Thanksgiving is coming! I have to be honest, normally Thanksgiving gets me super stressed. It's the ultimate foodie holiday, and when you're a person whose known by family and friends for cooking, people have expectations. Nate and I normally plan for weeks, I decorated a pinterest-inspired table with gords and pretty votives, and we food prep together for at least a solid week.
Thanksgiving is sort of our holiday. We've spent every thanksgiving together since we met and this will be our 8th. Every year it seems like we spend it with different people in a different place, and we love that about the holiday. We love everything this holiday stands for: inclusiveness, good food, and gratitude.
But this year we're going low-stress, simple. I've pulled too many all-nighters and written to many papers in the past two weeks to stress about a holiday!
One thing I know is I will be eating these little beauties. They are the creamiest, tastiest cheese cake bites that will please vegans and non-vegans alike. The crust is made from crushed up speculoos cookies the cheese cake base is a date sweetened blend of coconut milk and toasted cashews with spiced roasted pear, all topped with salted caramel. Guys, I had no idea vegan caramel was possible, let alone this good!
Roasted Pear + Salted Caramel Cheesecake Bites with Speculoos Cookie Crust
makes 18 cheesecake bites
For the crust:
1 1/2 cups speculoos cookie crumbs, (or sub graham cracker)
1/4 cup coconut oil
For the filling:
1 cup raw cashews
8 dates, pitted
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1 can full-fat coconut milk
1 medium d'anjou pear, (relatively firm)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
For the caramel
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
1 can full-fat coconut milk
fluer de sel for finishing
Make the crust. Preheat the oven to 350. Fill muffin tins with 18 wrappers. In food processor, blend cookies into crumbs. Stir in melted coconut oil until evenly coated, then divide the crumbs among muffin tins. Press the crumbs down to form a crust - a shot glass works great for this. Bake for 8-10 minutes until fragrant and golden brown.
Make the filling. With the oven still on, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and top with cashews. Cook for 8-10 minutes, rotating halfway through, until just slightly brown and very fragrant.
In in the bowl of a food processor with a blade attachment, or blender, add cashews and dates and blend for about a minute. With the food processor running, slowly pour in the coconut oil, followed by the coconut milk. (Make sure to do it in this order. If you put it all in at once the liquid will splash everywhere and make a huge mess. I know from experience.)
Peel, core, and dice the pear. Combine pears, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt into a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the juices begin to release and the mixture looks gooey like jam. Pour the pear mixture into the cheesecake mixture and stir to combine.
Divide the filling among the muffin tins and refrigerate for at least two hours.
Meanwhile, make the caramel. Combine all of the ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally for 30-40 minutes. The mixture will bubble up slightly, darken in color, and eventually thicken and reduce to the consistency of caramel. Keep cooking until it has reduced to about 1 1/4 cups. Transfer to a jar.
Just before serving top the cheesecakes with caramel, you will have extra, and sprinkle liberally with chunky sea salt.