I made these cute little fruit and vanilla bean custard tarts this week for a pot luck dinner with some of my girlfriends. I had been wanting to recreate a healthy version of these for a while, so this event was the perfect excuse. I’ve always been a big fan of those delicious fruit tarts you see at most bakeries – you know the ones, crispy sweet buttery pastry crust, filled with sweet vanilla custard, topped with fresh fruit and some fruit jam to glaze. You could make these fancy and top them with a selection of different fruits like they do in the bakeries (strawberries, grapes, peaches, kiwifruit etc), but kiwifruit are in high season at the moment here in New Zealand so I decided to stick with just the one for simplicity.
Instead of using a traditional sweet pastry crust, I’ve used a fruit and nut based crust without any sugar, butter or refined flour. I’ve kept them raw, but if you wanted a crispier result, you could always bake these tart shells in the oven for 20 minutes at 150°C before filling, instead of putting them in the freezer (just omit the coconut oil).
The sweet and creamy vanilla bean custard inner of these tarts is where it’s at though. I’m pretty proud of this wee custard recipe because (a) it’s truly delicious, and (b) it’s super simple with only a few ingredients. Simple + delicious is always the best combo I think!
Coconut products are a wonderfully diverse ingredient to use in your cooking. They’ve been happily consumed in traditional Pacific Island and South East Asian communities for centuries, however have taken a bad rap recently due to their high saturated fat content. A few decades ago, an increasing amount of research was published showing a strong correlation between saturated fat intake and high cholesterol, heart disease, stroke and cancer. Thus coconuts and their delicious creamy inners went in the bad box. What’s now coming to light though is that most of that research and disease correlation was based on animal-based saturated fats (and proteins for that matter).
Saturated fats on their own are actually great little things, in that they are very stable, have high melting and smoking points, and are unlikely to be oxidised from heat and light like unsaturated vegetable-based oils. This means we can happily cook, bake and fry with coconut oil, without being worried about the fats going rancid and causing free radical formation in the body (= early aging!). The fat in coconuts is also highly satiating (keeps you full) so you’re less likely to reach for that choccie bar mid arvo. They’re also a fantastic source of energy that can be used very effectively by the body. Coconut flesh (found in flakes, desiccated coconut, coconut cream and milk) is naturally sweet and adds a delicious creaminess to cooking in replace of dairy cream, milk and fat. So don’t fear the coconut, give it a chance and I reckon it will be your next true love!
Kiwifruit meanwhile are a fabulous wee fruit, particularly abundant here in New Zealand (check the label on your kiwis – they might well have been grown here!). They come in green varieties with furry flesh, and g
old varieties which have yellow flesh, smooth skin and are a little sweeter. If you haven’t tried them, they are delicious! One of my all time favourite fruits (and I love that they’re local). What’s more, if you buy organic, you can eat the skins too – especially of the gold variety.
Onto nutrients, these little capsules of gold are a fantastic source of vitamin C, with twice the amount per 100g compared to oranges (93mg for green kiwis, 105mg for gold, vs 53mg for oranges). Vitamin C is an antioxidant and involved in a myriad of biochemical processes in the body, including hormone synthesis and immune and adrenal function. It’s also been shown to protect against cancer and cardiovascular disease, improve bone density, and of course ward against the common cold. Research has shown that absorption of vitamin C from a wholefood source is five time greater than from a supplement pill (this is the case with all wholefood vs supplement comparisons). So ditch the vitamin C tabs and scoop into some kiwifruit! Not only will you be getting plentiful vitamin C, you’ll also be getting lots of prebiotic and insoluble fibre, water hydration, and enzymes for optimal body functioning.
Of course if you don’t have access to organic kiwifruit, then feel free to top these fruit tarts with any seasonal fruit you like. They’ll last at least five days in the fridge, or I like to store extras in the freezer and simply remove a couple half an hour before dessert time.
Give them a whirl let me know how you like them!
Please note – if you are wanting to meet any of the specific dietary requirements below, please read my recipe notes.
- 1 1/2 c raw almonds
- 1/2 c desiccated coconut
- Zest of 1/2 a lemon
- 1/4 tsp himalayan pink salt
- 1/2 c medjoul dates
- 2 tbsp coconut oil melted but cool
Vanilla Bean Custard Filling
- 400 ml coconut cream* 18% fat content
- 1 vanilla bean scraped
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp coconut nectar
- 3 tbsp cornflour or arrowroot
- pinch turmeric optional
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- Fresh fruit e.g. kiwifruit, strawberries, peaches, grapes, bananas
- Blend cornflour with a small amount of coconut cream until a smooth paste is formed with no lumps.
- Add the remaining filling ingredients (except the coconut oil) to a pot, and heat stirring until the mixture thickens for around 10 minutes. Stir through the coconut oil at the very end. Set the custard aside to cool in the fridge, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t form a skin.
- Blend the base ingredients (except the dates and coconut oil) in a food processor until fine, then add dates while the processor is running one by one until a dough-like mixture forms. Add the melted coconut oil at the very end.
- Press into lightly greased muffin tins with rounds of baking paper in the base of each, then pop in the freezer for at least 2 hours or preferably overnight. Once the bases are very firm, tip them upside down to remove them (you may need to use a fine knife to scrape around the edge of each case so they fall out easily).
- Pour in cooled custard, arrange fruit on top, and keep in fridge until serving.
- Muffin tin
- Make it nut-free: replace the almonds in the base with sunflower or watermelon seeds.
- I use Trade Aid’s organic fair trade coconut milk in all my recipes (you can order it here). Unlike some coconut milks/creams which separate, it has a beautiful thick even consistency due to the inclusion of a natural plant-based emulsifier called guar gum. It’s labelled “coconut milk” but is much more like a coconut cream in consistency and has an 18% fat content. The only difference between coconut milks and creams is the amount of water added – however some creams have lower fat contents than milks! I always recommend going for a cream-like product, as you can always water it down yourself if you like.