Friday, April 6, 2012

You Little Tart!

The Setting: Beautiful blue skies!

The Soundtrack: GCB on Hulu.

Steaming up the oven: Nada...but I'm contemplating pizza.

The Scenario: Testing recipes for a cooking class I'm teaching on the 22nd (Earth Day).

Since it's finally spring, and the markets are beginning to come alive with the vibrant colors and welcome flavors of juicy berries and fresh asparagus, I figured...

What better way to celebrate spring than to proudly flaunt its bounty atop French tarts?

For something savory, Asparagus, Leek, and Goat Cheese Tarts.

And for something sweet, berry tarts--but not just any berry tarts--Vegan Berry Tarts!

My test run for the asparagus tarts went off without a hitch, but the vegan tarts presented a couple of hiccups.

My first fling with the butterless tart shells resulted in cookie-shaped mini-scones with a flavor and mouthfeel somewhere between super-crumbly shortbread and flaky croissants--pleasant enough, but not what I was going for.

A reduction in the amount of coconut oil and the addition of just a touch of tofu yielded an easy-to-work-with dough and perfect vegan tart shells.

As for the filling, the combination of orange marmalade, vanilla bean, powdered sugar, and tofu, when blended to oblivion, provided a surprisingly dead-on substitution for traditional pastry cream.

I'm shocked, and pleased, to say I could just about replace the real pastry cream and tart shells in my repertoire with the simpler and more healthful vegan versions from here on out.

Vegan Berry Tarts
The crust and filling for these tarts share one package of tofu. For the crust, do your best to measure level tablespoons of the coconut oil and tofu. Using measuring spoons instead of measuring cups keeps the oil and tofu in small increments that will break up more easily in the food processor without over working the dough or melting the fat.

~for the crust~
8 T coconut oil, room temp
4 T (from a 12.3 oz package) firm tofu (I used Silken)
1 1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
3 T non-dairy dark chocolate chips

~for the filling~
remainder of the package of tofu
1/4 cup orange marmalade
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 vanilla bean
assorted berries for topping, cleaned and patted dry if necessary

~for the glaze~
1/2 cup orange marmalade
2 T water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F., lay a sheet of parchment paper on your counter, and line two standard size, 12-cup muffin pans with muffin liners.

Measure out the coconut oil and the tofu for the crust, tablespoon by tablespoon, into a cup or small bowl. Place in the freezer just while you prepare the dry ingredients.

Place the pastry flour, 1/3 cup powdered sugar, and salt in a food processor fitted with the dough blade and pulse several times to combine. Remove the coconut oil and tofu from the freezer, use a knife to break up any large clumps, and add to the flour mixture. Pulse until dough comes together in one large ball.

Turn dough out onto the parchment, pat into a flattened disk, wrap up in the parchment, and let rest in fridge for 10 minutes.

Unwrap dough, place another sheet of parchment on top, and roll out to about 1/8 of an inch. Use a jar lid or 3-inch biscuit cutter to cut out 24 circles, re-rolling as necessary. Carefully fit each circle into a muffin cup, pressing gently to avoid tearing or excess stretching. Prick the bottoms of each cup all over with a fork, and bake at 350 for 16 minutes, rotating pans halfway through. Cool completely. Remove tart shells from muffin liners.

Place the dark chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl, and heat for 30 seconds. Stir until smooth. Use a pastry brush to paint a thin layer of chocolate in the bottom of each tart shell. Let set completely at room temperature.

Place the remaining tofu, 1/4 cup marmalade, and 1/2 cup powdered sugar in a blender or in a small-basined food processor fitted with the metal blade. Split the vanilla bean, scrape out the seeds, and add them to the filling ingredients (the pod can be stashed in a bag of sugar or added to a bottle of vanilla extract to boost its flavor). Blend or process till completely smooth and creamy.

Fill each tart shell with the pastry cream and arrange berries on top as desired. Place tarts in a baking pan or wide plastic container, and let chill in the fridge while you prepare the glaze.

Whisk together 1/2 cup marmalade and 2 T water in small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a gentle boil, reduce heat to low, and cook 2 more minutes. Strain if desired. Cool 5 minutes.

Use a clean pastry brush to gently paint the tops of the tarts with glaze. Refrigerate tarts 20 minutes or until ready to serve. Tarts will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Thanks for reading! Here's to Being the Secret Ingredient in your life.

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