Cherry season reminds me of a trip I took with my parents and children around Tasmania. Over an hour before Hobart, the capital, we drove through orchards of fruit laden trees. My kids pleaded excitedly with their grandparents to stop the 4WD so we could buy a carton of cherries. Truthfully, the carton was empty before we drove into Hobart, and there’s really no need for me to say how gooooood those cherries tasted. And, so began my love affair with stone fruit during the years we lived in Tassie, an agreeable trade-off for the almost year round cold weather.
Summer is a glorious season, a time when many fruit come into season, like berries, stone fruit and tropical fruit. As soon as stone fruit appear in my market, I can not resist buying a few bags, and placing the fruit to ripen in bowls and baskets on the sideboard ready for eating fresh, in smoothies, cakes and pies. Hubby is not as eager, preferring to wait until the fruit truly is in season. To celebrate summer, I’d like to share a raw vegan recipe of one of my all time favourite sweets, cherry ripe, which I no longer eat cause it’s laden with sugar and preservatives. I’ve created this cherry ripe dessert into a cheesecake slice, that’s refreshingly cool for summer weekend lunches or dinners when family or guests visit. Since the cheesecake slice is made ahead of time, it’s a perfect sweet for entertaining.
The preparation of this slice is a wee labour of love, but the end result is worth the effort. I advise you make this raw cake with a food processor, as it is heavy work for even the best of blenders. If a blender is all you have, for the base: blend the nuts first, then blend the dates a few at a time, and adding the other ingredients a bit at a time until well mixed. A blender should be able to blend the other layers, yet if there is a problem, try blending half the mixture for the cherry layer. If you wish to have a straight line for each base, make sure each layer is almost set before pouring in the next layer. This will mean a wait of at least 2½ hours for the cherry layer to set, yet only about ½ hour for the coconut layer to go hard. To see if the layer is set, touch the mixture with your finger and apply a little pressure. It is set hard enough to pour in the next layer if the mixture is almost hard to touch. It’s worth noting that I’ve chosen to use macadamia nuts so the mixture could have a creamy white coconut layer and a soft pink for the cherry layer. If instead you choose to use cashews, the colour will have a grey hue.
· Raw organic cacao has over 40 times the antioxidants of blueberries. It is the highest plant-based source of iron, at 7.3mg per 100g. It’s also very high in magnesium and calcium, and a great source for ‘bliss’ chemicals.
· Cherries contain powerful antioxidants, fibre, vitamin C, and reduce inflammation.
RAW CHERRY RIPE CHEESECAKE SLICE
Makes 22 cm (8½ inch) square cake
V, GF, SF, DF
For the base:
1 cup raw macadamia nuts, soaked for at least 2 hours
1 cup shredded coconut
2 tablespoons raw cacao powder
¼ cup melted coconut oil
8 medjool dates, pitted
pinch of salt
For the cherry layer:
1 cup raw macadamia nuts, soaked overnight
½ cup coconut water
½ cup rice malt syrup, adjust to taste
½ cup coconut oil, melted
2 cups fresh cherries, pitted
For the coconut layer:
¾ cup raw macadamia nuts, soaked overnight
2 tablespoons coconut water
¼ cup rice malt syrup, adjust to taste
¼ cup coconut oil, melted
¼ cup shredded coconut
For the chocolate layer:
½ cup coconut oil
¼ cup rice malt syrup, adjust to taste
½ cup raw cacao powder
16 fresh cherries
Dark chocolate, for curls
Strawberry and raspberry powder
Soak the macadamia nuts for the base and fillings in a bowl for at least 2 hours or overnight. Drain. Line the cake tin with baking paper, cutting out the corners, and place into cake tin. To make the base, add the macadamia nuts to a food processor and blitz until they resemble crumbs. Add all other ingredients and process until combined and the mixture sticks together. Spoon the mixture into the cake tin and smooth into the bottom evenly. Place in the freezer while making the other layers.
Place the cherry filling ingredients into food processor and process until silky smooth. Adjust the sweetener to your taste. When checking for taste, remember when a cheesecake is very cold, it needs a bit more sweetener. Pour this mixture onto the base. Place into the freezer to set for at least 2½ hours. Make the coconut layer and use the back of a spoon to smooth the mixture until flat, and place in the freezer to set for about ½ hour. To make the chocolate layer, place all the ingredients in a bowl set over a saucepan of gently simmering water (making sure the water doesn’t touch the bowl) and stir until smooth and combined. Remove the bowl from the heat. Pour over the set coconut layer. Place the cake into the freezer, and leave for at least 4-6 hours to set. Remove from the freezer before you wish to serve. Cut the cake into 16 squares immediately while frozen, arrange on a platter and decorate with fresh cherries and chocolate curls (and a dusting strawberry and raspberry powder). Allow the squares to thaw for about 15 minutes before serving. Thawing time will differ according to the weather. Alternatively, place the cut cheesecake slices in the fridge to thaw if it’s a warm day.