june 11, 2020
The challenge : creamy desserts that are free of dairy and without cashews, dates, chocolate, chickpeas or soy. The reason : friends who are dairy intolerant. And weary of the usual ground dates and soaked cashew substitutes for fudgy chewy creamy things. My search for nondairy creaminess also extends to cooking for clients who are either intolerant or seeking a more plant-based diet. Today’s dessert tarts do have eggs and are not vegan, but they make use of two nifty items readily available in groceries these days—vegan butter ( let’s not call it margarine which sounds so seventies) and almond milk whipped cream.
One of the most satisfying reasons people enjoy dessert is the sensation of creamy mouth feel. Think puddings and custards, ice creams, pies and frosting. The trick is to make things taste and feel like the real thing, or what people remember as the real thing before they embarked on a different path. This dessert has a tart lemon curd made with vegan butter, crisp crunchy almond meringue tart shells and almond whipped cream in a convenient can. Add berries and you have a meal, right?
There is a drawback to this type of whipped cream in that it does not stay whipped for long and must be devoured quickly after a generous squirt. When faced with dessert, this does not seem problematic for me. How about you?
Some of the components may be made ahead for assembly later. The meringues will last very tightly covered (warm weather humidity is their enemy) for several days, as will the lemon curd in the fridge. The berries, tossed with a little red wine vinegar for zing and tartness to cut the sweet, must be prepped right before serving. The almond milk whipped cream must be shaken very well.
Berry desserts seen in this recipe collection tend to be of the July Fourth colorful patriotic type, like Chocolate Berry Tart and Key Lime Berry Parfaits. I see this as a template for summer dinners to come. Swap out lime for the lemon, use blackberries as they roll in to the farmer’s markets or go a different route with the stone fruits of mid to late summer. However you plate this, your guests will feel pampered and those who have long avoided creamy things get to splurge.
Almond Meringue Berry Tarts
recipe by Michele Humlan, The Good Eats Company
makes six tarts
needed : electric mixer, parchment paper, 4.5 inch round template like yogurt lid
¾ cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
juice and zest (yellow part only – no white bitter pith) of 2 large lemons
2 large eggs, room temperature
4 ounces vegan butter (I used Country Crock avocado), chilled
2 egg whites, room temperature
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
¾ cup powdered sugar
½ cup finely chopped toasted sliced almonds
¼ teaspoon pure almond extract
2 cups sliced strawberries
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
6 strawberries for garnish
almond milk whipped cream (or other nondairy type)
- For making ahead : toast almonds if not already done, make and chill lemon curd, make meringues and store tightly covered until ready to use.
- Make lemon curd : whisk together sugar and cornstarch in heavy nonreactive (stainless steel) quart saucepan.
- Whisk in eggs one at a time, beating well, then lemon juice and zest.
- Add vegan butter in small pieces and heat mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly and gently, until vegan butter is melted and curd just barely comes to a boil, then over low heat whisk another minute to rid cornstarch of pasty taste.
- Transfer to glass or stainless container and chill several hours or overnight – will thicken nicely.
- Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
- With mixer, beat egg whites and cream of tartar to soft peak stage; gradually add powdered sugar until glossy and stiff peak stage.
- Fold in almonds and almond extract with spatula.
- Draw six 4.5 inch circles with pencil on sheet of parchment, flip parchment over and place on half sheet pan (do not use insulated bake sheet but heavy aluminum instead).
- Fill in circles with almond meringue, using spoon to reach circle edges.
- Bake about 1 hour 10 minutes or until firm and very lightly browned; when cool, store tightly covered at room temperature until ready to use (humidity will soften – may make several days ahead of time).
- Gently mix sliced strawberries with tablespoon sugar and vinegar then begin assembly.
- Spoon lemon curd onto tarts, then sliced drained berries, then almond whipped cream, then garnish.
- Serve immediately.