Two Raw, Vegan, Gluten & Refined Sugar Free Desserts This Dessert Lover Loved / by Julie Schumacher

20140924_forth-29I'm not going to lie, you guys. I don't get all giddy thinking about raw foods. I like my cheese melted and my bread toasted. And I really like cheese. And bread. And butter, flour, sugar–those paragons of baking.

But when I was mapping out the Fall menu I kept coming back to two raw, vegan, gluten free and refined sugar free dishes. In part because we like to have options for all the tummies we'll be serving but also because they were too damn good to pass up.

The first, this salted honey and fig cheese cake from House in the Hills. Which, I'll be honest, I was so excited about all the parts and all the pretty that I didn't even realize it was vegan and raw till well after I ooohed and ahhhed over it. Figs. They're just SO PRETTY. This dish was just so pretty.

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Raw honey and a Vitamixed-to-the-nines cashew cream. A pecan and walnut crust. So I was digging it all. Vitamixing is super fun.

I realized, though, that there was a freeze/chill/serve order here that would prove challenging with the drive to Workshop, photography, time before dessert was served. I was anxious it would set then be a warm mess before anyone tried it. I shot Sarah Yates, the woman behind House in the Hills, an email the night before and got a helpful, fast reply. Sometimes the internet is amazing.

Sarah also recommended not salting or honeying the dish in advance, which just aided our On the Side cause and let us use one of Kelly from NimbleWell's lovely salt cellars.

My tip is to be super mindful about the Whens. Figs are good for a day MAYBE two after you purchase them so buying in advance might not work out...and after talking to the folks at Whole Foods I learned figs go fast. So wait and it might not work out. You need to be fig'in careful about acquiring them.

And, since we're on salt, one more tip on procuring tiny salt tins. I started messing around with the power of different salts in baking and the fun of citrus salts two years ago. I've loved learning more about salts (which will come up later in the divine salted caramel sauce recipe) and often turn to Maldon salt for it's beautiful flaky crystals. Having it as a side in two dishes meant the chance to give these lovely little Maldon salt tins as takeaways. They are about the size of two thumbs snuggling side by side.

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Dish Two. Not only do I not love raw, but I'm not a pumpkin head. I have a pumpkin head (it is round, round, round) but the heralding of PSL-days is more about spiced apple cider for me.

I know and respect that the rest of the world goes gaga for this gourd. I found this delightful chai-spiced recipe from The Kitchn that had me convinced even I'd be down with the 'kin. 20140924_forth-31 The chai spice is what did it for me, as was the chance to offer pumpkin seeds as a pinch-able and colorful side versus all the pourable things I had been working with. This was fast, easy and handled an afternoon of travel and staging well. Of course it did. What does The Kitchn do that isn't stupendous? These are great in part because they chill overnight so you can cross it off your list before your anxiety dreams even start.

If you love the flavors of chai, I also recommend this spice blend to make and keep on hand for toast, coffee or tea, or to edge a cocktail glss.

The beauty about baking but not baking? It's harder to royally screw up. With the maple mess I was making all day it was good to have these two beauts prepped and chilling out while I destroyed the rest of the kitchen.

Am I a total convert to all-that-is-raw? No. Would I do these again? Why, yes. Yes I would. Gladly.

Next week: Desserts featuring Fall's harvest like cinnamon apples and poached pears.