Chef Fran Costigan

Raw Chocolate Fudge and Mandarin Orange Tart for National Pie Day

Chocolate Tart 1

Photo by Hannah Kaminksy© 2015

This is my personal opinion of course, but the majority, if not all of the raw chocolate tart fillings I’ve sampled seemed more like date paste-flavored cocoa rather than the rich, silken chocolate fudge I craved. I tested many fillings until I was satisfied. This chocolate fudge filling is different. Luxuriously smooth and definitely chocolate, I’m betting that whether or not you are a raw enthusiast, the recipe will find its way into your file of favorite chocolate recipes.  It is versatile too. Make small parfaits, layering the Raw Chocolate Fudge with fruit and /or nuts. Spread a layer of the filling on the baked Almond Cookie Crust too for a change of pace, and replace the raw cocoa with Dutch-process. The recipe will no longer be raw, but it will be very good.


Note: As is the case with all dried fruits, the relative dryness is variable so the amount of liquid needed to hydrate the fruit and the quantity of purée is not absolute.

The crust will soften at room temperature, so keep this filled tart, minus the fruit in the freezer until ready to serve. Add the fruit just before cutting. Cut cold.


Raw Chocolate Fudge and Mandarin Orange Tart

Makes one (9 to 9 1/2-inch / 23 to 24-cm) tart



  • 5 1/4 ounces /149 grams pitted Medjool dates (about 9 large)
  • 1/2 cup / 120 ml boiling water, or more if the dates are very dry
  • 3 ounces / 85 grams cocoa butter, chopped into small pieces (substitute coconut oil)
  • 2 teaspoons / 10 ml freshly squeezed lemon juice, strained
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon / 60 grams raw cacao powder
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons / 90 ml pure maple syrup, Grade B
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons / 105 grams cashew butter, jarred or homemade
  • 2 tablespoons / 30 ml agave syrup, or use an additional 2 tablespoons of maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons / 10 ml alcohol-free vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon / 3.75 ml tamari or nama shoyu (unpasteurized soy sauce)
  • 1 Raw Nut Crust (recipe follows), prepared in a removable-bottom tart pan and frozen
  • 6 to 7 mandarin oranges, for garnish
  • 1/8 teaspoon lemon salt or any flaked finishing salt, for garnish



  1. Rinse the dates and soak them in the hot water for 20 minutes. (The dates can soak overnight in the refrigerator if this is more convenient.) When the dates are very soft, mash them with a fork to a paste. Remove any skins that slip off easily.
  2. While the dates soak, melt the cocoa butter: Put the cocoa butter into a small heatproof bowl. Fill a small skillet with enough very hot water so that it will reach about one third of the way up the side of the bowl. Carefully place the bowl into the skillet and stir the cocoa butter until it is melted. Be careful not to splash even a single drop of water into the melting cocoa. If using coconut oil, use the same method. Keep the cocoa butter warm.
  3. Purée the dates, any remaining soaking liquid, and the lemon juice in a food processor until smooth. Measure out 6 tablespoons of date paste and refrigerate any extra for another use. Return the 6 tablespoons of paste to the processor.
  4. Add the melted cocoa butter, cacao powder, maple syrup, cashew butter, agave syrup, vanilla, and tamari. Process for 2 to 3 minutes, until the filling is absolutely smooth, stopping the machine a few times to clean the sides.
  5. Spread the filling in the tart crust and smooth the top. Refrigerate the tart for about 2 hours until the filling is firm.


Finish The Tart

Remove the tart from the refrigerator. Peel the mandarins, removing all the white pith. Separate the oranges into their natural sections. Arrange the slices over the filling in concentric circles, so that most of the filling is covered but some of the chocolate peeks through. Sprinkle with the lemon salt or other finishing salt if you wish.



Slice the tart cold for the neatest slices. Serve at room temperature.



The tart can be refrigerated without the orange segments for up to three days or loosely wrapped overnight with the fruit.

Freeze the tart without the oranges, tightly wrapped, for up to one month. Defrost unwrapped in the refrigerator. Add the oranges before serving.


Chocolate Tart 3

Raw Nut Crust 

I never expected a raw nut crust to become one of my favorite crusts, but the ease of making this one and its lovely flavor converted me. This flourless crust is not baked. It is simply formed and pressed into a removable bottom tart pan. Instead of baking, you freeze the crust until it is firm. For a truly raw option, use alcohol-free vanilla extract.

Note: It is essential to use a tart pan with a removable bottom. A pan with a nonstick finish does not need to be oiled.

Makes one (9 to 9 1/2-inch / 23 to 24-cm) crust or six (4 1/2-inch / 11-cm) tarts



  • 5 ounces / 142 grams walnuts (or use another nut)
  • 3 ounces / 85 grams raw unpeeled whole almonds
  • 1/4 cup / 60 ml agave syrup or pure maple syrup, Grade B or dark amber
  • 1 tablespoon / 15 ml coconut oil, melted
  • 1 teaspoon / 5 ml pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt



  1. Place a 9 to 9 1/2 -inch / 23 to 24-cm tart pan with a removable-bottom on a parchment-lined sheet pan. The parchment will catch any dough that may spill over when you press the crust. It is much easier to move a removable-bottom pan when it is on a sheet pan.
  2. Chop the walnuts and almonds coarsely in a food processor by pulsing the processor on and off a few times, then process to a fine meal. Do not process longer or the nuts will get oily.
  3. Add the maple syrup, oil, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt and process just long enough for the ingredients to become moistened. Press a small amount in your fingers; it should stick together. If not, process again very briefly.
  4. Spoon the dough into the tart pan. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the crust and use a flat-bottomed glass or cup to press the dough into an even layer on the bottom and up the sides of the pan, making the bottom a little thicker than the sides. Use about 4 1/2 tablespoons / 70 ml of crumb for each 4 1/2 -inch / 11-cm tart pan. Freeze the crust before filling.


Recipes from Vegan Chocolate: Unapologetically Luscious and Decadent Dairy-Free Desserts, © 2013 by Fran Costigan.

Photos by Hannah Kaminsky

If you liked this post, please share it.

The Vegetarian Flavor Bible Giveaway and a Guest Post from Karen Page

TVFB_FINALCOVER_300dpi_500In The Vegetarian Flavor Bible, Karen Page, a two-time James Beard Award-winning author unlocks flavor combinations for hundreds of ingredients, while examining health considerations. This book is truly an essential guide to culinary creativity. Emphasizing plant-based whole foods, the book provides and A to Z listing of ingredients from acai to zucchini blossoms, cross-referenced with herbs, spices and other seasonings that work to best enhance their flavor. The result is thousands of perfect pairings. I really appreciated the first chapter, devoted to the history of vegetarianism and many of the key players and events that have led us to today, when eating less meat or even no meat is considered mainstream. Karen has shared her personal journey, along with her husband Andrew to a largely plant-based diet. (Andrew is responsible for the book’s beautiful photographs.) How Karen, Andrew and I had not met until their book event at the 92nd Street Y with Candle 79’s Joy Pierson is a mystery to us. But, we did meet and soon after, we enjoyed a long teatime conversation together. I was already a fan of her other books, notably, Becoming a Chef and The Flavor Bible, but this vegetarian themed book has me over the moon. Thank you Karen (and Andrew)!


KarenPageAuthorShotFlowers300dpiWT800When I first started letting people know that I had adopted a plant-strong diet, I remember being asked, “But how on earth could you live without bacon – or chocolate?” – which were two of the five foods I’d mentioned in my book CULINARY ARTISTRY that my eight-year-old self swore I could live on for the rest of my life.  (The others, btw, were bananas, peanut butter, and Rice Krispies.)


VBT_Photos_chocumami_lagustasI’ve since found satisfying substitutes for bacon (including smoked paprika and smoked tofu, plus the amazingly crispy tempeh bacon I tasted at Real Food Daily in Los Angeles), but I was never in any real danger of having to give up chocolate.  I’m not a big fan of milk chocolate to begin with – plus with Fran writing amazing books like Vegan Chocolate, there are thankfully more vegan chocolate recipes around than I’ll ever have the time to take on firsthand.  And with talented chocolatiers like Lagusta Yearwood offering mail order, there’s also no reason not to enjoy a bit of vegan chocolate when you don’t feel like cooking yourself.


Andrew and I love playing around with chocolate in the kitchen.  In the old days, we used to grate Valrohna chocolate into heavy cream to make hot chocolate.  (Woof!)  Today, we grate organic 70% dark chocolate into almond milk, and heat it until warm (and not longer, lest it all evaporate!).  When we want to add a twist to it, we’ll scan the list of flavor pairings for chocolate in THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE, and see what gets us excited.  Sometimes it’s just a shake of cinnamon; other times, it’s a squeeze of orange juice – depending on whether we want that tertiary flavor to take the hot chocolate in a lighter and tart (orange) or sweet and earthy (cinnamon) direction.


Whenever you’re seeking pre–screened inspiration on the fly, all you have to do is look up whatever ingredient you’re working with, and scan the book’s list for bold and BOLD CAP ingredients that pair well with it until you choose the one that most appeals to you.  You can keep cross-referencing up a storm, because as long as any ingredient you add to the original two is compatible with every other ingredient, you’re on your way to experiencing exciting new flavor synergies.


VBT_Photos_chocumami_petitsfoursFor example, under CHOCOLATE in THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE, you’ll find lots of flavor pairings to get your palate revved up, e.g., BANANASCARAMELcherriesCINNAMONcoconutCOFFEEdried fruit, gingermalt, maple syrupMINTmochaNUTSraisins, raspberries, rumSUGAR, and VANILLA, just to mention a few of the more popular ones.


From there, you’ll find ideas for flavor affinities, which are groups of three or more ingredients that all play well together – for example:

chocolate + almonds + maple syrup
chocolate + banana + Brazil nut + smoke
chocolate + banana + caramel + pecans + vanilla
chocolate + caramel + coffee + cream + malt + peanut
chocolate + cherries + dates + nuts
chocolate + coconut + ginger
chocolate + coffee + orange
chocolate + dried plums + hazelnuts
chocolate + peanut + pretzel + stout
chocolate + pecans + vanilla
chocolate + pistachios + walnuts

VBT_Photos_chocumami_candle79dessertOnce you know what flavor affinities you’d like to work with, you can get ideas for how leading restaurants have combined those ingredients into a dish. For example, at Candle Café West in New York City, the flavor affinities “chocolate + banana + caramel + pecans + vanilla” became the dessert of “Mexican Chocolate, Brownie with Caramelized Bananas, French Vanilla Ice Cream, Candied Pecans and Chocolate Ancho Sauce” pictured here.


A few other examples:

chocolate + caramel + coffee + cream + malt + peanut
Chocolate Layer Cake: Coffee Bean Cream, Chocolate Ganache, Lucky Hand Black Lager Caramel, Peanut Brittle, Malt Chip Ice Cream
–Millennium (San Francisco)


chocolate + banana + Brazil nut + smoke
Banana Chocolate Tart with Mesquite Flour Crust and Brazil Nut
–True Food Kitchen (Santa Monica)


chocolate + peanut + pretzel + stout
Chocolate Uber Chunk Pretzel–Peanut Crust, Malt Custard, Stout Ice Cream
— Vedge (Philadelphia)


Have fun letting THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE inspire your next creation in the kitchen!


I have a copy of The Vegetarian Flavor Bible for one one lucky winner. Follow the instructions below to enter. U.S. residents only, please. Contest ends at midnight on January 15, 2015. Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you liked this post, please share it.

Arizonia, here I come! New York too!

My suitcase is almost ready to be closed and I am about to head to Arizona! I’m thrilled to be a presenter at the exciting first ever Arizona Vegetarian Food Festival in Scottsdale. The next day, Sunday January 11th, you will find me at the wonderful indie bookstore, Changing Hands in Tempe, doing a reading and tasting of chocolate desserts.  After that, I’ll be back in New York for two wonderful February events: the Art of Chocolate Weekend at the Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz and the Costigan Vegan Baking Boot Camp Intensive®.

If you’re in  Arizona, I hope you’ll join me at both the #VFF2015 and Bookstore events. (Please share if you have friends in the area!).


Arizona Vegetarian Food Festival

January 10, 2015 10 am to 6 pm
The Scottsdale Civic Center Amphitheater
3939 North Drinkwater Boulevard
Scottsdale, AZ 85251

My Chocolate Dessert Demo is 12:35 to 1:35 on the Pear Stage, and I will be passing samples to taste. After the demo is over, you will find me at a table where you can purchase a copy of Vegan ChocolateI would love to sign a copy to you.

I will be demonstrating how to make incredibly versatile, super silken vegan chocolate ganache for truffles, chocolate crostini, ice cream sundaes, chocolate beverages, and the best cake glaze ever–the one I use to make my signature Chocolate Torte to Live For. Prepare to dazzle friends, families and all vegan doubters.

Other speakers include Gene Baur, Jason Wyrick, JL Fields, and Matt Ball. To find out more information and purchase tickets, visit the festivals website:



Vegan Chocoate-Flyer Changing Hands 1.11.15

Vegan Chocolate book Reading, Tasting and Signing

January 11, 2015, 1:00pm
Changing Hands Bookstore
Tempe Square Shopping Center
6428 South McClintock Drive, Tempe, AZ 85283

I’ll be reading from my book Vegan Chocolate, as well as discussing how to use vegan, organic and fair trade ingredients to produce delicious chocolate treats. I will also share vegan chocolate samples from the recipes in the book. For more information, visit the Changing Hands website:



Art of Chocolate Weekend

February 6 – 8 2015
Mohonk Mountain House
1000 Mountain Rest Road
New Paltz, NY 12561

My vegan chocolate demo, after dinner on Friday February 6th kicks off this sensational weekend as you explore the divine world of chocolate at Mohonk Mountain House. If you love chocolate, this is the time to visit the mountaintop! Get the best recipes, advice and samplings from those who have made their chocolate passion a lifetime pursuit. Chocolate infused Mohonk—two great things mixed together to create the ultimate chocolate obsession.

For more information and to make reservations visit the Mohonk Mountain House website:


Baking bookcamp

Costigan Vegan Baking Boot Camp Intensive®

February 12 – 16, 2015
Natural Gourmet Institute
48 West 21st Street
New York, NY 10010

If you’re on a mission to make world-class vegan desserts, sign on for some “basic training” in the field. Learn the tactics involved in baking without dairy, eggs, and refined sugar, or odd ingredients. You’ll  gain the confidence to adapt many standard recipes to delicious vegan versions, as you learn about foundational pastry technique and ingredients specific to vegan baking. Quality organic, seasonal ingredients will be emphasized, including whole grain flours, organic fair-traded sweeteners (both liquid and granulated), vegan gelatin (agar-agar), root starches, non-dairy milks, sulfite-free dried fruits, chocolate, cocoa, pure extracts, leavening agents and much more. Novice and experienced bakers and everyone in between will benefit from the expert training offered in this unique intensive. Plating of desserts will be practiced daily and a dessert buffet party will be our finale.

Classes are limited to 14. REGISTER EARLY!
A certificate of completion will be issued to those students attending the full 5 days. My cookbook is included in the fee.

To register, visit the Natural Gourmet Institute website:



If you liked this post, please share it.