Exceptional Endings

food raw dessertReally Good Raw Desserts

Judith Fertig

Over-indulging in sweets during the winter festivities can produce unwanted weight gain and a general feeling of sluggishness—a not-so-wonderful gift for anyone. But adding a raw food dessert to our holiday repertoire could introduce a new, healthier tradition to holiday occasions that’s welcomed by everyone.

A raw dessert no longer means only a simple piece of fruit or a handful of nuts. While a traditional holiday story conjures sleeping children with “visions of sugarplums” dancing in their heads, the dreams of raw dessert chefs more likely spring from Medjool dates, cacao nibs and exotic fruits. That’s because raw desserts are made from uncooked, minimally processed and generally plant-based foods.

Raw Food Desserts Kitchen

Although no oven is used in making raw desserts, other electronic equipment is necessary.

Blender – Makes sauces, puddings, smoothies and fillings
Dehydrator – Removes moisture from raw foods at 112° to 118° F; “bakes” cookies
Food Processor – Makes nut crusts and fruit purées
Electric Juicer  Presses and juices fruits and vegetables

Raw foods aficionados say they are usually first attracted to this type of food preparation because the recipes do not contain wheat, refined sugar, eggs or dairy products, which eliminates the need to work around several food sensitivities. Plus, they feel better after they’ve eaten a raw foods dessert, which might feature nuts, fresh and dried fruits, agave nectar and/or chocolate.

When these raw foods are ground or puréed in a food processor or blender, they contribute mightily to dessert crusts, fillings, sauces and frostings to grace tarts, cakes, cookies, puddings and ice creams—all of which can be made without cooking.

Sometimes, dessert recipes call for using a dehydrator, a simple appliance that dries foods slowly at around 112° to 118° F, to avoid the enzyme changes that occur when foods are cooked at higher temperatures. The dehydrator yields a characteristic that raw foods enthusiast Nathalie Lussier describes as “a warm, chewy, comfort food feeling, so that you can make cookies that come out slightly warm from the dehydrator.”

With raw desserts, “You really can have your cake and eat it too, because the recipes are packed with nutrients and fiber,” advises raw desserts chef Heather Pace, the author of four raw dessert e-books, including Just Desserts and Raw Party Parfait.

Most raw foods desserts, like most exceptional sweets, involve several steps to make each part. “While at first glance, a raw dessert might appear to be complicated and time-consuming,” notes Pace, “it’s really very simple. Each component can be thrown together quickly and easily and can be made ahead.”

The Raw Food Dessert Pantry

A basic raw food dessert pantry includes plant-based foods that are in the purest state possible. It differs from a conventional pantry in that items have undergone very little or no processing; plus, many familiar foods find new uses. Nuts become flours or milks for sauces. Natural sweeteners replace highly processed sugar. Chocolate assumes its most natural state. Fresh, ripe fruits provide flavor and smooth texture. Dried fruits amplify taste and sweetness. Psyllium powder thickens sauces and fillings in place of flour, eggs, cornstarch or tapioca. Here’s a taste of the possibilities…

Nuts:  Raw almonds, pecans, pine nuts, cashews
Sweeteners: Medjool dates, date sugar, maple sugar, palm sugar, agave nectar, maple syrup
Chocolate: Cacao nibs, cacao powder, carob
Fats:  Coconut oil, nut butters, cocoa butter, cold-pressed oils
Flavorings: Whole vanilla bean, pure vanilla extract, spices, fresh citrus zest
Fresh fruits: Ripe bananas, avocado, pineapple, strawberries, apples and pears, et al.
Dried fruits: Raisins, goji berries, figs, desiccated coconut
Thickeners: Psyllium powder

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