Straw-Buried Tart with Orange Cream Cheese

This is probably one of the most labor intensive dessert recipes I make, but damn, is it worth it.

My brother and his wife had a baby a few weeks ago!  I’m an aunt!  He’s a perfect little dude and I’m super stoked that I moved from Los Angeles to Denver so that I can be a part of his life.  My mom has been here all week to meet her first (and probably only) grandchild, and she’s been staying with me.  It’s been a fun mix of family time and family meals, and making sure there are some accommodations for me, the lone vegan.  The first night, she baked an apple pie, and made sure we used Earth Balance and vegan shortening so that I could get in on the action, too!

Well, strawberries were on sale at the store yesterday, and I was inspired to make one of my favorite desserts, a strawberry cream cheese pie.  I have not made this since going vegan, so it was an experimental recipe, and it could not have been more delicious.  My sister in law’s mom, a butter/cheese/meat loving Polish woman, thought it was delicious and couldn’t believe it was vegan!

In the past, I’ve always made a graham cracker crust, but I’ve had a lot of trouble finding graham crackers in regular stores that don’t have honey in them, so I cracked open my Williams-Sonoma Pie & Tart cookbook and adapted their basic tart crust recipe to my vegan needs, turning it into a tart instead of the usual pie I once made.  I am so pleased with how everything turned out, and I can’t wait to make this again and again!

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Ingredients:

(For the tart crust):

  • 1 “egg” (I use Ener-G egg replacer and follow the box’s directions)
  • 2 tablespoons very cold water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract (if you don’t have it or are allergic to nuts, just use more vanilla – this is a modification I made, and I think it adds a lot of flavor)
  • 1 1/4 cup (200g) all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup (90g) organic sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) vegan butter (I use Earth Balance sticks – avoid the spread, as it has a higher water content, and won’t work as well!), cut into small cubes (I cut it into 1/4ths lengthwise, then cut it into about 10 cubes)

(For the tart filling):

  • 1 8oz container of vegan cream cheese (I prefer Tofutti to Dayia in this case, because it has a more mild flavor)
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • zest of 1 orange (technically optional, but it really adds so much flavor!  Could substitute lemon zest, too)
  • 2 1/2 pounds of strawberries, washed and hulled
  • 1/4 cup organic sugar
  • 1/4 cup turbinado sugar (can use regular sugar if you want, this just makes it a little more special!)
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup water

Directions:

(For the tart crust, adapted from the Williams-Sonoma Pie & Tart book to be vegan friendly!)

  1. Preheat your oven to 375, and spray a 9-inch tart pan with non-stick oil.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together your egg replacer, the cold water, and the extracts.  Set aside.
  3. Mix together the flour, sugar, and salt.  If you don’t have a stand mixer, use a pastry cutter or two knives to cut the butter in.  If you are using a stand mixer, mix on medium-low speed until the butter is broken up and the mixture looks sandy; pea-sized butter chunks are okay.
  4. Add the “egg” mixture to the flour/butter and stir until just combined.
  5. Mold the dough into a ball, then flatten into a disk.  You can either put it in your dough in right away, or refrigerate it for 30 minutes (if you wait, hold off on preheating the oven).
  6. When ready, roll out the dough so that there is about an inch of the crust rising up the side of your tart pan, and place it in the tart pan.  Cover with aluminum foil, patted down so that it touches and covers all of the crust, and bake for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes, remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes.  Set aside and allow to cool completely (you can accelerate this in the refrigerator or freezer!).

(For the tart filling):

  1. Mix the cream cheese, powdered sugar, and orange zest together, and spread on the bottom of your completely cooled tart crust.
  2. After washing and hulling the strawberries, sort them out.  You want to find about 1.5 pounds of berries that are approximately the same size to use to line the whole tart.  Cut them into standing 1/4ths, so that they point upwards when placed on top of the cream cheese filling.  Starting from the middle, fill the entire surface of the tart with upright berries.
  3. Chop up the remaining strawberries into chunks, and add the 1/4 cup of sugar to allow them to macerate.
  4. Mix together the corn starch and water (should be at least warm), and mix to get rid of any chunks.  In a small sauce pan, combine the macerated berries, corn starch mix, and turbinado sugar.  Cook over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and allow to cook until the berries break down (I mashed them with my whisk, too).  Continually stir until the mixture becomes thick and viscous.  Remove from heat and allow to cool completely before pouring over the rest of the tart (I put mine in the freezer to speed up the process).
  5. Refrigerate the entire tart for at least 30 minutes to make sure everything sets up!
  6. ENJOY!  It’s delicious!

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Banana Blueberry Oatmeal Cookies

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I’m back.  I really wanted to start posting here more for the new year, but between preparing to move and losing my cat, I didn’t really have time.  So much has happened in the last few months, it’s been insane!  I moved from Los Angeles to Denver a month ago, and I’ve started working from home – which gets my cooking and baking juices flowing, I guess, because I can’t stop creating.  I’ve got a handful of recipes I’ve been working on, and I do plan on posting a little more often.

So, blueberry cookies.  Berries were on sale at my local Sprouts when I went this week, and I couldn’t resist buying up a few packages.  I’d also been staring a mostly full container of oatmeal and several very ripe bananas in the eyes, and I got the itch to bake.  I’ve been working on perfecting my banana bread muffin recipe, but wanted something a little more… cookie.  That’s how we got to this little creation.

Ingredients:

  • 1 mashed banana
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted to liquid form
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 “egg” (whichever vegan egg substitute is your favorite)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional; replace with additional vanilla extract if necessary)
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour (non-pastry flour is fine, too, but I wanted them super light)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 3/4 cup oats
  • 1 cup of blueberries

Directions (makes approximately 2 dozen medium sized cookies):

  1. Preheat your oven to 375.
  2. Mash the banana together with the oil, “egg,” sugar, and extracts.  Make sure mixture is as smooth as possible.
  3. Sift the dry ingredients into a medium bowl.  Then mix in the oats.
  4. Add the dry into the wet in two doses.  When the second dose is almost  mixed in, carefully fold in the blueberries.
  5. Scoop onto parchment lined baking sheets in approximately 1 inch balls.  Make sure dough doesn’t touch, but they won’t really spread.  I pushed mine down to make them flat before baking.
  6. Bake for about 12-14  minutes, depending on your oven.  I would check them after 9, because I am baking at a high altitude, this worked best for me.
  7. Let them cool on a baking rack, and enjoy!!!

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