I spent some time thinking about techniques and googling vegan and Paleo desserts and this is what I came up with. This recipe is neither of those, but could be made that way with some alterations - it's especially close to vegan, if something else is used as a stabilizer. It could be paleo pretty easily, too, with something else to sweeten.
Okay. So. I won't lie, this is a process. It's for a special occasion, when you really want to go all out.
The cashews need to soak overnight. The gelatin gets bloomed, heated to liquefy, and tempered in. It needs taste-testing along the way - I've only made this once and I was tinkering as I went, so the amounts of some things, like sugar, lemon juice, and spices, are approximate. Also, you'll need to factor in time for making the crust, the caramel, and the apple topping, and letting it chill to set. This should in no way be seen as a tested, prescriptive recipe. These are just my notes, and you can use them as a guide if you want to.
Things I'd consider changing, if I do this again:
1. Less cashew. Just, like, less. This made a ridiculous amount - we're talking a 10" spring form pan, full.
2. Chocolate version! Melt some dark chocolate with the coconut oil and milk. Reduce lemon juice, leave out cinnamon. No apples in the topping, maybe toast up some coconut shards for a decoration on top of the caramel. I'm probably making this version for Christmas.
Autumn Cheesecake (without gluten, dairy, egg, soy, almonds, pecans), or Creamy Firm
Cashew-Coconut Pudding With Maple Oat Crust, Coconut Caramel, And Sauteed Cinnamon Apples.
The crust, caramel, and topping can be made in advance.
This is based off of the oat steusel in the new Smitten Kitchen cookbook. If you don't need to be gluten free, use whatever crust you like.
-1 tbsp coconut oil, melted
-3 tbsp maple syrup
-Oats: I used a mix of oat flour and baby oatmeal because I had them, but normally I would have just whizzed some rolled oats. I think I'd like this better with oats the texture of quick-cook, no more grinding.
Mix oil and syrup. Add oats a little at a time until you have a rubble. Let it cool until the it firms up a bit - a few minutes in the fridge. Line the bottom of a springform with parchment or foil and grease lightly. Press crumbs into the bottom of the pan and chill again until cool. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes or maybe longer, checking it frequently. When it's toasted, take it out and cool it completely.
2 cups raw cashews (make sure they're raw, or they won't get as creamy, and it'll taste very cashew-y)
2 cans coconut milk
3 tbsp coconut oil, melted
3 envelopes unflavored gelatin
Juice of 1 big, heavy lemon, or two small ones
3/4 c sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
The day before you bake, dump cashews in a microwave-safe bowl and cover with water by a few inches. Put it in the fridge, and forget it. The next day, when you're ready to make the filling, put the bowl in the microwave and nuke it until it's boiling...or dump it all in a pot and do it on the stove. Get out your food processor or high powered blender and plug it in. Drain cashews in a colander and immediately dump hot nuts in the machine, and whirl it up. You will need to stop it to scrape down the sides. If it's too thick for the machine to handle, open one of your cans of coconut milk and add some until it loosens up. Process it until it's very creamy and smooth - it'll get there!
In a medium bowl, sprinkle gelatin over 1/2c cold water and whisk out lumps. Let it sit until it's gelled up, a few minutes or less. Microwave as little as possible (10 second intervals), stirring in between, until it's liquified. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a big bowl you'll use with a hand mixer), put the sugar and half of one of the cans of coconut milk. Turn it on, and pour in the liquified gelatin mixture, making sure there are no lumps. If there are, strain it - you don't want those gummy bits in your cheesecake. Once the mixture is homogenized, add a few tablespoons of the lemon juice, the vanilla, salt, and cinnamon, and the rest of the coconut milk and melted coconut oil, and mix. Start up the food processor again, and slowly add this to the cashew puree. Taste, and adjust seasoning as you like - probably more lemon juice. When you like how it tastes, pour mixture on to the crust in the springform and chill until set, a few hours. If you have too much filling, chill it in other containers - it's tasty to eat as pudding.
These are easy. The apples are just like cooking up mushrooms in a pan. The caramel is just like making regular caramel stuff, just instead of butter and cream, you use coconuts that have been processed and refined into various forms.
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp coconut oil
Dice apples into rough 1" dice; peel if you want, I didn't. In batches, saute in coconut oil until browned. Don't overcrowd the pan and don't stir too much; you want some color on them. Toss with cinnamon.
1 3/4 c white sugar
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 can coconut milk
Pinch of salt
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the sugar. If you prefer to use a wet method, do that, or do it dry. When the melted sugar is a nice caramelly color, turn off the heat and add the oil, salt & milk. It'll sputter and froth! Whisk until smooth and then turn the heat on and cook until it reaches soft ball. Let cool a bit, so it's still very liquidy but not scalding hot, and pour it over the chilled cake, tilting so it conver evenly. Chill until firm, top with apple mixture, and serve!