I have a visitor arriving tonight; she’s one of my oldest friends. Our connection began at her kitchen table when I was four years old and she was a mother of three. I used to draw pictures while she cooked and baked for the many children and friends that passed through her home.
Now she’s a meditating world traveler, dividing her time between India, Holland and Bali.
She visits me wherever I live: we have baked cakes together at 6 am in Amsterdam, catered parties in London, and as I prepare this tart for her in New York I reflect on how my life has changed since we last cooked together in my kitchen. It has been a long time since I made her a birthday cake and deciding on what kind it would be took days of rumination.
In the midst of my usual flurry of activity before her arrival, cleaning and beautifying the house, shopping for her favorite tea, making up a bed and trying to get to the farmers market before the rain did, I reached a verdict. The fact that it’s peak strawberry season confirmed the tart below.
I have been making versions of this strawberry tart since my career in pastry began, but this one was going to be special. Organic macadamias left from my last trip to Australia and vanilla beans from you-know-where, create the base for this rich custard filling sans dairy.
I decided on a toasted coconut cookie crust, and this paired with fresh local strawberries and the macadamia vanilla bean custard created a tart that turned out delicate and refreshing, leaving us feeling light and elated; not heavy and regretful.
I use agar agar to set the custard and arrowroot to thicken it. The right amount and combination makes for a perfect consistency.
If you don’t get a chance to make this while the strawberries are around, use blueberries or raspberries.
Strawberry Macadamia Vanilla bean Custard Tart with Toasted Coconut Cookie Crust
2 ½ cups dried coconut flakes (unsweetened) * see note
¼ cup rolled oats
1 ½ cups whole spelt flour
large pinch finely ground sea salt
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil (mild tasting)
6 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
*If you can’t get coconut flakes, use dessicated coconut reducing amount to 1 1/2 cups
¾ cup raw macadamia nuts, soaked in a cup of water while making the crust
2 cups plus 2 teaspoons filtered water
1 vanilla bean, split
¼ cup brown rice syrup
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 teaspoons agar flakes
pinch sea salt
2 teaspoons arrowroot powder
2 teaspoons filtered water
½ cup plus 1 teaspoon apple cider
½ teaspoon agar flakes
½ teaspoon arrowroot
1 quart fresh strawberries, cut in quarters
1 teaspoon maple sugar or other dry sweetener
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pre-heat oven to 310 degrees, use a convection setting if you have one.
Spread coconut onto a baking sheet and toast for 4 minutes or until golden brown.
Place in a food processor with oats, spelt flour and salt. Blend until it’s a coarse flour-like texture, about a minute.
Place in a bowl add the olive oil and mix well, use your hands or a fork. Drizzle in the maple syrup and vanilla and mix until completely combined. You should have a nice moist dough that isn’t sticking to your hands too much. If it is just add a little more flour.
Oil a 9-inch spring form cake pan. Press crust to about ¼-inch thick alittle over half way up the sides of the pan, see photo below.
Bake for 15 minutes or until golden and smelling absolutely delicious. Set aside to cool.
Confession: I had a little dough left over and made 6 one inch jam dot cookies that I baked for 8 minutes. (sorry no photo proof)
Drain macadamias and place in a blender along with the 2 cups water. Blend on high speed for 2 minutes.
Place in a small-medium pot. Remove seeds from vanilla bean, using the tip of a small knife, add to the pot along with the pod. Also add rice syrup, maple syrup, agar and salt.
Place pot over high heat and whisk almost constantly until mixture comes to a boil.
Lower heat, cover pot and simmer for 15 minutes. Whisking every 5 minutes or so.
Using a small spoon look closely at the custard mixture to see if all the agar flakes have dissolved. If not cover and simmer a couple more minutes.
In a cup place the arrowroot and remaining water mix well to dissolve, add to the simmering custard mixture and whisk until mix returns to a boil. Remove from heat. Mixture should be a heavy cream like consistancy. Let cool for 10 minutes, whisk again, then pour into baked crust. Once it has stopped steaming place in the fridge and chill until set, about 2 hours.
Place ½ cup cider and agar in a small pot, whisk and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover and simmer until agar flakes are completely dissolved about 8 minutes. Dissolve arrowroot in remaining cider and whisk into simmering mixture. Once it returns to a boil remove from heat.
Place strawberries in a bowl, add the maple sugar and vanilla and toss gently. Pour over the glaze and mix with a rubber spatular until all the straws are coated with the glaze. Spread onto cooled tart and return to the fridge to set the glaze.
Makes 8-9 pieces.