February 2, 2011

Berry Creme Tart With Cocoa Olive Oil Crust

by IsaChandra

Makes 6 tarts
Total time: 2 hours || Active time: 1 hour

It’s almost Valentine’s Day, so why not go all out? Sure, if you’re in love then a pint of ice cream in your pjs might do the trick. But why not take this day to test the limits, bake dangerously and see what your love is made of? I mean, working with agar agar is really the pastry equivalent of slaying a dragon for the object of your affection. But that’s not vegan.

This tart is actually easier than I’m making it out to be, but I can see how it would be intimidating if you’ve never worked with these ingredients and methods before. The tart shell is made with pantry staples, including olive oil, which actually gives it a bit of buttery mystery. In order to achieve a soft, shortbread-like texture, the olive oil is partially frozen before being cut into the flour.

The filling is rich and creamy, with the help of coconut milk and cashew cream. It’s sweet and tangy and luscious and magenta and perfectly valentine-y. Plus, you’ll feel so smart and food-sciency working with starch and agar agar, and as you know, smart is sexy.

And that fancy swirl on the top isn’t even an extra step, it’s just some of the reserved berries and stuff that you cook down. But read the recipe and you’ll see what I mean! One thing though, I haven’t tried this in a regular tart pan, so you’ll have to procure some tart pans or improvise in some other way. But there’s enough time to order them, so do it! For the mixed berries, I used Trader Joes brand, which has blackberries, blueberries and raspberries. I think straight-up raspberry would be a great (and pretty) alternative, though.

A few notes to help you manage your time: About an hour before beginning the recipe, place the olive oil in a plastic receptacle of some sort and freeze until it’s congealed, but still somewhat liquidy. If it’s over-frozen, that’s ok, just let it thaw a bit so that you can work with it. Also, soak the cashews in water at least an hour before prepping everything else.

For the tart shell:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2/3 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup olive oil, partially frozen (see note)
3 to 4 tablespoons almond milk

Cooking spray

For the filling:

1 cup cashews, soaked (see recipe notes)
1 cup coconut milk

1 cup almond milk
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1  teaspoon powdered agar agar
8 oz frozen berries (about 1 1/2 cups)
2/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

To make the dough, sift the flour, cocoa and sugar together in a mixing bowl. Don’t skip this step, you really need to break up the clumps. Rub the salt between your fingers to grind it down a little more, and add to the mixture.

Add the olive oil to the flour mixture in spoonfuls. Use about 1/4 cup at first, and cut it into the flour using either your fingers or a pastry cutter (I prefer to use my hands.) Add the rest and keep cutting it in until dough appears moist, clumpy and crumbly. Drizzle in the almond milk (start with 3 tablespoons) and mix until the dough holds together when squeezed between your fingers.

Lightly spray 6 four-inch mini-tart pans with cooking spray.

Distribute handfuls of dough equally amongst the tart pans, leaving a small amount in the mixing bowl (1/4 cup or so) in case you need to patch spot. Now one by one, firmly press the dough into the sides and bottom of the tart pan.

Now poke the shells all over with a fork (like so), and place in the freezer for about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Remove tarts from freezer and place on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 18 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Once cool enough to touch begin the filling.

For the filling:
Drain the cashews and place them in a food processor or Vita-Mix type thing. Blend them with the coconut milk until totally smooth, scraping down the sides occasionally. This can take up to 5 minutes.

In the meantime, measure out the almond milk and vigorously mix in the cornstarch until dissolved. Stir together the the milk, agar agar, frozen berries and sugar in a small (2 quart) sauce pot.

Bring mixture to a boil, stirring pretty consistently. Once boiling, lower the heat so that you’re just getting small bubbles. Mix for about 10 more minutes, it should thicken up and become a loose gel. Let cool for 5 minutes or so (keep stirring, even though it’s cooling.)

Pour 1 3/4 cups of the berry mixture into the cashew mixture in the food processor. (Reserve the remaining berry mixture for drizzling.) Puree until smooth. Add the vanilla and lemon juice and puree to blend.

Now assemble:
Pour the puree into the baked tart shells, being careful not to overfill. If there’s a little extra filling left over then just place it alone in a cup and save it for a rainy day. Now, take the reserve berry mixture and use a spoon to drizzle it over the filled tarts in a spiral fashion, or however you like. A few splatters of berry only make it cuter.

Place tarts in the fridge to set, it should take about an hour. I have an enclosed porch that I let mine set on (because it was like 4 degrees outside) and they were ready in 30 minutes, but be patient, it may even take 2 or 3 hours for you depending on how cold your fridge is.

Once set, top with a few thawed berries and serve. I was thinking these would be even more amazing with a chocolate drizzle as well, so try that if you like!

  • February 2, 2011 at 2:18 am: Jessica

    yum x 1000

  • February 2, 2011 at 2:21 am: kittee

    holy crow. so beautiful.

  • February 2, 2011 at 2:30 am: Basht

    wow… and i have everything needed to make them… i know what i’m doing tonight!

  • February 2, 2011 at 2:31 am: N

    The picture looks mouth-watering!

  • February 2, 2011 at 2:49 am: Colleen

    Stunning! If my sweetie’s lucky I’ll attempt a batch of these next week…

  • February 2, 2011 at 2:57 am: Tiffany

    The tarts look gorgeous and sooo delicious!

  • February 2, 2011 at 3:19 am: Mo

    Isa, this is frickin gorgeous!

  • February 2, 2011 at 3:30 am: FoodFeud

    WTF! Shrazy. My boyfriend better be good.

  • February 2, 2011 at 4:46 am: Rose

    how possible is it to make tiny versions in cupcake pans/liners? I don’t make tarts very often and don’t feel like I can justify spending $15 on the tins right now :/ sigh, the life of a “poor college student”. thanks for this recipe and ALL your recipes! you rock!

  • February 2, 2011 at 5:06 am: fizzytoo

    super beautiful eeesh.

  • February 2, 2011 at 5:28 am: Shawntelle

    off to buy a tart pan as soon as i can make it out of the drive way…

  • February 2, 2011 at 5:35 am: aj

    These look awesome, but I live overseas and I don’t have access to almond milk. Would soy milk work?

    • February 2, 2011 at 4:34 pm: IsaChandra

      Yep it sure would!

  • February 2, 2011 at 8:15 am: Emma

    So beautiful and not difficult either! Perfect :)

  • February 2, 2011 at 12:15 pm: Cathy

    Do you think this would be alright attempted in a single 9″ tart pan? Then I could share it out to more people, less a personal romantic gesture & more of an ORGY of vegan valentines ;P

    • February 2, 2011 at 4:33 pm: IsaChandra

      I think it would, please if you try it, report back! I’m sure other would like to know as well.

  • February 2, 2011 at 1:08 pm: Luciana

    Maybe if I leave this window open, someone will make it for me. This looks amazing!

  • February 2, 2011 at 1:30 pm: Esther

    What adjustments would need to be made for using agar flakes instead of agar powder? It’s all I can find around here.

    Thanks! Looks AMAZING.

  • February 2, 2011 at 1:35 pm: Kristi

    Mmm, mmm, mmm. i think I might need to do a “run-through” before actual Valentine’s day :) Thank goodness for SNOW DAYS today!!! Thanks for the beautiful recipe.

  • February 2, 2011 at 2:32 pm: Melomeals: Vegan for $3.33 a Day

    omg, these not only sound good, but they look amazing. I LOVE olive oil in baking. I think it lends a buttery taste.

  • February 2, 2011 at 5:18 pm: Lindsay

    Is there a nut-free substitute for cashews? I know they’re used all the time in vegan cooking for sauces and the like, but my boyfriend is allergic to nuts. Would something like tahini or soynut butter work?

    • February 2, 2011 at 6:20 pm: IsaChandra

      I would probably just do coconut creme. Not sure the amount. Hmm, maybe 1 cup plus 1/2 cup more cocounut milk? Pretty fatty but I bet delicious. Up the agar by 1/2 teaspoon too cause agar likes to fight with fat.

  • February 2, 2011 at 5:19 pm: Johanna

    Those look great. I might even think about making a bunch of smaller ones. What do you think?

  • February 2, 2011 at 6:34 pm: Gretchen

    These look amazing. I am going to have to make them for my hubby and kids. Happy Valentines!

  • February 2, 2011 at 7:30 pm: The Therapist in the Kitchen

    These look like another great vegan meal. Can’t wait to try.

  • February 2, 2011 at 8:43 pm: Carole

    Yum. How perfect for a vegan chocoholic like myself:)

  • February 2, 2011 at 11:41 pm: Isabella La Rocca

    i HAVE to make these; they are so splendid looking. however, I don’t have a vitamix or a food processor and have been unsuccessful making cashew creme with my blender. can i sub cashew butter for the cashew puree?

  • February 3, 2011 at 1:23 am: Shannon

    This photo is stunning and these tarts are quite honestly one of THE most fabulous looking things I’ve seen in the blogworld as of late, I want one NOW!

    Also, please know that I’ve had your cookbook on hold at my library FOREVER, it is ALWAYS checked out :)

  • February 3, 2011 at 7:07 am: sara

    i also have nut allergies – would would seeds be an appropriate alternative? i’m also allergic to sunflower seeds so hemp seeds would be my first choice.
    would rice milk be a good sub for almond milk?

  • February 3, 2011 at 1:38 pm: Scoala machiaj

    Tarts are by far my favorite dessert. I love since I was a kid. I like the mix between the hard tart shell and the creamy filling. I am sure this recipe is delicious.

  • February 3, 2011 at 4:06 pm: Katie

    Wow – never have I had such a desire to purchase tart pans! Looks great.

  • February 3, 2011 at 8:46 pm: Esther

    Do you know how you would adjust in order to use agar flakes instead of powder? Flakes are all that’s available around here….

    Thank you! Looks amazing!!

    • February 3, 2011 at 9:04 pm: IsaChandra

      One tablespoon flakes = 1 teaspoon powder, but soak the flakes beforehand or they won’t dissolve properly.

  • February 3, 2011 at 10:43 pm: Brandi

    Those tarts look amazing!

  • February 4, 2011 at 3:41 am: Steve

    Isa, I think that I will surround the bathtub with these pieces of art and pretend they are candles. Too good lookin’! Shebang!!!!! Happy Valentines Day…..

  • February 5, 2011 at 11:35 am: James

    Delicious! I made this into one large tart rather than six small ones, which also worked really well. Your photographs of your food are always excellent. :)

    • February 5, 2011 at 5:07 pm: IsaChandra

      That’s great to know, thanks!

  • February 5, 2011 at 8:23 pm: Elise

    This recipe looks amazing! But, is there a nut I could substitute for the cashews? Cashews are the -only- nut I am allergic to. On top of that, they are just the least healthy of all the nuts.

  • February 6, 2011 at 3:00 pm: Michela

    Great look for that tarts!! Lovely!!but there’s a way to do the filling without using agar-agar? It’s very hard to find it here…
    Thank’s for all of your recepies!!
    greetings from Italy!!!!

    • February 6, 2011 at 7:12 pm: IsaChandra

      I’ve tried similar tarts with 2 tablespoons coconut oil melted into the filling and one tablespoon extra cornstarch. It’s still creamy but not quite as firm, but you might want to play around with that method.

  • February 6, 2011 at 3:13 pm: katie

    i made one large 10″ tart instead of multiple smalls and it worked out great!
    the only changes i would make are to strain out the seeds from the fruit and to reduce the amount of sugar in the filling to let the fruity sweetness stand out a little bit more. but those are both personal preference.

  • February 7, 2011 at 1:24 pm: fonzingaling

    Ooh I’m very excited about trying these! I actually have a massive phobia of margarine – would this olive oil trick work in other recipes instead of the dreaded marge??

    • February 7, 2011 at 6:16 pm: IsaChandra

      It works for me in most cases, but sometimes tweeking is necessary, mostly with the flour to oil ratio.

  • February 7, 2011 at 8:04 pm: C AL

    Oh, yes. Thank you, may I have another? :)

  • February 8, 2011 at 11:06 pm: bodhi

    So beautiful! I will definitely be making these for my husband and my son! Any recommendations for a gulten-free flour sub? I would love to share one with someone I know who is celiac.

  • February 9, 2011 at 6:51 pm: Faith Ellens

    This looks gorgeous! Is it this too sweet? I’m kind of in a strict diet right now but, man I can’t fight my sweet tooth and I wanna bite this right away!

  • February 10, 2011 at 10:20 pm: judyk

    can the shells be made in advance???

  • February 10, 2011 at 10:52 pm: Abbie

    I would also love to know if the shells can be made in advance, and whether or not they need to set in the tart pans. Thanks!

  • February 11, 2011 at 3:00 am: Trish

    What about using arrowroot instead of cornstarch as a substitute for agar agar powder? I can’t find it locally at all. Or something like Cleargel or Suregel?

  • February 11, 2011 at 9:28 pm: Elena

    Would this work with any other gluten free flour, do you think?
    (Haven’t read the rest of the comments to see if someone already asked.

    • February 12, 2011 at 12:55 am: IsaChandra

      I don’t see why not!

  • February 12, 2011 at 10:59 pm: Raquel

    Would small foil pans of the same size work? I am also quite poor and not convinced I will be tarting it up all that often.

  • February 13, 2011 at 1:46 pm: EB

    This looks amazing. It is my first time visiting your site, and I am inspired! Can’t wait to check out the rest of your site. Thanks! Looking forward to making these.

  • February 13, 2011 at 6:34 pm: Mallory

    I made these in muffin tins and made them way to thick so the excess berry mix went into espresso cups. It worked out so well and they were super cute. I also learned that I needed to make about 20 mini muffin tarts instead of 10 because they were too thick. For my Bachelorette party I’m going to make little chocolate cups with the berry mousse for little finger dessert treats!

  • February 14, 2011 at 9:04 pm: colleen

    I just made this- used a 12″ tart pan instead of tartlette pans. Also increased the agar to 1 Tbs and it worked well. also used unsweetend dutch coco and the crust came out a very dark chocolate. so good! Thanks Isa, the recipe is brilliant

  • February 15, 2011 at 12:53 am: ohsweetie

    my friend made this as a big tart and i had some when i went over there today and WOWZAS one of the best deserts i’ve ever had!! XO

  • February 15, 2011 at 5:18 pm: Trish

    This was universally loved at my house–lots of guests to eat the 12″ tart. In the end, though, I decided that I might prefer this as a pudding in delicate, etched glasses drizzled with fruit syrup and decorated with fresh fruit rather than as a tart. It had an unforgettable texture in the mouth and suprise flavor burst that didn’t require the distraction of chocolate.

    • February 15, 2011 at 5:59 pm: IsaChandra

      Oh snap! I can’t believe you just called chocolate a distraction. Chocolate’s gonna be PISSED!

      No, I think it would make a great pudding, too. Maybe a parfait, so the creme, the gel, the creme and then maybe a thin layer of regular cashew creme. And a berry!

  • February 15, 2011 at 9:24 pm: Scissors

    I made a version of this in little heart shaped cupcake liners yesterday. The crust was perfect. I filled it with with a choco mousse. I’ll have to try the rasp/cashew filling next time. Thanks so much for the recipe! Love you!

    There’s a pic of mine here with a link to your recipe:

  • February 16, 2011 at 1:49 am: Kristin @ FoodFash

    I made a Valentines tart with olive oil cocoa crust too! Although my use of olive oil was purely out of not wanting to purchase canola… Good to know that it’s used purposefully in baking on occasion!

  • February 18, 2011 at 3:29 pm: Heather

    So, I made these and missed somehow the baking part of the crust. Hilarious after the fact, not so funny to my wife who had to smile and say “yum” for me. Thank goodness for the vegan safety net of not using eggs or anything that actually HAS to be cooked.

  • February 19, 2011 at 10:37 pm: Dawn

    I only keep EV olive oil around, but am I correct in assuming I’d need a lighter olive oil for this?

    • February 20, 2011 at 4:19 am: IsaChandra

      Nope, ev is what I used.

  • April 18, 2011 at 2:48 am: katie

    i’m making a giant one for seder tomorrow. so excited! going to rock the socks off everyone. just finished the crust. i added a little bit more olive oil since the matzo meal is so dry and it came out looking great! the little piece i broke off an edge tasted great too. i made my own kfp confectioners sugar in the food processor and also pulsed the matzo meal a few times. i’m planning on subbing arrowroot for cornstarch in the filling.

  • October 30, 2011 at 11:38 pm: alicia

    Hi, unfortunately I can’t find agar agar anywhere is it ok to substitute gelatine?

  • January 17, 2012 at 12:02 am: Katy

    Alicia – as this is a vegan blog, nobody is going to advise using gelatine. However if you’ve got it and are okay with using it, then sure? The quantities will probably be different though

  • January 18, 2012 at 12:20 am: Katherine

    I’m a bit stuck (’cause I’m a doofus) – “Pour 1 3/4 of the berry mixture” what does this mean? Pour three quarters of the mixture? one and three quarters of a cup? What?

    • January 18, 2012 at 12:40 am: IsaChandra

      Nope, you’re not a doofus, the directs were unclear. I’ve updated them to say 1 3/4 cups. Thank you!

  • January 26, 2012 at 11:56 am: Beth

    This looks really rather amazing, but I am allergic to coconut. Do you think I could sub almond milk for coconut milk in the filling?

  • January 31, 2012 at 8:23 am: Katherine

    Thanks Isa! I made it and it was AMAZING. I mean, tears of joy amazing. I made it in one big springform pan with a cheesecake base, but otherwise didn’t do any crazy subbing. Followed the filling recipe like a good girl, and boy it paid off. I have to admit, when I sliced it up for me and my folks I made my slices significantly bigger than theirs.

  • February 13, 2012 at 7:55 pm: jill

    just made this, with the plain shortbread crust from VPintheSky;
    was AMAZING.

    all my omni dinner guest (and DH) devoured and loved them.
    we have 2 left for valentine’s day.

    and the extra filling is in cups in the fridge. :)

  • February 15, 2012 at 5:23 pm: conchita

    this was the best dessert i’ve ever had (and i’ve had too many!) best valentine’s day surprise from hubby ever. thanks so much. will be making these regularly now, even just the filling to have as a mousse. yum yum yum

  • February 17, 2012 at 4:36 pm: maita

    Isa, just made these yesterday and served them at a friend’s vegan cafe today – we sold all twelve mini-tartlets, and everyone loved them! Some leftover filling is waiting in the freezer to be turned into ice cream. I should pay you royalties :)

  • February 17, 2012 at 4:45 pm: maita

    Oh and that despite not having any agar. I simply used more corn starch instead. So if anyone’s in a pinch and can’t get their hands on vegan gelatin, subbing an extra 2 or 3 tsp of cornstarch will do the job.

  • March 25, 2012 at 1:50 pm: Jamie

    Made these in cupcake pans since I don’t have tart pans. Used frozen blueberries and strawberries, and also cut the cashews in half and used a half cup of mimicreme… also subbed soymilk for the almond milk… Even with all my substitutions, these were Amazing. I want to try this chocolate crust as a pie crust. Everyone loved it! Thank you!

  • May 28, 2012 at 7:48 pm: Rebecca

    Would fresh berries work for this?

  • May 28, 2012 at 11:01 pm: Rebecca

    I used agar flakes. I ground 2T (double the recipe for a party!) in the coffee grinder. It wasn’t grinding by itself so I added about 1-2t whole wheat flour to give it a little more bulk so the blades could grab it. I couldn’t get it very fine, but it ground down into a coarse powder once I added the flour. The berry mix firmed up nicely and the tarts are cooling now.

    I also use the recipe for the raw crust of the strawberry cheesecake recipe and it’s phenomenal. I used 2/3 of the sugar the first time I made it and half the sugar this time. I don’t know if its needs any sugar at all. I love the tartness of the berries with the sweetness of the coconut milk.

    I would still like to know if it would work with fresh berries. Maybe I will have to try it myself. Thanks for the awesome recipe. This is my favorite dessert and I forsee everyone I know becoming acquainted with it at bbqs this summer!

  • October 25, 2012 at 4:49 am: shiya

    after looking at this i’m seriously considering in saving money to buy a tart pan *drool* this recipe has all the flavours i enjoy eating. a must try recipe on days off from school

  • December 14, 2012 at 3:56 pm: Sam

    I made these and YUM!

  • December 16, 2012 at 10:50 pm: VikQueen

    For the person who didn’t want to spend $15.00 on tart pans, try going to Marshal’s, if there is one in your area. That’s where I found mine. Only $4.99!!! And they had different sizes. Great buy

  • December 21, 2012 at 9:29 pm: VikQueen

    I just made these and they turned out awesome!!! Beautiful AND delicious. By the way, the crust makes way more than six 4″ mini tarts. You can probably get a whole regular size tart with this recipe.

    P.S. I pureed the berries before adding to the sauce pan and saved some whole berries for garnish. Yummy!!!

  • January 6, 2013 at 5:42 pm: Heidi M.

    This was amazing! The olive oil crust is ingenious, and delicious! I cooked for non-vegan friends last night and they were blown away! Thank you!!!

  • January 23, 2013 at 4:34 am: Stephanie

    I’ve been doing more vegan baking and have both your cookie and your cupcake cookbooks (made the chocolate peanut butter pillows and everything banana cookies for a Heartland Farm Sanctuary fundraiser today!). I am always confused when a recipe calls for coconut milk (unless is specifies canned). Do you mean the drinkable coconut milk or the canned coconut milk? Thanks!

  • February 11, 2013 at 1:14 am: Casie

    I hate to say anything negative about any of your recipes because I love you and own all of your cookbooks but I chose to make these with frozen blueberries and it was pretty bland. Maybe they were a bad choice, it tasted like a coconut pie. The texture was amazing though and it set up perfectly. So I think I will just try again and make a lemon coconut tart with a nut crust maybe. Xoxo

  • February 11, 2013 at 1:58 am: Hannah

    I made this and it was quick and easy. I made one large tart. To be honest, I didn’t like the texture of the filling and perhaps it was because I used soy milk instead of almond milk but the flavour wasn’t my favourite either. The tart did look nice.
    I didn’t mind the crust though and might use it to fill with fresh berries in syrup and dark chocolate in the future.

  • August 13, 2013 at 12:41 am: Elisabeth Gorham

    This looks so good!! At what point do you remove them from the pans and how do you do that?

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