One of my secret guilty pleasures about being vegan is proving to many skeptics that plant-based food is delicious, rich, and satisfying. Despite this proving to be quite the challenge at times, it can be one of the biggest rewards. It kinda makes me feel like a sneaky little mastermind (but without the evil laugh).
I used to be so against planning holiday stuff so far in advance, but when you work in the restaurant world, sometimes that means needing to be proactive with your holiday prep. Heck, even if you don't work in the restaurant world, we all have busy lives, and sometimes early holiday prep is necessary. And honestly, it's kinda fun at times! So what’s more festive than chocolate? Or candy canes? Or a tart? Or all of the above?
The answer is all of the above, and that takes the form of a chocolate candy cane tart!
I’ve gotten really into pie baking ever since I started working at The Chopping Block. Once I got past the intimidation factor and saw how easy pie making is, I started to branch out and come up with pies of my own. A lot of chocolate pie recipes focus primarily on chocolate in the filling, so I had to one-up a lot of the recipes, and make a chocolate pie crust.
To come up with the chocolate pie crust, I veganized the pie crust recipe we use for our famous apple pies, and switched out some of the flour for cocoa powder. The main source of fat in this pie crust is Earth Balance, a non-hydrogenated vegan butter substitute. It can easily be found at health food stores and even mainstream grocery stores. It comes in two forms; baking sticks and spreads. For pie crust, please please PLEASE stay away from the Earth Balance spread. Fat for pie crust needs to be really cold and really firm, but the spread is too soft, even when it’s cold. This will incorporate into the flour too much, which will inhibit those lovely flaky layers you need in a perfect pie crust. In fact, when you make your pie crust, you want to see chunks of “butter” in it, not one smooth mixture, which is why Earth Balance sticks will be your friend for this pie crust.
The filling is a veganized version of ganache, which consists of melted chocolate and heavy cream. I used homemade cashew cream, as well as some semi-sweet chocolate chips. When purchasing semi-sweet chocolate chips, always double check the ingredients to ensure there is no dairy in them. I used Guittard brand, but I’ve been burned in the past by companies switching from dairy-free ingredients to non-dairy-free, so unfortunately I don’t feel I can really recommend a specific brand. Just be sure to always check the label, even on brands you buy regularly.
This pie makes about 8-10 servings, and has about 2½ hours of prep time, most of which is inactive. The pie crust can even be done a few days in advance.
Chocolate Pie and Tart Crust
1 cup + 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
3 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp sugar
½ tsp fine sea salt
1½ sticks of cold Earth Balance vegan butter, cut into tablespoon sized pieces (stay away from the kind in a tub. It’s too soft for pie making)
2-3 tbsp ice cold water
In a bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, and salt. If using a bowl, sprinkle the chunks of butter around the flour mixture and use a pastry blender to cut the butter into the flour until the butter resembles peas. Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough resembles wet sand (This whole process can also be done in a food processor as well, making sure to pulse the butter into the flour).
Form the dough into a disk, and wrap in plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
After refrigerating, preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
To roll out the dough, sprinkle some flour onto your work surface and your rolling pin. Roll into a ⅛-inch thick circle, and carefully place into a 10-inch round tart pan, making sure the dough is pressed into the sides. Try not to stretch the dough. Trim the edges as needed. (Best way to do that is to just roll your rolling pin over the edges of the tart pan.)
Using a fork, poke holes into the dough. This will ensure that the dough won’t puff up too high on you. Place a sheet of parchment into the tart pan, and fill with pie weights or dried beans. This will also ensure containment of dough puffing. Place into the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the crust is nice and crisp. Let cool to room temperature, and prepare the tart filling.
Chocolate Candy Cane Tart Filling
1 cup cashew heavy cream (get the recipe)
1 12-oz bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
¼ tsp peppermint extract, optional
6 candy canes, crushed into pieces
Melted dairy-free white chocolate, optional (this can be found on various online vegan stores)
In a small saucepan, heat the cashew heavy cream until the edges are bubbling. Remove from heat and quickly whisk in the chocolate chips until melted. Stir in the extracts. Pour into the cooled tart shell, and sprinkle crushed candy canes over the top, and drizzle with white chocolate, if using. Place into the refrigerator and chill until set, about an hour.
This tart is beautiful, decadent, and absolutely reminiscent of the holiday season. And it’s just as delicious as any holiday dessert. Serve this at your family or friends’ holiday gathering, and wow your guests with proof that vegan recipes are awesome!