Monday, May 6, 2013

Forest berry tart with vanilla cream (vegan, gluten free, raw)

I once lived in France for 4 months in a cute little suburb on the southeastern edge of Paris called Charenton-le-Pont. There's something about the fresh spring air that reminds me of all the baked goods that incorporated fresh, whole fruits in the pâtisseries in my little town. One of my favorite indulgences to pick up during the walk home from the métro were personal-size vanilla custard tarts covered in dark forest berries. The baker at my favorite spot, a kind-eyed middle-aged woman, would even take the extra step of glazing the top of the tart with a clear gelatin, just to set the berries in and make them shine. Stopping in her shop always made me smile because one could tell that she was doing what she loved.

A classic French tart has a crumbly, buttery crust, a thick, gooey vanilla custard, and fresh fruit of any variety. My personal favorite berries are raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries, which the French call fruits du bois, or forest fruits, so I've aptly name my little creation a forest berry tart, to pay homage to my little séjour in Charenton.

But I have to admit my recipe is far from traditional French cuisine. I have been enamored by all the whole foods blogs on the web, and the little dessert creations they come up with that can be labeled wonderful things such as vegan, raw, and gluten free. My recipe is a bit of an amalgamation of all I've learned about using more healthy ingredients. I used a walnut based crust with a cashew cream, which is meant to mimic the traditional vanilla custard. I did put a little bit of half and half in mine, just to give richness to that vanilla flavor, but you could use coconut cream (the cream that gathers at the top of a can of coconut milk), a soy creamer, or even use a touch of almond or other nut milk. If you are gluten free though, do be aware that only some brands of oats are certified gf.

Do let me know your thoughts on my recipes, and I hope that you are enjoying the budding spring as much as I am in my little corner of the world.

Forest berry tart with vanilla cream

1 cup walnuts
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup date paste

vanilla cream filling
1 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp raw honey
1 tbsp date paste
2 tsp vanilla extract or 2 vanilla bean pods
2 tbsp cream, creamer, or milk (such as half & half, coconut cream, almond milk, soy creamer)

1 box blackberries
1/2 box raspberries
1/2 box blueberries

Soak the raw cashews in 2 cups of water for 4 hours or overnight.

In a food processor, combine all crust ingredients and process until a fine but still fluffy consistency. Smash the crust into the bottom of a spring-form pan and pop into the freezer to set, as the coconut oil will harden the crust.

Clean out the food processor and now combine all filling ingredients and process thoroughly until there is no grittiness remaining from the cashews and the cream has a smooth consistency. Spoon the filling over the crust and pop back into the freezer.

Wash and rinse your berries and place them in a strainer. Before the cream filling hardens too much, arrange the berries in a pattern of your choice. Don't push too heavily, but push enough that they will set into the cream. Place in the refrigerator until serving. For a firmer crust, freeze no longer than 1 hour before serving.

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