Chocolate, Easter and Pumpkin Cheesecake.

I had to do a post on chocolate with Easter around the corner! And what a wonderful thing it is! A little time off to spend reconnecting, enjoying and eating with family and friends. I’m particularly excited this year as it’s the first Easter that my daughter is old enough to enjoy the Easter Bunny – so I get to make footprints on the floor and host egg hunts – all very exciting!

So, to the chocolate. There is a lot of politics surrounding chocolate, or more specifically cocoa and the way that it is collected. West Africa is home to at least 40% of the world’s cocoa production, where there have been ongoing issues with child labour and exploitation.

Fair Trade International is a global organisation that requires companies to pay sustainable prices to the farmers, and this therefore improves their working conditions and local sustainability. The organisation also prohibits child and forced labor.

For more information on which chocolate is fairtrade, have a look here or here

Unfortunately, just because chocolate is fairly traded, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s of wonderful quality. Get into the habit of reading labels, and choosing varieties with less sugar, and without artificial sweeteners, flavourings and other sorts of numbers and names that you don’t recognise.

Conscious Chocolate is a lovely thing! It uses cacao sourced from Bolivia and certified by the “Hand in Hand” programme which supports sustainable farming practices and gives back to the farmers via education, health and environmental programmes, and ensures fair pay.

It’s dairy free, gluten free, soy free, low GI and vegan – whoa. Usually this might also equal taste free….but not here – yay!! Check out their website for more information on the ingredients and how it’s made.

Another option is to make your own! I researched this a little, and found that you need some special equipment to have a proper go at this, so I will have to put that project off for a while. There are a number of versions floating around on the internet to try with combinations of cocoa butter, cocoa, sweetener of some kind and milk, but I couldn’t find one that I liked that I was able to do at home.

I did however find an awesome raw brownie recipe from the wonderful Sarah at ‘My New Roots’ which uses:
2 cups walnuts
2 1/2 cups Medjool dates, pitted
1 cup raw cacao
1 cup raw unsalted almonds roughly chopped
1/4 tsp sea salt

Whiz up the walnuts in a food processor, add cacao and salt and pulse, then add the dates one at a time until the mix is like breadcrumbs and sticks together if pressed (if not add more dates). Press into a lined dish and chill until you’re ready to experience the excitement of a sugar, dairy and gluten free delight that is sure to rock your world!

We had a pre-Easter brunch last weekend and I decided to make an amazing pumpkin cheesecake as part of the spread that was inspired by a recipe I found at 20 something cupcake’s blog, I just made it a bit more wholefood-y. 

Here’s what I did:

For the cust
1 cup almond meal
1 cup plain unbleached flour or white spelt flour
150g butter, chopped into cubes
1 tbs rapadura sugar
1/2 tsp ground ginger

(Apologies here – these are not exact quantities for the base as the excitement of making this cheesecake lead to a random throwing together of ingredients until it looked right…..I think it’s about right – but I will take it upon myself to make another one – how will I ever cope – and include the exact quantities next time)

For the filling
500g (or 2 packets) cream cheese at room temperature
200g plain yoghurt
1 cup rapadura sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
425-450g cooked pumpkin, well mashed
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius (350F)
To make the crust, combine the almond meal and flour, sugar and ginger in a bowl. Add the cubed butter and rub and squash the dry ingredients into the butter with your fingertips until the mix looks like breadcrumbs. Press into a lined springform pan and bake until slightly browned (5-10 minutes). Set aside.

To make the filling, beat the cream cheese in a mixer using a paddle attachment on med-high speed until fluffy – about 1 minute. Add the yoghurt and mix to combine. Add the sugar and beat until smooth (about 1 minute). Add the eggs one at a time, beating on med-high for about 20 seconds after each one. Add the pumpkin, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger and mix until combined well.

Pour this delightful mix over the crust and bake on the centre rack of the oven for about 1 hour, until the filling has set and golden brown on top.

Cool on a wire rack for about half an hour and then chill for several hours or overnight.

Remove from the pan and transfer to a serving plate.

I topped the cake with a home-made granola style muesli that I had made out of a mix of oats, almonds, brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, coconut flakes, coconut oil and a bit of maple syrup and then toasted in the oven for 10 -15 minutes, stirring regularly. 

Big hit!! I wish everyone a fabulous Easter break full of happiness, fun and deliciousness.