Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Easter Fruit Tart

As I mentioned earlier, I am totally into cashews right now and have been eager to try cashew pastry cream. I have made other vegan pastry creams in the past and never been very pleased with the result. Going creamy often involves tofu (which I am trying to limit in my diet) and always runs the risk of having that "vegan aftertaste". Well I have decided it is time for that "vegan aftertaste" to become a compliment. It is time for people to expect our creams and custards and mousses to be better than their cow counterpart.

So my dessert challenge this week was to make a delicious pastry cream out of cashews that would be the base of my Easter fruit tart.

The Components:

Cashew Pastry Cream
Shortbread Tart Shell
1 pint Strawberries
1/2 pint Raspberries
1/2 pint Blueberries
2 Kiwi
1 Mango
Apricot Glaze

Cashew Pastry Cream

3 Tbsp non-hydrogenated margarine (Earth Balance is best)
2 Tbsp cornstarch
2/3 cup sugar
2 cups soy milk
2 vanilla beans
1 cup raw cashews
1 cup water

Soak the cashews in 1 cup water overnight.

In a food processor blend the cashews with the water until completely smooth. This may take a long time so be patient.

Meanwhile melt margarine in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add cornstarch and quickly whisk until smooth and thick. Mix the milk and sugar in a separate bowl and add slowly into the cornstarch mixture, whisking constantly. With a paring knife slice the vanilla beans lengthwise and scrape the bean clean. Stir vanilla into pastry cream. Switch from whisk to spatula and continue stirring while cream thickens, scraping down the sides. It should coat the spatula, looking something like this:
Once thick, remove from heat and allow cream to cool slightly. When it is no longer hot to the touch add it to the cashews which should be very smooth and creamy and blend for a few more minutes until well combined.

Place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming. Set in refrigerator and allow several hours for pastry cream to set up.
This can be made several days in advance; it will store in the refrigerator for up to five days.

Shortbread Tart Shell

This recipe is from Isa Chandra Moskowitz's wonderful cookie cookbook, "Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar."

1 cup non-hydrogenated margarine, slightly softened
2/3 cup sugar
2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1/3 cup cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 10-inch tart pan.
In a large bowl beat together the margarine and sugar, scraping the sides often, until very light and creamy.

Sift together flour and cornstarch. Add to margarine mixture in batches, folding in with a spatula first. Beat together until mixture is crumbly yet moist, holding together when pressed. You want it to look something like this:

Empty dough into tart shell and press down with fingers so that it evenly fills the bottom. Press all around the entire rim of the pan to get the dough into the fluted edges as well as at the fold so that you have a good 90 degree angle.
For a clean look run a knife around the top to even out the sides.

With a fork poke holes into the dough.

Place tart shell in oven and bake for about 25-30 minutes until the shortbread is slightly puffed and the edges are staring to golden. Remove from heat and let cool.

Pour chilled and set-up pastry cream into completely cooled tart shell, filling about half full. Smooth the top with an offset spatula. Place back in fridge to set up for another hour or so.

Once ready, gently remove the sides of the tart pan by holding the bottom and slightly pushing down at the rim to remove. It's important to do this now before the tart gets too heavy. Take a knife and stick it between the bottom of the pan and tart shell. The bottom should just ease off at this point.

Place on flat round plate and begin assembling. You can do this however you like with any type of fruit. This is what I did:
Cut strawberries in half and place around the edge. Place raspberries just inside the strawberries, doubling them up to create volume.

Skin and slice kiwi into eight slices and place around the raspberries, followed by all the blueberries. Again, I used an entire 1/2 pint, stacking them to create more volume. I finished with three strawberries and slices of mangos in the center.

You're almost finished! Heat up 1 Tbsp apricot jam (or any jam really) and 2 Tbsp water, whisking constantly until boiling. With a pastry brush (silicone works best) brush the glaze on over the fruit. This gives it a nice shine and a couple extra hours of shelf life.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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