The relationship between food and memory has always been a fascinating subject to me. Certain foods can evoke strong memories of childhood, people, places, and emotions. I honestly don’t think I could possibly look at a raspberry and not think of my grandmother and her raspberry bushes in Michigan. That that tiny red fruit can almost bring me back to those warm days, filling buckets full of her raspberries in anticipation of the sweet jam I know she would somehow manifest in her magical kitchen. Sitting here right now, I can smell the sweet berries in my mind.
Research has shown that the area that processes smells in your brain is linked to the areas that process memory and emotion. This makes your sense of smell possibly more powerful in evoking memory than sights or sound.
The smell of a bakery is a smell that evokes memory and emotion for me, and not just because I love to eat baked goods. One of my first jobs was working in a French Bakery filled with amazing smells. The bakery was here in California, but both owner and the baker were French and they knew their pastry. This amazing little bakery was defiantly inspiring and soon after working there, I began taking cooking classes. I still fantasize about running my own little patisserie.
Every morning I would fill the cases with every kind of delicious pastry you could think of.
Golden flaky croissants filled with fruit, chocolate, or nuts. Palmiers the size of my head, cinnamon rolls, and danishes, oh my! Seriously heaven.
The sweet smells of pastry and breads wafting through the air were not a bad thing to start your day with. Definitely made it easier to get out of bed at 3 am.
I have yet to meet this bakery’s equal, and it closed years ago, so I guess I will just have to take a trip to France one day.
There was one case in the bakery that was filled with especially delectable treats. Petit fours and eclairs, cream puffs and brulees. My personal favorite though, if you haven’t guessed by now, were the fruit tarts.
Perfect buttery crusts filled with creamy goodness and topped with fresh fruit. My perfect combination of fresh and baked, tart and sweet.
The Vegan Fresh Berry Fruit Tarts recipe I’m sharing with you today is all those things, only this recipe is free from any animal products.
Vegan butter gives the crust that delicate crumble.
Coconut cream makes a decadent pastry cream that you may just eat out of the bowl.
Fresh fruit and lemon zest make this dessert both delicious and beautiful.
I really hope you like this recipe! It is the kind of treat that you can give to all your omnivore friends to prove how amazing vegan desserts can be.
You can of course switch out the fruit with any of your favorites. Try raspberries, kiwi, mandarin, papaya, or blackberry.
I used 1 whole vanilla bean pod for this recipe. Real vanilla makes such a huge difference in flavor in your desserts. It is expensive, but totally worth it in recipes where you really want the vanilla to shine. You can replace the vanilla in this recipe with a tsp of vanilla extract and it will still be wonderful. You can buy vanilla beans online here, or if you have a Costco nearby, they have beans at a good price.
For a little shine and sweetness, I brushed the tops of the tarts with a little agave syrup. Traditionally, warm apricot preserves are used. This is totally optional and you can skip if you dont have on hand.
The crust dough is a soft dough which can make it a little breakable when pressing and rolling out. Don’t be discouraged, just be gentle. Use your hands to press back together. The dough is very forgiving and if your circles fall apart a little you can just press the pieces inside the tart shells with your fingers and it will bake up just fine. This recipe made about 14, 3 inch round tarts. Here are some tart pans.
Make it, eat it, enjoy!
- 1 Can Coconut Cream or Full Fat Coconut Milk
- 1 Vanilla Bean
- ½ Cup Sugar
- 3 Tbs Cornstarch
- 3 Tbs Water
- 1 Tsp Lemon Zest
- 1½ Cups All Purpose Flour
- ⅓ Cup Sugar
- ½ Cup Vegan Butter, I use Earth Balance
- 1 Tsp Lemon Zest
- ¼ Tsp Salt
- Fresh Strawberries and Blueberries
- 1 Tbs Agave Syrup (optional)
- In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch and water until all lumps are gone.
- In a small sauce pot, heat coconut milk and sugar, stirring often until it just reaches a boil, then lower heat to a simmer.
- Slowly pour in cornstarch mixture while whisking.
- Continue to whisk until mixture thickens to an almost pudding like thickness. 3 to 5 Minutes.
- Take off heat.
- Cut vanilla bean down the center but not all the way through. Open vanilla bean and scrape out seeds with the back of a knife. Stir into the pastry cream.
- Stir in the lemon zest.
- Refrigerate until cold.
- Place all crust ingredients into a food processor and pulse together until a soft dough forms.
- Form dough into a ball and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
- On a floured surface press half of the dough out with hands or a rolling pin. Dough will be soft and a little crumbly, that's OK, jut press together with hands.
- Use a cup or cutter to cut circles of dough a little bigger than your tart shells, about a ⅛ inch thick.
- Sprinkle a little four into the bottom of your tart shells.
- Press circles into tart shells.
- Continue pressing out dough and cutting circles with the remainder of the dough.
- Prick bottom and sides of tarts with a fork.
- Place crust shells into freezer for 15 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Place tarts on a baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.
- If crust has puffed up in the middle, press lightly with the back of a spoon.
- Let cool completely.
- When everything is cool, fill centers of tarts with pastry cream and top with sliced fruits and berries.
- Brush lightly with Agave syrup and sprinkle with more zest if desired.
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