With the holiday season merrily approaching, much of the planning and preparation no doubt revolves around food, whether simple or elaborate. While most of the time I keep the holiday meals relatively simple, I do look forward to the dessert part.
Most would agree that dessert is really the much exciting course of any meal. No holiday menu would be complete without it, no matter how full we are. Desserts just add the satisfying sought-after sweetness at the end of our day. But preparing them, nor the guilt of having eaten a lavish one, need not be cause for stress! What I have for you today is a vibrant dessert platter that is not only easy to make, and can be prepared in advance, but also steers more or less on the healthier side; you could actually make it even healthier if you wanted to.
With wholesome still in mind, as it is with most recipes featured here, this recipe calls for a few selectively chosen ready-made store-bought items, like jam, dark chocolate and date rolls from Natural Delights, to ease the procedures.
I first came to know about these date rolls from a sample tub in the Pumpkin Pie Spice Pecan flavour that I received in my swag bag when I attended the FBC2015 (Food Bloggers of Canada Conference) last month.
Then afterward, during one of my grocery shopping trip, I came across some different flavours like coconut and almond. Diligently, I never fail to look at the ingredients list of any food products that I buy. These date rolls just have two to three ingredients — dates and either coconut or other nuts and spices (depending on the flavour).
So, these sweet treats are actually chopped Medjool dates, compressed into a paste and rolled. They are then spiced and/or rolled in nuts or coconut flakes. I really love the seasonal pumpkin pie spice flavour but I can only eat one every other day or so, due to my nut allergy. While I try to eat the almond one sparingly (again because of my nut allergy), I do like the coconut one a lot, it has now become my current favourite go-to snack whenever I need a sweet tooth craving to be satisfied or a little boost of energy.
As more and more people are embracing a healthier and more compassionate lifestyle, it is exciting to see that more and more products along these lines are appearing on the market. While dates have existed for centuries in many parts of the world, they have particularly gained popularity as part of a healthy diet during the more recent years.
Dates are nothing new to me, I simply love them, especially the Medjool variety. I almost always have a tub of Medjool dates in the fridge as I use them as a natural sweetener in so many things from smoothies to baking, like in these date roll cookies I made a while ago, and also in cooking. But even on their own, they are a lifesaver as a little energy snack.
Just when I thought that Medjool dates could not get any better, the date rolls surprisingly live up to the same reputation and are now, pretty much, quite a staple in my fridge too! Not only are they very satiating but dates are also full of fibre and higher in potassium, by weight, compared to bananas. If not for their great nutritional benefits, I just love Medjool dates for their caramel flavour.
On their own, just like plain dates, these date rolls make a great snack. But, paired with fresh fruits, I thought they would be great as part of an easy dessert for the holiday season.
Desserts always look fancier when there is more than one thing on the plate for you to set your eyes on and then decide which one to take a bite in first. Well, that is pretty much my case.
So, the dessert platter consists of fruit and date rolls skewers half dipped in chocolate, a slice of fruit terrine and a wedge of chocolate cake for which you can use the recipe for the Chocolate Pumpkin Cake that I shared previously. Even though this platter looks quite elaborate, trust me, it only appears that way.
Basically everything can be prepared in advance and the day before. If you plan to include the chocolate cake as part of this platter, I would start with it first and bake it the day before. Chocolate cake always tastes better the next day when kept in an airtight container.
The fruit terrine needs to be chilled for at least 4 hours or overnight before slicing it. So, you definitely need to make that one in advance. The recipe is very easy and 100% versatile in terms of the fruits you want to use. I am using agar agar as the gelling agent. If you are not familiar with agar agar, it is extracted from a species of Red Sea algae and is used in many Asian preparations, especially in desserts and drinks. The one I am using is in the form of strands but other forms available are bars, flakes and powder. I usually buy them at my local Indian store but Asian and some health stores also carry them. Once boiled and completely dissolved in the liquid, the solution needs to be immediately poured into the container as it will start to set within 20 to 30 seconds. Once cooled, it needs to be transferred to the refrigerator to completely set.
You can choose any fruits you like although more acidic ones, such as citrus fruits and strawberries, may require higher amounts of agar agar. Some fruits can even prevent the agar agar from setting at all unless the enzymes in those fruits are broken down by cooking. These fruits are kiwi fruit, which are too acidic, pineapple, fresh figs, papaya, mango and peaches, which contain enzymes that break down the gelling ability. Chocolate and spinach also prevent agar agar from setting.
I am using citrus and mixed berries including strawberries in the terrine. So, I have provided the correct amount of agar agar required for the terrine to set properly. Basically, I find it easier to measure the amount of agar agar by cutting through the strands across. So, I allow an inch (2.5 cm) for every ½ cup (125 ml) of water. To be more precise, you basically need a ratio of 1 gram of agar agar to 100 ml of liquid.
Depending on the size of the pan you are using and how much you are filling it with fruits, you will need to calculate the amount of liquid you’ll need. As a guide, for a loaf pan filled with fruits, the amount of liquid you will need should be about two thirds the volume of the pan. It is safer to allow a little bit more liquid just in case. Any leftover liquid can be poured into another vessel like a ramekin or glass and allowed to set.
Watch the recipe video.
Vegan Holiday Dessert Platter
Chocolate CakeMake the chocolate cake according the Chocolate Pumpkin Cake recipe.
Vegan Fruit TerrineIngredients (one mini loaf pan 5.5 x 3 x 2.5 inch, serves 4 - 5 as part of the platter)
Agar Agar Jelly:
1 ¼ cup [310 ml] water
2.5 inches (6 cm, 4 g) agar agar strands*, cut across
½ vanilla bean (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
1 tablespoon maple syrup (optional, or use sugar)
½ orange, segmented (outer membrane removed)
1 ½ cup [200g] mixed frozen berries
1 tablespoon jam of choice
1 tablespoon orange juice
*If using the bar format, use the same amount. For agar agar flakes use 2 tablespoons. For powdered agar agar, use 1½ teaspoons.
Start by segmenting the orange. Cut the top and bottom off, enough to expose the pulp. Place the orange flat on the board and run the knife under the rind as close as possible to the pulp to remove the pith. Work your way all around the orange to remove all the rind. You can come back on spots that you’ve missed to remove all the pith.
To remove the segments, work over a bowl to catch the juice. Insert the knife on each side of each segment to make a V-cut in between the membranes. Once all the segments are removed, squeeze the remaining pulp to extract all the juice. Keep the juice for later to dilute the jam.
Arrange the segments on the bottom of the loaf pan. Top with the frozen berries to fill the pan. Set aside.
Scrape the inside of the vanilla pod to remove the beans. Place in a saucepan along with the rest of the ingredients for the agar agar jelly.
Place on medium temperature and allow to heat up until the agar agar is completely dissolved. Once all agar agar is dissolved, allow the liquid to boil for another full minute. Remove from the heat and pour immediately and evenly around into the loaf pan to fill all the spaces and cover all the fruits.
Do not disturb the pan or the agar agar may fail to set. Allow to cool and then refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
To demould, gently run a knife around the edge taking care not to bruise the jelly or the pan. Then flip onto a plate. You may need to shake the pan gently to detach the terrine.
Alternatively, you can immerse the outside of the pan in some hot water to loosen the jelly around the edge.
Using a very sharp knife, gently and slowly cut slices across.
Dilute the jam with the orange juice and smear on a plate. Place a slice of the terrine on top. Garnish with mint leaves and some lime zest. Serve cold.
Chocolate Dipped Fruit and Date Rolls SkewersIngredients (decide quantities as required depending on the number of skewers needed)
100g (or more as needed) vegan dark chocolate
Date Rolls (in flavour of choice) from Natural Delights
Various fruits, cut into cubes if large
Insert fruits and date rolls on the skewers. Set aside.
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Once chocolate is melted, dip each skewer halfway into the chocolate.
Place skewer on a plate on the side that is not coated and allow the chocolate to harden again. Serve as part of the dessert platter along with the chocolate cake and fruit terrine.