Chocolate mousse pie with peanut butter whip + pretzel crust

Chocolate mousse pie with peanut butter whip + pretzel crust

Today, Maya Angelou turns 86. Heath Ledger would have been 35. Thom informed me that Caracalla (uhh, who?) was born on this day in 188. And this time 26 years ago, my dad was celebrating the birth of his 9 pound (sorry, ma) baby girl at the Cincinnati Reds opening day game.

Not only is today the anniversary of my birth, but it also happens to be the day I get booted from my dad’s insurance plan. It’s one of those birthdays I’ve been dreading since the moment I learned how much private health insurance plans actually cost. So naturally (and very strategically) I spent my last day as a 25-year-old-with-insurance having my teeth cleaned by someone else (no cavities, WOOP), allowing someone to poke me and steal seven vials of my blood, and trying to convince my nurse practitioner that oral contraceptives are wildly unnatural so I’M NOT GONNA TAKE ‘EM (side note: I adore Elenore). After what felt like an eternity of her trying to persuade me otherwise, I realized I should have just taken the easy way out and told her I’m a devout Catholic: We don’t believe in the pill because NATURAL LAW, YO. Except I’m not Catholic (anymore) and I’m pretty sure it’s frowned upon to lie about your religious affiliation.

Impending insurance cancellation, I spent the better part of last night researching various healthcare plans and murmuring more swear words than usual. $378 a month for insurance? FOR INSURANCE? And I still have a sizable deductible and a 20% co-pay? WTF is the point of a co-pay, anyway? Is it too much to ask for more affordable health insurance options from a nation whose elected servants (and other exceedingly patriotic inhabitants) deem it The Greatest Country in the World? PREEZY OF THE UNITED STEEZY, ARE YOU LISTENING? 

Now I’m just being facetious. In all seriousness though, this insurance business is for the birds. But enough about insurance because I’ve got all month to worry about that.

ChocoloveBIRTHDAYPretzel sticksPretzel crust in the makingPeanut butter whip ingredientsCreamy peanut butterPeanut butter whipChocolate mousse pie with peanut butter whip + pretzel crust

My Oma claims it’s a god given right to do whatever you want – within reason – on your birthday. So since it’s my birthday I’m going to take her advice and go on a long run (free therapy!), take an even longer bath, and then I’m going to eat a piece of this pie for breakfast because I think Oma would agree that starting the day off with pie is totally within reason. Especially after a long run. I’m also going to eat sushi (is it sushi if it’s only filled with cucumber and avocado?) (don’t answer that) until my guts feel like they’re going to explode and I’m going to refrain from getting obnoxiously drunk like I did last year because falling asleep at the Sigur Rós show was not my proudest moment.

Oh, and while I have you here:

Oh, Ladycakes is a Best Original Recipes finalist for Saveur’s Best Food Blog Awards. It’s an absolute honor to be nominated among so many of the people who inspire me on a daily basis – and although best is certainly subjective, I appreciate the nod. If you’d like to cast your vote for Oh, Ladycakes you can head over to Saveur’s site (the Best Original Recipes category is 10th from the top) to make it happen. Unfortunately you have to register to vote, but all that’s required is an email address, username, and password (and I promise they won’t send you a bunch of junk). Voting lasts through next Wednesday, 9 April.

Pretzel studded peanut butter whipChocolate mousse pie with peanut butter whip + pretzel crustChocolate mousse pie with peanut butter whip + pretzel crustChocolate mousse pie with peanut butter whip + pretzel crustChocolate mousse pie with peanut butter whip + pretzel crustChocolate mousse pie with peanut butter whip + pretzel crust

Notes: If you don’t want to prepare an 8-9″ pie, you can prepare this recipe in tartlet pans. The pie filling can be made with the plain mousse or peanut butter mousse, but is also great with the whiskey mousse variety: wwhiskey + pretzel crust = awesome. If you’re not into the idea of this being a fancy peanut butter cup tucked into pretzel crust, feel free to omit the peanut butter and use plain coconut whipped cream, instead. If the idea of making chocolate mousse seems like too much work, simply mix the melted chocolate and milk and pour it straight into the crust – it won’t be nearly as light as the mousse, but it’s equally as delicious. For the pretzel “flour”, simply blend approximately 255g pretzels in your food processor or spice grinder until they produce a fine flour with a few larger flecks. You could make a graham cracker crust, as well.

Last year’s birthday cake + Thom’s birthday cake. And more pretzel flour goodness.

Update: A number of people have emailed asking if the pretzels can be crushed instead of ground in a food processor/spice grinder. Unfortunately they cannot, as the end result needs to be the consistency of flour to work properly in this recipe.

CHOCOLATE MOUSSE PIE WITH PEANUT BUTTER WHIP + PRETZEL CRUST

Pretzel crust
2 cups + 2 tbsp pretzel flour (see notes above)
2 tbsp cane sugar, optional
13-14 tbsp non-hydrogenated shortening, room temperature

Mousse filling
Chocolate mousse

Peanut butter whip
1 can full fat coconut milk, refrigerated overnight
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter, or more
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tbsp powdered cane sugar

Preheat oven to 325˚F. Line the bottom of an 8-9″ tart pan with parchment paper and lightly grease with oil; set aside. In a large bowl, stir together the pretzel flour and sugar, if using. Add 13 tablespoons of the shortening and use a wooden spoon to mix it with the pretzel flour until it’s combined and the mixture resembles large crumbs. Press the mixture together with your hands – if it sticks together fairly well, you don’t need to add the final tablespoon of shortening unless you want to. Firmly press the crumbs into the prepared tart pan and bake at 325˚F for 10 minutes then set aside to cool. If you don’t want to use the crust right away, it can be kept frozen in an air tight for up to 3 months.

Prepare the chocolate mousse using the recipe and method described here. If you want to amp up the peanut butter flavor, go with the peanut butter variation that’s listed just before the recipe. Once you’ve prepared the mousse, pour it directly into the crust and transfer it to the refrigerator to chill. The mousse will firm up within 10 minutes but the pie will still need time to cool.

While the pie is chilling, prepare the peanut butter whip by scooping the white layer of cream off the top of your can of coconut milk; put it into a large bowl. You can discard the water or save it for use in smoothies. Add the peanut butter and vanilla extract and, using a hand mixer on high speed, beat the mixture until it’s combined and no clumps remain. Sift in the powdered sugar and mix until light and fluffy; 20-30 seconds.

Remove the pie from the refrigerator and top with peanut butter whip. Allow to chill for at least another 2 hours before serving – the shortening in the crust needs some time to solidify to keep the pie structurally sound. When ready to serve, top with crushed pretzel sticks and chopped chocolate, if desired. Pie will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to four days, but if you want to add the crushed pretzel topping, I recommend waiting until serving (or else the pretzels get soggy).

Yield: 10 slices

Raw citrus cream cakes

Raw citrus cream cakes

We returned from a quick trip to Ohio on Tuesday and I always come back feeling emotionally exhausted and a little bit heartbroken. The older I become, the harder it gets to willingly fly 1,100 miles across the country and live my life in what feels like a completely different Universe.

We returned from a longer visit in December and I don’t think I ever fully recovered from the weightiness of that trip. Since then, I’ve spent far too much time sobbing in the shower or at the dinner table, all because there’s a looming gray cloud that reminds me that I’ve not been such a great sister/daughter/granddaughter since we moved to Denver half a decade ago. In fact, I’d go as far to say that I’ve kind of been an asshole. And it’s not cool to be an asshole to your family – especially not when you have a family like mine.

My priorities were different back then. All I wanted was to get the fuck out of small town Ohio and away from the people and their narrow mindedness, but I don’t mind them anymore. I think that comes with the fact that I’m very much firm in my beliefs and am able to overlook the ignorance, or at least laugh when I go to the local Kroger and the checkout lane with the transvestite working is always (ALWAYS) open, even when all the others have painfully long lines. I fly through that lane and usually want to turn around and yell SUCKERS! but I never do. I just carry my groceries out to the rental car with a big smile that eventually fades and turns into tears because how awful it must be to be surrounded by such animosity and cold heartedness on a regular basis.

PecansCitrusCitrusRaw cream cake crustRaw citrus cream cakesRaw citrus cream cakes

Right now I feel numb. Regretful, but mostly numb. And every couple hours I entertain the idea of hopping on a plane that will take me to the tiny airport that sits a mere 30 minutes from my Oma and Opa‘s house. We’d sit around their kitchen table and drink coffee, and eventually my Opa and I would break off and go out into the game room, where we’d sit across from one another in two oversized recliners. He’d tell me stories about his mother (my Great Oma) and the war and how he had to duel with a Frenchman to win my Oma’s heart, back in the 1960s. What I would give to be sitting across from him right now.

But as numb as I feel, I also feel immensely lucky that my family loves me despite the fact that I didn’t make enough time to visit them in the five years we’ve called Denver home. And although I tend to feel guilty and awful about a situation that was entirely my doing, I feel like this is my year to make it up to them (and to forgive myself). So we’re flying back to Ohio in June for a good three weeks to celebrate my beloved grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary. Then again for my Opa’s 75th birthday, for Thom’s favorite holiday (Thanksgiving), and for baby Jesus’ supposed birthday. And I’m sure there will be a surprise trip thrown in there at some point because have you ever traveled halfway across the country to surprise people who aren’t expecting you? It’s one of the greatest, most exhilarating feelings in the world.

Since we just returned from Ohio, bowels aching from the general lack of fresh produce and my Oma’s home cooking (Thom misses it already), I couldn’t bring myself to make and photograph the cherry hand pies I was originally going to share. Instead I made something that’s naturally sweet (and dare I say healthy?) and perfect as an afternoon snack or evening nightcap. Something I think my Oma would dump in the trash, but something I think she could learn to appreciate, too.

Raw citrus cream cakesCitrus cream cakesRaw citrus cream cakesRaw citrus cream cakes

Notes: If you don’t own a mini cheesecake pan, you can prepare this recipe in a muffin pan lined with paper cups. Or in a round 6-8″ tart/cake pan, like this. You can use any combination of citrus juice you want – I used a variety of oranges and half of one lime. You could also substitute pomegranate juice, blueberry juice, cherry juice, etc. The addition of beet is optional but without it the cream is flesh colored and not all that pretty. So if you’re making this for guests, I highly recommend adding something that will give the cream a bit of color.

RAW CITRUS CREAM CAKES

Crust
1 cup raw pecans
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
Small pinch of Himalayan salt
4 medjool dates, pitted and soaked 20 minutes

Filling
1 1/2 cups cashew pieces, soaked at least 4 hours or overnight
3/4 cup fresh squeezed citrus juice
Thumb sized chunk of red beet, for color
8 medjool dates, pitted and soaked 20 minutes

Topping
Flaked coconut
Coarsely chopped pecans

Lightly grease a 12 cup mini cheesecake pan with coconut oil; set aside. In a food processor fitted with the S blade, blend the pecans, coconut, and salt into a fine meal. Add the dates and pulse until combined. The mixture should be crumbly, but should stick when pressed together. Divide the crumble between the wells and firmly press it into the bottom. Cover with plastic and refrigerate until ready to use

In a high powered blender, such as a Vitamix, blend the cashews, juice, beet, and dates on high speed until a creamy mixture forms; about 1-2 minutes. Divide the cream between the cheesecake wells and freeze until firm, about two hours. Remove the mini cakes from the pan and transfer to an air tight container for keeps. When ready to serve, let thaw for 20 minutes then top with flaked coconut and chopped pecans. Cakes will keep frozen for up to 6 weeks.

Yield: 12 servings

How to make two ingredient chocolate mousse

Two ingredient chocolate mousse

I eat a lot of chocolate. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I went a day without chocolate, which is probably something I need to address because eating a pack of Justin’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups (or half a Chocolove almond and sea salt dark chocolate bar) every single day is a bit on the excessive side. Not to mention, expensive. But no thanks to this recipe, my diehard chocolate habit won’t be changing anytime soon. And despite the fact that Thom doesn’t really care for chocolate (MORE FOR US!) or spoonable desserts that aren’t frozen, he’s ditched his late night bowl of Ben & Jerry’s for this two ingredient chocolate mousse because it’s just that good.

But before you ditch your late night ice cream habit, too, there are a few things we need to sort out before you get started. The first is that this recipe requires the use of a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler (or an insert), simply place a large bowl over your pot of boiling water to serve as the insert. If you live near an IKEA, I highly recommend this double boiler insert as it’s become one of the most useful items in my kitchen (if you don’t live near an IKEA, there’s a similar melting pot on Amazon). If you couldn’t give two shits about a fancy double boiler insert, just go the large bowl route. Or zap the chocolate in a microwave. Just figure out a way to melt the chocolate without burning it, ok?

Once the chocolate is melted you’re going to need to mix it with the almondmilk. Using a hand mixer is the preferred method but isn’t absolutely necessary. If you don’t have a hand mixer, you’ll have to use a whisk to beat the crap out of the mixture for a good 5-7 minutes. But look on the bright side - your dominate whisking arm is going to get a killer workout. I also recommend letting the chocolate cool for a few minutes (after you remove it from the stove) and decreasing the almondmilk to 2/3 cup so you’re not mixing nearly as long.

Lastly, the quality of your chocolate will play a huge role in the outcome of your mousse; good quality chocolate = good quality mousse. If you want something sweet and just barely rich, go for 55-65% cocoa solids. For something with a balance of sweet and rich, go for 65-75% cocoa solids, and for something intensely rich (my favorite), 75%+ will be ace (this was far too bitter for Thom, who doesn’t care for chocolate all that much). Anything over 80% will compromise the sweetness so you’ll want to use Califia’s vanilla almondmilk to balance that out.

ChocoloveMelted chocoloveCalifia Farms toasted coconut almondmilsTwo ingredient chocolate mousseToasted coconutTwo ingredient chocolate mousseShaved chocolateTwo ingredient chocolate mousseTwo ingredient chocolate mousseTwo ingredient chocolate mousseTwo ingredient chocolate mousseTwo ingredient chocolate mousse

In the event you’re not a fan of toasted coconut chocolate mousse (you craaaaaaazy), I’ve got you covered – from boozy and caffeinated varieties to chocolate hazelnut and creamy peanut butter.

VARIATIONS
Double espresso chocolate mousse - Use at least 75% dark chocolate. Replace the almondmilk with Califia’s double espresso iced coffee. Dust with equal parts espresso powder and cocoa powder.
Early grey chocolate mousse - Infuse almondmilk with a bag of earl grey tea (or your favorite tea). Top with a dash of cinnamon and a handful of cacao nibs.
Boozy chocolate mousse – Replace up to 2 tablespoons of the almondmilk with your favorite liquor (whiskey and hazelnut liqueur were my favorite) and top with coconut whipped cream and cocoa powder.
Peanut butter chocolate mousse – Stir 2 tablespoons of creamy peanut butter into the melted chocolate, just before adding the almondmilk. Top with peanut butter coconut whipped cream and a drizzle of melted peanut butter.
Maple chocolate mousse – Use at least 75% dark chocolate. Replace 2 tablespoons of almondmilk with 2 tablespoons of grade B maple syrup. If you have maple extract on hand, throw in 1/2 teaspoon of that. Top with shaved chocolate.
Chocolate hazelnut mousse – Stir 2 tablespoons of creamy chocolate hazelnut spread into the melted chocolate, just before adding the almondmilk. Replace 1 tablespoon of almondmilk with 1 tablespoon of hazelnut liqueur. Top with coconut whipped cream, roasted hazelnuts, and shaved chocolate.
Irish cream chocolate mousse – Use at least 75% dark chocolate. Replace the almondmilk with Califia’s café latte iced coffee and substitute up to 2 tablespoons of whiskey for the iced coffee. Top with a dollop of coconut whipped cream and espresso powder.

Notes: If you’re not into flavored chocolate mousse, feel free to replace the toasted coconut almondmilk with Califia’s unsweetened almondmilk. If you want a mousse that’s a bit thicker (this one is seriously light but other variations use considerably less liquid), decrease the almondmilk to 1/2 or 2/3 cup. If you’re in the mood for chocolate mousse pie, double the mousse recipe and pair it with this pie crust and top with coconut whipped cream. And shaved chocolate, just because. But if you can wait a few weeks, there will be a delicious chocolate mousse pie coming your way toward the beginning of April.

This post is sponsored by Califia Farms. All opinions are my own, and I think Califia rules.

TOASTED COCONUT CHOCOLATE MOUSSE

Mousse
6 oz good quality dark chocolate, 65% dark
3/4 cup Califia Farms toasted coconut almondmilk

Toppings
Coconut whipped cream
Toasted coconut flakes
Shaved chocolate

Halfway fill a large mixing bowl with ice cubes; set aside. Place four small jars (or 6 if you’d prefer smaller portions) near your work area. Fill a medium size pot with an inch or two of water; place a double boiler insert, or a large bowl, over the pot. Add the chocolate and melt completely. Once it’s melted, remove from heat and set the double boiler insert over the prepared bowl of ice cubes. Add the milk and stir with a spatula until mostly combined (make sure to scrape the bottom and edges of the insert while you’re mixing). Using a hand mixer on medium-low speed, beat the mixture for 3-5 minutes. During this time it’s going to be super bubbly, then fine lines will start to appear. Once the bubbles have diminished and all you can see are lines, mix for an additional 10 seconds then work quickly to pour the mousse into the jars. Tap each jar on the counter to remove any trapped air bubbles, top with lid, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or until set. Mousse will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

If you happen to overmix the the mousse and it cannot be poured into the jars, return the double boiler insert to the pot of water, melt the mixture completely, then set insert over the bowl of ice cubes and start the mixing process again. 

When you’re ready to serve, top with coconut whipped cream, toasted coconut flakes, and chocolate shavings.

Yield: 4 servings

Sea salt chocolate chip cookies

Sea salt chocolate chip cookies

OOF.

It’s been one of those weeks. Kind of. Not really. I find myself saying that and am instantly reminded that life is not nearly as chaotic or messy and out of control as it could be. But sometimes it feels like it. Sometimes I want to sit on the couch and binge eat chocolate chip cookies because my Tuesday got off to a bad start when I woke up with a bloodshot eye and what looked like a ripple in my corneal flap (video not safe for the squeamish). I cleared my schedule even though I had a day filled with what I thought to be a bunch of time sensitive important shit. I cleared my schedule because I didn’t have a choice – eyeballs are kind of top priority, folks.

I spent four hours at the eye doctor. More than half of that time I was waiting and complaining to Thom (via text) about my opthamologist taking so long. SERIOUSLY I CAN HEAR HIM TALKING ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THIS DOOR AND HE’S ALREADY AN HOUR LATE. He came in and looked at my eye, poked it a bit, diagnosed me with things I don’t know how to pronounce, and wrote me prescriptions for things I also don’t know how to pronounce. Things that cost me more than I would have liked to have spent on what I thought was just an ordinary Tuesday – like $124 (with insurance!) for this two week supply of eye drops. And in case you haven’t been tuning into Fox News: It’s allllllllllllllllllllll Obama‘s fault, you guys.

After my appointment I went to Costco and bought three bags of organic frozen berries. But not the antioxidant blend because it’s been linked to a hepatitis outbreak and I don’t have the patience for anymore doctors at the moment. I also bought 10 pounds of cane sugar, 4 pounds of chocolate chips, 2 pounds of medjool dates, and a bunch of other stuff we probably didn’t need (except we kinda needed the peanut butter filled pretzels, for sanity). Then I picked up that overpriced eye drop prescription and a pack of antibiotics that’s likely to wipe out the infection (along with all the good bacteria in my gut), and the pharmacist said I probably won’t be able to poop regularly for a week.

HUH?

Sea salt chocolate chip cookies in the makingSea salt chocolate chip cookies in the makingHIDESea salt chocolate chip cookiesSea salt chocolate chip cookies

I got home around 5PM and Thom drew me a candle-lit epsom salt bath. I soaked in the salty water while talking his head off and I’m pretty sure it was driving him crazy because he tried to leave twice but my incessant yelling was far worse than him sitting in the bathroom and tolerating me while I rambled on about my eyeball and the diagnosis and Do you think my doctor’s full of shit? He’s a good man. Thom, not my doctor (although I’m sure he’s a good man, too). But some days I don’t know what I did to deserve him. I got out, spent a lot of time googling the eye disease I still can’t pronounce and declared that my doctor IS full of shit because HEY THOM! I DON’T HAVE ANY OF THESE SYMPTOMS. Well, except for the dry eye thing but that’s directly related the fact that I had LASIK and I live in dry ass Denver. But that’s beside the point because Thom agreed with me – which is the first (and probably the last) time he’s ever agreed with a self-diagnosis. To celebrate, I made almond blueberry crisp with extra crunchy topping and ate it right as it came out of the oven. I also made definitive plans to make this chocolate chip cookie recipe every day for the next week so I can send out all those care packages I promised my brothers I’d put in the mail after Christmas.

It’s Wednesday morning now. There’s a 1/2″ blanket of snow on the ground that’ll probably be gone by noon. My eyeball’s still bloodshot and it feels like the azithro-whatever is killing off all the good bacteria in my gut despite the fact that I’m supplementing with hella coconut kefir and crossing my toes that the pharmacist was wrong about the whole bowel movement thing. But ya know what? It’s Wednesday morning. There’s snow on the ground, I’m having a good hair day, and my house is about to smell like my favorite chocolate chip cookies.

It’s the little things.

PS – I did an interview, with one of my favorite bloggers, here.

Sea salt chocolate chip cookiesSea salt chocolate chip cookiesSea salt chocolate chip cookiesSea salt chocolate chip cookies

Notes: This recipe has gone through extensive testing and there are some things you need to know before you dive in and start making the best vegan chocolate chip cookie recipe ever. Like, cold butter is superior to room temperature butter (unless you prefer thin cookies) and letting the dough rest is key because it allows the sugar to completely dissolve. Some people like their chocolate chip cookies to have a little more going on so I have some recommendations: 1/4 chopped dried fruit (apricots, cherries, etc) or 1/4 cup chopped nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts, etc) all make for delicious additions. If you want to do a combination of fruit and nuts (along with the chocolate chips), keep the add ins at a 1/3 cup maximum and reduce the chocolate chips to 1/3 cup. If you want to make an assortment of cookie sizes, this recipe will make 3 cookies with a 1/4 cup cookie scoop, 8 cookies with a 1 1/2 tablespoon cookie scoop, and 24 cookies with a 1 teaspoon cookie scoop. The 1/4 cup cookies will need to be baked for 14-15 minutes and the 1 teaspoon cookies will need to be baked for 7-8 minutes. If you follow a vegan and gluten free diet, I didn’t forget about you – replace the flour with 1 cup plus 3-4 tablespoons of a gluten free flour blend and you’ll be golden. They’re not going to be exactly the same but they’re still damn good.

And because everyone prefers something a little different – for thin, chewy cookies, increase the sugar to 3/4 cup (1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup cane sugar) and omit 1 tablespoon of flour. For thick, pillow-y cookies, increase the flour to 1 1/3 cups and replace 2 tablespoons of the butter with non-dairy milk during the creaming process. The recipe below is for a balance of the two, and it’s my ideal chocolate chip cookie.

SEA SALT CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

1/2 cup vegan butter, cold
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 flax egg
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1 1/4 cups/180g unbleached flour
1/2 cup chocolate chips (or chopped dark chocolate)
Flaky sea salt, for topping

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a large bowl using a hand mixer) (or a whisk, but be prepared to have sore ass arms), beat the butter on medium speed for about 2 minutes, until creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the sugar and vanilla extract; mix on medium speed for an additional minute then add the flax egg and mix just until combined. Off the mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the baking soda, baking powder, salt, and flour; mix until combined. Add the chocolate chips and mix until they’re evenly distributed throughout the dough. Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least four hours or overnight (overnight is best, y’all).

When you’re ready to make the cookies, preheat the oven to 350˚F and line a small baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a 1 1/2 tablespoon cookie scoop, drop dough onto the prepared baking sheet and freeze for 10 minutes. Line a large baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper, and line with chilled cookies, leaving 2-3″ between each cookie. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt then bake at 350˚F for 10 minutes. Allow cookies to cool on sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. You can either repeat the process with the remaining scooped dough (which should be in the freezer while the first batch of cookies are baking), or transfer the rounds to an air tight container and store in the freezer for up to 6 weeks. Allow dough that’s been thoroughly frozen to thaw for 10 minutes before baking. Baked cookies will keep in an air tight container for up to four days.

Yield: About 2 dozen cookies

Raw almond linzer cookies with cherry filling

Raw almond linzer cookies with cherry filling

Chances are, tomorrow will be like any other Friday. I’ll wake up three hours before Thom and go to the gym on my own, despite the fact that we’ve made plans to go together. Unlike him, I’m one of those early bird gym rats who prefers to squeeze in my workout before the meatheads arrive because – I don’t know about the meatheads at your gym – but at my gym they refuse to let people work in with them. Which means my hour long workout turns into two and I start getting irritated and hangry and basically shit hits the fan and my morning is ruined.

I’ll probably come back from the gym just as Thom’s getting ready to leave and, instead of getting in the shower, I’ll bake cookies. Maybe brownies. Something sweet to greet him when he gets home. When he returns we’ll shower, eat breakfast, then he’ll convince me to go to the lab because we have a lot of work to do. So much that it’ll carry us into the early evening and, before we know it, it’ll be time for dinner. We’ll probably order takeout because neither one of us will want to cook (or deal with the crowds), and then we’ll go see a movie because we’ve been dying to see Her (me) and Inside Llewyn Davis (him). Our V-day in a nutshell.

While I’m not a fan of Valentine’s Day, I am a fan of love and romance and heart shaped goodies, so for you I have a last minute Valentine recipe: raw linzer cookies. Which really shouldn’t be left until the last minute because they require a bit of preparation. If you’re not into the whole raw thing, give last year’s almond linzer cookies with cherry preserves a go. Or, if you are into the raw thing but would prefer something on the simple side, these raw cherry brownie hearts should do the trick.

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Notes: I’ve been getting requests for raw desserts made without dates – so if you want to replace the dates in this recipe, you can substitute 1 packed tablespoon of raisins (soaked for 30 minutes) for each medjool date. If you’d prefer chocolate linzer cookies, add 3 tablespoons of cacao powder to the dough while the almonds and coconut are blending (you’ll probably need to increase the almond milk by about one tablespoon, too). If you’re not into the high fat content, you can replace 1 cup of the almonds with 1 cup of rolled oats. The jam can be a bit tricky, as 2 cups of frozen cherries can shrink to 1-1 1/2 cups when thawed, so follow these guidelines: if it turns out too thin, thicken it up with an extra teaspoon (or two) of chia seeds; too thick, thin it out with a bit of the reserved cherry juice – unless you pitched the juice, then use water. The jam recipe also makes more than needed because my blender refused to blend 1 cup of cherries. If you’re blender is small enough, halve the recipe. And if you’re not into cherries, how about raspberry chia jam? Or blueberry (replace honey with dates, raisins, dried figs, etc.)?

RAW ALMOND LINZER COOKIES WITH CHERRY FILLING

Filling
2 cups frozen cherries, thawed
1/2 tsp lemon juice
2-4 medjool dates, soaked 30 minutes
4 tsp chia seeds

Dough
1 1/2 cups raw almonds
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
Small pinch of fine sea salt
8 medjool dates
2-3 tbsp raw almond milk

Sprinkles
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 tbsp cherry juice

Prepare the filling by separating the thawed cherries from the cherry juice; reserve juice in a small bowl. Add the cherries to the container of a high speed blender (such as a Vitamix), along with 2 tablespoons of the reserved cherry juice, lemon juice, and the dates (the more dates you add, the sweeter it will be). Blend on high speed for 30-40 seconds, or until semi-smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the chia seeds, then cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least two hours.

In a food processor fitted with the S blade, blend the almonds, coconut, and salt into a fine meal. Add the dates and process until combined. Add the milk and blend for 30 seconds, just until the dough is smooth. Pat dough into a disc and wrap with plastic. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

When both the dough and filling are ready, line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper; set aside. Line a flat surface with parchment paper and sprinkle with raw nut meal. Roll out the dough until it’s about 1/4″ thick. Using a round 2″ cookie cutter, cut out as many cookies as you can and carefully transfer them to the lined baking sheet. Repeat process with remaining dough scraps. When you’ve finished cutting the dough, use a small heart cutter to cut the centers out of half of the cookies (don’t remove the centers just yet) and freeze for 20 minutes. Once the cookies have frozen, remove the heart centers and spread the uncut cookie halves with about 1 heaping teaspoon of cherry filling and sandwich with the cutout tops. Freeze on cookie sheet for an hour, then transfer to an air tight container. Cookies will keep in the refrigerator for up to five days, or in the freezer for up to six weeks. If freezing, allow cookies to thaw for 15 minutes before serving.

Just before serving, stir together the coconut and cherry juice and sprinkle over the exposed jam centers.

Yield: 18 linzer cookies