When spring and summer hit, my cooking tendencies begin the slow crawl from heavier, winter time comfort foods towards recipes that are a little lighter and consisting of more fresh ingredients. Let’s be honest, in the thick of it, there is nothing better than those hearty, warming, home-cooked staples that get you through the long fall and winter, but now that spring is in full swing and the sun is out for 60 to 70 degree weather, I knew it was time for some baking that would highlight that fresh feeling.
This tart is surprisingly light and can be eaten as a dessert, an afternoon treat, or even as part of a weekend brunch. I decided to making this a little healthier by doing without the traditional sugary glaze over the fruit (which I find sickeningly sweet) and was extremely happy with the results. The best part about this recipe is how quickly everything comes together, making it an easy process that yields an impressively delicious finished product. You can also play with the flavor profile by picking out different fresh fruit, or changing the pastry cream slightly by swapping out the lemon extract for other extracts like almond or coconut. I will definitely be experimenting over the summer with a tropical twist on this tart, using coconut, mango, pineapple, and whatever else i can find!
Ingredients for Almond Pecan Crust:
1 egg, beaten
1 1/4 cups almond flour or almond meal (I use Honeyville)
1 cup ground pecans (you can use less, substituting more almond flour if you prefer a more subtle pecan flavor)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons erythritol (I like Wholesome Sweeteners Zero)
6 Tb melted butter, or coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine all ingredients (make sure egg is already beaten, and butter is melted and cooled) into a medium sized mixing bowl, and incorporate well with a spoon or spatula. Hint: I grind the pecans in my small Cuisinart Mini-Prep Plus food processor, but finely chopped by hand will work as well. Press the dough together into a ball in the bottom of the bowl and cover with plastic wrap tightly around the dough. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. After the dough is chilled, press it into a 9″ or 12″ tart pan, gently using your fingers. The size of the pan is not overly important, because this recipe makes enough dough to fit either size pan- just make sure to press the dough down to about 1/8″ thickness around the pan and up the sides, removing any excess. You can make it thicker if you prefer a more substantial crust. Poke the bottom of the crust lightly with a fork and bake on the center rack of the oven for approximately 20-25 minutes, or until browned. Watch carefully for the last few minutes, as almond flour can darken and over-brown very quickly in the oven. Remove from the tart pan and cool completely before filling.
Ingredients for Pastry Cream Filling:
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
4 large egg yolks
1/4 erythritol or granulated sweetener (Again I used Wholesome Sweeteners Zero)
1 tsp vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon, almond, or coconut extract (optional)
An assortment of fresh fruit- I used blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries
1-2 tsp fresh grated lemon zest
Set up a simple double boiler on your stove top. Use a large 3 quart saucepan and a glass or metal mixing bowl that will rest on the lip of the pan and fit down inside it. Fill the saucepan below with enough water to simmer slightly below the bottom of the bowl (You do not want the bowl to be resting in the water!- it should sit slightly above the rolling simmer). Combine all ingredients in the bowl and move the bowl to the top of the double boiler once it is steadily simmering at medium low heat. Whisk consistently for 15-20 minutes (it is much easier to use a hand mixer) scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. Whisking will cause small bubbles to form in the mixture that will slowly dissipate as the cream thickens. Remember to keep the double boiler on a low simmer as heating the cream too quickly or to an extreme temperature may cause the cream to break and become grainy. Slow and steady definitely wins the race when thickening pastry cream. The cream will reach an even thicker consistency after cooling, so after about 20 minutes of constant whisking and once you can coat the back of a spoon with it, it is thick enough to take off the heat. Cool completely and cover the surface of the cream with plastic wrap to prevent a film from forming in the refrigerator as it chills.
Assemble the tart by spreading the pastry cream into the cooled almond pecan crust. Wash, chop, and arrange fresh fruit on the surface of the tart and chill until serving. Feel free to top your tart with a sprinkle of fresh grated lemon zest, additional granulated sweetener, or even toasted coconut.