Reprinted from Minimalist Baker’s Everyday Cooking by arrangement with Avery Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © 2016, Dana Shultz
These bars taste as delicious as they look. They are a spin on my favorite 7–Ingredient Cheesecake Bites from the blog, with an extra boost of lemon flavor and a perfectly tender, date- walnut crust. Strawberry compote makes an elegant, tart- sweet sauce for serving.
- 1 cup (~22 dates or 200g) packed dates, pitted (pitted before measuring), plus more as needed
- 1 1/2 cups (180g) raw walnuts, plus more as neededPinch of sea salt (optional)
- 1 1/2 cups (180g) raw cashews, soaked (see note) and drained
- 1 cup (236ml) full-fat or light coconut milk (or substitute plain unsweetened almond milk or DIY Almond Milk on page 6 for less creamy results), plus more as needed
- 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup (120ml) maple syrup (substitute up to half with organic cane sugar), plus more as needed
- 3 Tbsp (45ml) olive oil or melted coconut oil, plus more as needed
- 1 lemon, zested (1 tsp) and juiced (2 Tbsp or 30ml), plus more lemon juice as needed
- 2 cups (240g) frozen strawberries (or substitute fresh strawberries, hulled and chopped)
- 1–2 Tbsp (15–30ml) maple syrup (or substitute coconut sugar or organic cane sugar), plus more to taste
- 1 Tbsp (7g) cornstarch or arrowroot starch
- 2–3 Tbsp (30–45ml) water (or substitute freshly squeezed orange juice)
- Add the dates to the bowl of a food processor or blender and blend until small bits remain, or the mixture forms a ball. Remove and set aside.
- Add walnuts and salt (optional) to the bowl of the food processor or blender and process into a meal. Add the dates back in, small chunks at a time, and process until a loose dough forms—it should stick together when squeezed between your fingers. If too dry, add a few more dates. If too wet, add more walnut meal.
- Line an 8 × 8–inch (or similar size) baking dish with parchment paper or plastic wrap and add the crust. Spread in an even layer and press down with your hands for a uniformly flat crust. Place in the freezer to set.
- In the meantime, add the cashews, coconut milk, vanilla, maple syrup, olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt to the bowl of a blender.
- Blend on high until puréed, creamy, and smooth. If there is trouble blending, add a bit more liquid (either coconut milk or olive oil) to help the process along. Scrape down the sides as needed. Taste and adjust the flavors as needed, adding more maple syrup for sweetness, or lemon juice for acidity.
- Remove the crust from the freezer and pour the cashew mixture over the crust. Tap to remove air bubbles and smooth the top with a spoon. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and return to the freezer to harden, 3–4 hours. The cheesecake will mostly keep its form in the refrigerator, but freezing will expedite the “setting” process and make slicing easier.
- In the meantime, prepare the strawberry topping. Add the strawberries, maple syrup, cornstarch, and a bit of water to a small saucepan over medium heat.
- Cook for 2-3 minutes, then reduce the heat and begin mashing the strawberries with a spoon to break them into smaller pieces. Cook for 3-4 minutes more, then turn off heat to let cool and thicken, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a small bowl and cover. Refrigerate to cool completely.
- Spread the chilled strawberry topping over the hardened cheesecake (or serve separately), slice into bars, and serve. Coconut Whipped Cream (page 8) makes an excellent topping.
- Store leftovers in the refrigerator covered for 2–3 days, or in the freezer for up to 1 month. If frozen, let thaw for 15–20 minutes to soften before serving.
*Soak the cashews for 6–8 hours in cool water, or pour boiling water over cashews and let rest uncovered at room temperature for 1 hour. Drain and proceed with the recipe as instructed.