Sweetened black sesame paste is such a mega-superstar in desserts! I could not resist incorporating it into my favorite raw cashew "cheesecake" bars. Besides being absurdly delicious, these happen to be vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free and refined sugar-free. What!
This is an original recipe made possible by referencing and adapting recipes from two brilliant food bloggers Green Kitchen Stories' "Pumpkin Pie Caramel Bars" + My New Roots' "Raw Cashew Dreamcake". —saltnpepperhere
For the Crust:
soft Medjool dates, pitted (if dry, soften in some hot water for 5 minutes)
coconut oil, liquid state
almond flour or almond meal (50g)
desiccated unsweetened coconut (40g)
fine sea salt
For the Filling & Chocolate Coating:
black sesame seeds
raw cashews, soaked in filtered water overnight or minimum 5 hours
Line a 10" x 5" x 3" (25.4cm x 12.7cm x 7.6cm) or similar-sized loaf pan with 2 pieces of parchment paper so that it overhangs all 4 sides (i.e. one strip lengthwise, one strip crosswise). These will be your handles to lift the cake out of the pan later.
Blend softened dates and coconut oil in a food processor or high-speed blender until smooth and lumps are gone.
Add the remaining crust ingredients (almond flour, coconut, sea salt) and pulse a few times until mixture is thoroughly combined.
With your hand, press crust onto bottom of the loaf pan. I find it helpful to fold down a piece of the parchment temporarily while doing this so the crust doesn't stick to your hand. Place in freezer while you make the filling.
For the Filling & Chocolate Coating:
To make the black sesame paste, put the black sesame seeds into a food processor or high-speed blender and blend until the seeds have secreted their oil and the mixture is fairly smooth - this takes about 3 minutes in my food processor. Scrape down sides partway through. Add the honey and water and blend about a minute more or until you get a smooth paste. Set aside.
Clean the food processor or blender you used and put in the remaining filling ingredients (cashew, vanilla, coconut oil, maple syrup, water). Blend on high until very smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Use additional water as needed to acquire a smooth consistency. A fancy blender (Vitamix or Blendtec) would yield a silkier filling but don't be discouraged if you are like me and do not own one of those, the mixture is not as smooth but it is still divine.
Bring the loaf pan out of the freezer. First, using a spatula, spread the black sesame paste evenly on top of the crust. If the parchment paper is getting in your way, simply dab a wee bit of the sticky sesame paste onto the flaps to "glue" them to the outside of your loaf pan - it's an effective trick :)
Next, pour the cashew mixture in and smooth it out with a spatula. You may want to tap the loaf pan a few times on a cushioned chair seat to bang out air bubbles and even it out. Place the loaf pan back in the freezer for about 3 hours or until very firm.
About 10 minutes before the bars are ready to come out of the freezer, melt the dark chocolate over a double boiler. Keep it on top of the ambient heat of the double boiler (with the heat OFF) while you cut the bars.
To remove the cake from the pan, carefully lift the parchment paper to release it. Using a sharp knife, cut it into eight even bars and then each down the middle into two so that now you have 16 bars, about 1" x 2.5" each.
With the bars on a wire rack over parchment, spoon the melted chocolate over the bars, covering the top and pushing the chocolate down the sides with the back of the spoon. You need to work pretty quickly or the chocolate will begin to harden from the cold of the bars. You may want to work in batches. Chill in freezer until the chocolate is completely set, about 30 minutes.
Store in an airtight container in the freezer. To serve, thaw about 10 minutes. I like them best still a bit cold. Enjoy! xx