

    1/8 teaspoon almond extract



    For the filling:

    7 ounces best-quality dark chocolate (66 to 70 percent cacao), finely chopped

    ¾ cup canned unsweetened full-fat coconut milk, well stirred (do not use light)

    ¼ cup granulated sugar

    ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

    ¾ cup frozen raspberries, thawed

    3 tablespoons plus ¼ cup seedless raspberry jam

    1 tablespoon framboise liqueur (optional)

    1 tablespoon mild-tasting extra-virgin olive oil

    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

    ½ to 1 pint fresh raspberries, red and golden for garnish (optional)

    2 to 3 tablespoons confectioner's sugar for garnish (optional)



    Make the crust: Line a baking sheet with parchment. Place a nonstick 9-inch tart pan with removable sides or a pie plate on the sheet. Coat the pan lightly with oil.

    Sift the flours, cinnamon and salt into a bowl. Whisk in the ground almonds.

    In a small bowl, whisk the oil, syrup and extracts together and pour over the dry mixture. Mix thoroughly. Press into the prepared pan and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

    Place the baking sheet with the tart pan on the center rack and immediately reduce the temperature to 350 degrees. Bake 15 to 18 minutes, or until sides are lightly browned and bottom looks evenly dry. If it puffs up, just deflate lightly when you remove it from the oven.

    Set the baking sheet on a wire rack. If using a tart pan, wait 5 minutes. Lift the pan onto a jar or can; the sides will slip off. Carefully move the crust to the wire rack and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate or freeze until cold before filling.

    Make the filling: Put the chocolate into a medium heatproof bowl and set aside. In a small saucepan, bring the coconut milk, sugar and salt to a low boil over medium heat, stirring a few times. Pour over the chocolate. Swirl the bowl to ensure the chocolate is submerged. Cover with a plate and set aside undisturbed for 4 minutes.

    Meanwhile, mash the thawed raspberries with a fork and press through a fine mesh sieve into a small bowl (you should have about 3 tablespoons). Stir 3 tablespoons of the raspberry jam and the framboise (if using) into the puree and set aside.

    Uncover the bowl of chocolate and whisk until smooth. Stir the raspberry puree, oil and vanilla into the chocolate mixture.

    In a small bowl, mix 1/3 cup of the chocolate mixture with the remaining ¼ cup raspberry jam and spread over the crust. Chill about 30 minutes or until set. Pour the remaining chocolate mixture into the tart crust. Cover loosely with foil or plastic wrap and chill until the filling is set, at least 2 hours and up to 48.

    To serve: Garnish with fresh berries and a sprinkling of confectioner's sugar, if desired. For the neatest slices, cut the tart cold, but serve at room temperature.

    Note: Costigan's recipes specify organic flours, sugars and oils, and free-trade organic chocolate made without milk solids.

    (Recipe slightly adapted from “Vegan Chocolate” by Fran Costigan; Running Press, 2013)



    Marialisa Calta is a syndicated food writer who lives in Calais.

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