Ever since we figured out that my youngest daughter had dramatic behavioral and developmental improvement when we cut dairy out of our diet, she has been dairy-free. Since I'm still in the home stretch of nursing her - now usually just a couple of times a day - I too have kept myself dairy free, since many problematic food proteins are able to pass through mothers' breastmilk. I've valued the experience for the fact that it has forced me to become much more inventive - and to have a solid understanding of how the dairy-free alternatives I craft taste for my youngest daughter.
Some things were easier to give up than others. I have not missed milk much. But pastured butter and ghee? Ohhhh, how I miss those. Another thing I've greatly missed is the class of ultra-rich full fat cultured cheeses, like mascarpone and cream cheese. Luckily, I recently came up with a cream cheese substitute that is based entirely in whole foods. I am proud to share that basic dairy-free cream cheese recipe - and to show you one example of how it can be adapted and applied in the creation of a decadent dessert!
Basic Dairy-Free Cream Cheese
Makes roughly 1 cup
2/3 cup raw organic cashew butter
1/3 cup organic palm shortening
2 tsp. raw organic apple cider vinegar (this is available at most grocery stores now for around $3.50/bottle)
1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp. ground sea salt
Combine all ingredients at room temperature using a mixer, stand mixer, or powerful blender. The longer you whip, the smoother your mix will be. If desired, add in the vinegar and lemon juice to the mix slowly, tasting as you go, to customize your desired level of tanginess.
Now, let's kick it up a notch in a easy-to-come-together special dessert: Raspberry Cheesecake Truffles. These puppies are so rich and deliciously satisfying, most folks enjoying them as a post-meal dessert will probably be content to savor one truffle in all its glory. I love the Cadbury-egg-style-surprise factor of biting into these and hitting a gorgeous, juicy raspberry!
Dairy-Free Raspberry Cheesecake Truffles
Makes 8 Truffles
- 1 batch "Basic Dairy-Free Cream Cheese", as shown above
- 1/3 c. maple syrup (this can be adjusted to taste/sweetness preference, or omitted altogether)
- 1/2 tbsp. vanilla extract
- 8 fresh raspberries
- 8-10 oz. chocolate of choice, for melting (I've used Enjoy Life allergen-friendly chips and Scharffen Berger 99%...see alternative sugar-free chocolate options below).
- 1 silicone cake-pop-style pan - I used the Wilton Round Brownie Pop silicone mold. I recommend a silicone molding option, because after your truffles have set it will be much easier to gently "pop" them out of their molds.
Melt 4 oz. of the chocolate, either using a double boiler or warming in the microwave for 2 minutes at half power. When the chocolate is melted, stir it with a clean, dry spoon until it's entirely smooth. Using a standard table spoon, spoon a couple of spoonfuls of the melted chocolate into each of the cavities of the silicone mold you've chosen to use. Use the back of the same spoon to push the melted chocolate up the walls of the cavities, so that the melted chocolate comes all the way along the sides to the top of each cavity in the mold. Wait 5 minutes, then repeat the process, so that the remaining still-melted chocolate at the bottom is pushed along and clings to the hardened chocolate on the walls of the cavities.
Add maple syrup and vanilla to the cream cheese batch and whip the cream cheese mix until smooth. The consistency will be like barely-warmed butter. Spoon 1/2 teaspoon of the cream cheese mix into the bottom of the silicone mold's chocolate-coated cavities. Press 1 fresh raspberry into the center of the cream cheese cheese mix in each cavity, then top each raspberry with another 1/2 teaspoon of the cream cheese mix. Put the silicone mold in the freezer for at least half an hour - the surface of the cream cheese mix must become very cold and firm up just a bit before adding the last bit of melted chocolate on top.
Once the cream cheese is sufficiently cold and firm, melt the remainder of the chocolate. Remove the silicone mold from the freezer, and spoon the melted chocolate onto the top of the cream cheese mix in each cavity until the chocolate covers the cream cheese entirely and is the melted chocolate is level with the top of the cavity.
Place silicone mold in the fridge until chocolate sets fully. Very gently, peel back the silicone as you ease each truffle out of its cavity. Serve within 24 hours of creation - so the raspberries are at their juicy best!
Truffle Adaptations and Other Suggestions
- Try other fresh berries (strawberries, blueberries, etc.) or small pieces of fresh fruit in place of the raspberry.
- If you like, you can make these with unsweetened dark chocolate, or stevia-sweetened dark chocolate, and the truffles will then be entirely free of refined sugars. In our house, I used both Scharffen Berger's unsweetened 99% (I buy mine at Wegmans) and Enjoy Life allergen-friendly chocolate chips with great success.
- If you or your loved ones are nut-free, you could easily substitute unsweetened organic sunflower seed butter for the cashew butter above when making your batch of "cream cheese" for the truffles. You will not get the same cream-cheese flavor effect, but instead of cheesecake bites, you'll end up with what I'd call sunbutter-and-raspberry-jam truffles. Yum!
- If you want sweetness in your cream cheese mix without adding the carbs from maple syrup, you could add just a few drops of organic stevia extract instead.
- As shown in the top photo, you can skip the chocolate aspect of the dessert entirely, in favor of spooning the sweetened vanilla-added cream cheese mix over fresh berries in a pretty bowl. This makes a simpler, faster, colorfully fresh option for a company dessert!
What dairy-free alternatives have you been enjoying lately?
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