Paleo Tartlet: Tracy Hirst

The caveman diet, primal eating, the new Atkins… whatever you call it, the paleo philosophy is followed by growing hoards of health-nuts with cult-like devotion. And, it’s no surprise. Done properly, it’s a healthy, easily digestible dietary plan. We catch up with Primal Pantry’s Tracy Hirst, to see her mocha cacao nib and berry tartlets in action.

Paleo is not simply a diet, it’s a lifestyle that aims to nourish the body and to establish a connection between consumer and food source. Designed to be compatible with the way our bodies are innately programmed to process food, proponents of the diet tout improved health outcomes, such as increased energy and a reduction in blood sugars that can cause heart attacks and diabetes.

For chefs, paleo food can be quite easy; lean meats, veggies and natural fats. For bakers, however, the absence of dairy, grains and processed sugar can be a little more challenging.

Don’t be put off though, because there are significant marketing and logistical benefits for bakers looking to expand into paleo baking. Firstly, it’s on-trend. Secondly, it ticks the boxes for a variety of hard-to-cater-for diets, including gluten-free.

“The beauty of paleo baking is you not only cater for gluten-free customers but also those avoiding sugar and dairy. Because we balance our good fats, good carbs and protein, those following a clean diet can also indulge,” Primal Pantry head chef Tracy Hirst says.

“Gluten-free and paleo baking are fundamentally different, however. Gluten-free is often very high in refined sugar and still contains inflammatory products like rice flour and corn starches, whereas paleo looks to minimise refined sugars and carbohydrates. But the two can overlap.”

In fact, Primal Pantry’s own menu proudly boasts 100 per cent of it’s offering is both paleo and gluten-free.

Almond meal, coconut flour, nut butters, raw honey, pure maple, fruit and veggie purées and fresh medjool dates are the heroes of this diet, with Tracy saying the transition to paleo baking will have its challenges for those who haven’t tried it before.

“As a pastry chef for about 20 years, this has been a huge learning curve. Not everything we learnt in traditional baking is necessarily going to work for this diet. Substituting good fats like avocado or coconut oil for butter, using coconut flour and linseed meal instead of wheat flour, using pumpkin purée or banana instead of refined sugar means traditional recipes do need to be adapted,” she says.

“Trial and error and many days of recipe development have gone into developing the sweets at Primal Pantry. Be prepared for many failures in the early days!

“There is a lot of information on the internet, but remember, they don’t usually have a professional background and are often technically wrong. Use the training and skills you already have to experiment with different textures and ingredients. The result is delicious baked goods that have an improved nutritional profile.”

Tracy’s mocha cacao nib and berry tartlet is a perfect first-timers recipe. The tart base is versatile for sweet or savoury dishes as it has no sweeteners. The filling is a variation on egg custard, which is sweetened with pumpkin and maple syrup. It’s also thickened with nuts, which gives a healthy balance of good fats and protein.

“I have also used seasonal product with the boysenberries. It’s garnished with almond butter cups and a bit of edible lustre to give it a bit of sparkle,” she says.

The mocha cacao nib and berry tartlets are currently on sale at Primal Pantry’s flagship outlet in Teneriffe, Brisbane. The business has been wildly successful; a testament to the mainstreaming of the paleo philosophy and consumer preferences for food with a more positive nutritional profile.

Owner Mark Rockley opened another store in Nundah in early December, with a further four stores planned for next year.

Tracy leads paleo baking masterclasses in Brisbane throughout the year. For more information on upcoming classes, or to find your nearest Primal Pantry outlet, visit



Mocha Cacao Nib and Berry Filling

1 cup walnuts
½ cup cashews
1 ½ cup pumpkin purée
1 egg
4 yolks
¼ cup maple syrup
¼ cup raw honey
1 tsp pure vanilla paste
1 tbsp raw cacao
¼ tsp cinnamon
1 espresso shot, cooled
Pinch Himalayan pink salt
2 tbsp Felchin Cacao Nibs
Fresh boysenberries


1½ cup walnuts
1 cup almond meal
1 egg white
Pinch Himalayan pink salt

Almond Butter Cups

200g Felchin Organic 74 per cent Cacao Buttons
½ cup almond butter

Almond Butter

500g raw organic almonds



1. Combine walnut and almond meal in a Thermomix or blender.

2. Purée to very fine crumb.
3. Add egg white and pink salt, process till combined.
4. Brush tart moulds with coconut oil and divide pastry between moulds.

5. Pastry should be 2-3mm in thickness.
6. Blind back tart shell in oven.

Mocha Cacao Nib and Berry Filling

1. Combine walnuts and cashews in Thermomix and process to fine crumb.
2. Add in all wet ingredients and purée to very smooth custard.
3. Add raw cacao, cinnamon and pink salt.

4. Place custard into metal bowl and stir through cacao nibs.
5. Meanwhile place fresh boysenberries into tart shells.
6. Spoon over custard mix and bake in oven at 140°C.

7. Do not cook all the way through.

Almond Butter Cups

1. Melt chocolate and 1/3 fill moulds.

2. Refrigerate till slightly set.
3. Spoon in almond butter 1/3 fill mould.

4. Cover with remaining chocolate.
5. Set till firm.

Almond Butter

1. Roast in oven to release oils.
2. Place in Thermomix while still warm and blend on medium speed until almonds have
released oils and turned to butter like consistency.
3. You may need to add a neutral oil to get the butter consistency (depending on the weather)


1. Remove tartlets from moulds.
2. Roughly chop almond buttercups and sprinkle on top of tartlets.
3. Drizzle with almond butter.
4. Garnish with raspberries and micro mint. Sprinkle with edible lustre.

Note: To make pumpkin purée wrap whole pumpkin in foil and steam through. Remove and scrape out seeds and discard. Remove flesh and purée.

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