Salted Maple Caramel Corn with Crunchy Lentils, Dried Cherries, and Cashews

Caramel corn is loaded with nostalgia for me; when I was young, it was a tradition to make it when we would sleep over at my grandma and grandpa’s house. I’m pretty sure that grandma didn’t load hers with lentils, but she’s definitely the first person I think to tell when I have a hankering for this salty sweet deliciousness. Sweet, salty, crunchy, chewy… This maple-kissed caramel corn has all your favorite tastes and textures rolled into one. Of course, if you have a hot-air popper (which I don’t have), you can nix the step for making the popcorn on the stovetop, and use the appliance, instead.

Along with the Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffle Pie, this was made for the Lentil Recipe Revelations Challenge.

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Salted Caramel Corn with Crunchy Lentils, Dried Cherries, and Cashews

1/2 cup dried red lentils
Fine sea salt
1 tablespoon coconut oil, plus more for the pans
2/3 cup popcorn kernels
1 1/2 cups dried sweet cherries
1 heaping cup salted cashews, toasted
1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
2/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/3 cup vegan buttery spread, such as Earth Balance
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Soak the red lentils in about 3 cups water for 4 hours. Drain, rinse well, and drain again. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the lentils in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt. Bake on the centre rack for about 30 minutes, until the lentils are crisp. Cool completely.

Once the lentils are cool, preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Lightly oil two baking sheets.

Melt the coconut oil in a large pot or dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid. Bring to medium-high heat. Add the popcorn kernels and cover. Let cook until the kernels begin to pop, then reduce to the heat to medium-low. Continue to cook, shaking the pan frequently, until the popping has slowed down. Remove from heat. When the popping has stopped, pour the popcorn into a large bowl. Add the crunchy lentils, dried cherries, and cashews.

Put the brown sugar, maple syrup, and vegan buttery spread in a medium pot. Bring to a boil, and cook for 4 minutes, stirring once. Remove from heat, and stir in the vanilla extract, salt, and baking soda. Mix well, then working quickly, pour the mixture over the popcorn mixer. Mix well (a metal spoon is easiest here) to coat.

Spread the mixture on the two baking sheets in a single layer. Bake on the centre rack for 35 minutes, stirring once halfway. Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffle Pie with Brownie Crust

A rich, chocolate peanut butter pie riddled with goodness. You can’t go wrong here, folks. Don’t let all the steps deter you — it comes together quickly, but is best made the day before serving This recipe is super adaptable and versatile, so for a few tips and suggestions, check out the Notes below.

This is one of my two entries in the Lentil Recipe Revelations Challenge, put on by Canadian Lentils. The main criteria is to use at least 1/2 cup lentils, but don’t let that turn you off — you seriously aren’t getting a lentil pie here. Instead, they purée into a creamy mass that mingles with chocolate and peanut butter, to create a truffle-like interior that is similar to a New York-style cheesecake.

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffle Pie with Brownie Crust

Brownie Crust
6 tablespoons sorghum flour
2 tablespoons tapioca flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably dark
1/4 cup melted coconut oil (see Notes)
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons nondairy milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Crunch Layer
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, preferably mini
1/2 cup dry roasted, salted peanuts

Truffle Filling
1/2 cup dried red lentils, picked over and rinsed well
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons unsweetened nondairy milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt

Additional dry roasted, salted peanuts, for topping

Chocolate Ganache
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 1/2 teaspoons coconut oil

Peanut Butter Ganache
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon coconut oil

To make the Brownie Crust, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil a 9-inch springform pan, then line with parchment paper.

Put the sorghum flour, sugar, cocoa powder, tapioca flour, baking powder, xanthan gum, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk well to combine. Put the coconut oil, maple syrup, nondairy milk, and vanilla extract in a small bowl. Whisk well to combine. Pour the oil mixture into the flour mixture. Stir to combine — it will seem really runny at first, but don’t worry, it thickens quickly and you’ve not gone wrong! Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan, smoothing evenly. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until the top is just firm to the touch. Like brownies, it should seem slightly underdone for the best texture. Let cool completely in the pan.

To start the Truffle Filling, cook the lentils in about 2 cups of water on the stovetop until they are very soft, about 35 minutes, rinsing and draining well at the end. Set aside to cool until the crust is ready.

To make the Crunch Layer, put the chocolate chips and peanuts in a food processor. Pulse about 10 times until the mixture is combined and chopped. Transfer to a bowl.

Once the crust and the lentils are ready, continue with the Truffle Filling. Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler or microwave (see Notes). Put the lentils in the food processor. Process until smooth. Add the peanut butter, maple syrup, nondairy milk, vanilla extract, and salt. Process until completely smooth. Scrape the melted chocolate into the food processor, and process until well combined.

Scrape about half of the Truffle Filling onto the cooled Brownie Crust. Spread evenly. Top with the Crunch Layer, pressing down slightly. Scrape the remaining Truffle Filling onto the Crunch Layer, spreading evenly. Sprinkle with additional peanuts, if desired. Refrigerate until firm, preferably overnight to let the flavors meld together.

When ready to top with the ganaches, remove the pie from the springform pan and transfer to a serving plate. Put the chocolate chips and coconut oil for the Chocolate Ganache in a small bowl. Put the peanut butter and coconut oil for the Peanut Butter Ganache in a second small bowl. Using the microwave, melt both over medium heat in 20 second intervals, stirring between each one, until the chocolate chips are melted, and both are a drizzly consistency. Alternate drizzling each one over the pie. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes to set the topping. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Notes:

  • If you don’t have a 9-inch springform pan, bake the Brownie Crust in a 9-inch round pan lined with parchment paper. Once it has cooled, remove it from the pan, then line the pan with aluminum foil, making sure it reaches up the sides (this will help you remove it from the pan. Put the Brownie Crust back into the pan (with the parchment still under it. After you do the Truffle Filling and it’s set, use the aluminum foil to help you lift the pie from the pan, then discard the foil and carefully remove the parchment before putting it onto the serving dish.
  • The lentils can easily be made in advance, so if you’re making a big batch, it yields about 1 cup cooked lentils. You want to be sure these are slightly overcooked, as opposed to a little al dente, so they’ll purée smoothly.
  • To melt chocolate on the stovetop, put about 1 inch of water in a small pot. Put a shatterproof bowl on top, making sure it doesn’t come in contact with the water. Put the chocolate in the bowl. Set to medium-low heat and let the water lightly boil. Stir the chocolate frequently until it melts. To melt the chocolate in the microwave, put the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and heat in 20 second intervals, stirring between each one, until smooth.
  • I like using So Delicious brand unsweetened coconut beverage for my nondairy milk of choice. It’s safe for my celiac disease, has a neutral taste, and fantastic texture for baking. If you use dairy-based milk, then choose something on the thick side.
  • I don’t use natural peanut butter here; the creamy stuff adds a fantastic texture and flavor. And the Extra Creamy stuff is really, really fantastic.
  • For the coconut oil, I use the nonvirgin variety to avoid a coconutty flavor, especially in the toppings.
  • If you can’t do an ingredient because you don’t like it, can’t have it, or don’t have it on hand, let me know in the Comments below… I am always loaded with suggestions.

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