Lilac Coconut Cream Tarts

Lilac Coconut Cream Tarts feature a shortbread dough crust for a buttery, cookie-like tart base.
Lilac Coconut Cream Tarts feature a shortbread dough crust for a buttery, cookie-like tart base.
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I have a little obsession with edible flowers (you may have noticed). I like marmalade made with dandelions, and semifreddos peppered with rose petals, daylilies turned into fritters, and then there’s lilacs. Sumptuous, intoxicating lilacs.

Lilac Coconut Cream Tarts feature a shortbread dough crust for a buttery, cookie-like tart base.

There’s just something magical about cooking with fragrant colorful blooms and when it’s spring time, feasting on flowers feels like a fitting way to celebrate the world springing back to life after a long winter.

Lilac Coconut Cream Tarts feature a shortbread dough crust for a buttery, cookie-like tart base.

This recipe is delicate and delightful. Yes, it does requires a bit of time. (Though you can always cheat a bit and use store-bought tart shells to save time. Don’t tell anyone I said that). But the time you put into these is going to be enchanting and worthwhile.

Lilac Coconut Cream Tarts feature a shortbread dough crust for a buttery, cookie-like tart base.

I experimented quite a bit to get these right. I incorporated lilac sugar, lilac-infused milk and cream, made candied lilacs and lilac syrup, all in an effort to see what would most fully capture the potent aroma of that irresistible flower. In the end, the most successful experiment was the lilac whipping cream. The cream really seemed to absorb the lilacs’ perfume. The candied lilacs are an optional garnish, but a lot of fun to make.

Lilac Coconut Cream Tarts feature a shortbread dough crust for a buttery, cookie-like tart base.

I initially struggled a bit with my tart shells because tart dough is notorious for shrinking while it bakes and I am stubborn about not wanting to use pie weights. I wanted an easy recipe that would bake nicely in a simple muffin tin.

In the end, I found that a shortbread dough worked best, keeping its shape very well, especially if placed in the freezer before baking. It’s also incredibly delicious to eat, yielding a light buttery cookie-like tart base. I used a muffin tin, but if you have them, you could certainly use fancy fluted tart molds to create something more dainty. Either way… enjoy!

Happy spring to you all!

Lilac Coconut Cream Tarts feature a shortbread dough crust for a buttery, cookie-like tart base.

Lilac Coconut Cream Tarts

lilac-coconut-cream-tarts-5

Fresh lilacs lend an enchanting aroma to this springtime twist on the classic coconut cream pie. (Recipe Credit: Aube Giroux of Kitchen Vignettes)

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Ingredients

  • For the Coconut Shortbread Tart Shells:
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup confectioners (powdered) sugar
  • 1 cup + 2 Tbsp unbleached white flour
  • 3 Tbsp coconut flour
  • 1/8 tsp salt (omit if using salted butter)
  • 1/2 tsp natural coconut extract (or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract)
  • For the Coconut Lilac Cream Filling:
  • 1/2 cup cane sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 x 13.5 oz can of unsweetened full-fat coconut milk (about 1 1/2 cup)
  • 1 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1 cup fresh just-picked lilac blossoms (green base removed)
  • For the Toppings (optional but recommended):
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup fresh just-picked lilac blossoms (green base removed)
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup lightly toasted unsweetened coconut
  • A couple dozen fresh or candied lilac blossoms for garnish

Directions

  1. To make the tart shells: In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar (by hand or with an electric mixer). Add the vanilla or coconut extract and beat until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk together the unbleached flour, coconut flour, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the creamed butter and sugar and mix until just incorporated. If the dough is very soft, refrigerate it for about 15 minutes.
  2. Divide the dough into 12 even-sized balls. In a buttered muffin pan (no need to butter if using a non-stick pan), press each ball of dough into the bottoms and sides of each individual muffin slot. Alternately, you can roll out the dough to 1/8 inch and use a large 5 to 6 inch circular cookie cutter to make dough circles that you delicately place and lightly press into each muffin slot. Prick the bottoms with a fork a couple times. Place the muffin pan in the freezer for about 15 minutes to harden the tart shells (this will prevent the dough from shrinking and puffing up during baking).
  3. Preheat oven to 325F and bake the tart shells for approximately 15 to 20 minutes or until golden. Check the tart shells at the 10-minute mark and if the bottoms are puffing up, prick them again gently with a fork. Once baked, let the tart shells cool in the muffin pan for about 10 minutes before removing and letting them cool on a rack. Now, they are ready to be filled.
  4. To make the coconut lilac cream filling: Pull the lilac flowers off the branch, ensuring there is no green tip at the base, just the petals. Whisk the whole milk and coconut milk together and pour over the lilac blossoms in a medium-sized bowl. (If needed, you can warm the coconut milk slightly to melt the coconut fat so it will incorporate evenly into the whole milk when whisked). Allow the lilacs to sit and infuse in the milk for a few hours (or overnight) in the fridge, covered. Next, pour the infused lilac blossoms and milk into a small saucepan and slowly heat the milk until it begins to release some steam. (Don’t let it boil). Use a fine-mesh sieve to strain out the lilac blossoms and return the strained milk to the saucepan. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Add about a quarter of the warm milk and mix well, then pour this mixture back into the saucepan with the rest of the milk, whisking well. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until it thickens, about 6 or 7 minutes. In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks and then slowly pour the thick hot milk on top, whisking constantly until incorporated. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook at medium heat for another 2 minutes, stirring the whole time as it bubbles. Remove from heat. If you wish, strain the custard through a fine sieve.
  5. In a heavy skillet over medium heat, toast the coconut for about 5 minutes or until it begins to turn slightly golden. Add the toasted coconut and vanilla to the custard, mixing well. Allow the mixture to cool slightly (10 minutes or so). Spoon into the prepared (and fully cooled) tart shells and refrigerate the tarts until filling is set (about 1 to 2 hours).
  6. To make lilac-infused whipping cream: Several hours in advance of assembling the tarts (or the night before), mix the heavy cream and fresh lilac blossoms together. (If the lilac blossoms have been rinsed, make sure to very gently pat them dry first). Let the lilac cream infuse in a covered container in the fridge for several hours (or overnight). When ready to assemble, strain out the lilac blossoms. Whip the cream, adding the sugar halfway through. If you wish, add a few drops of food coloring (I use beet and blueberry juice) to lightly color the whipped cream. Top the tarts with the lilac whipped cream, toasted coconut, and lilac flowers. Candied lilacs are also lovely!

Yield: 12 tarts


Aube Giroux is a food writer and filmmaker who shares her love of cooking on her farm-to-table blog, Kitchen Vignettes.

Aube is a passionate organic gardener and home cook who likes to share the stories of how food gets to our dinner plates. Her work has been shown on television and at international film festivals. Her web series has been nominated for multiple James Beard Awards for Best Video Webcast (On Location). In 2012, she was the recipient of Saveur Magazine’s Best Food Blog award in the video category.

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

This Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies recipe is a quick, one bowl recipe that's ready in ten minutes.

This Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies recipe is a quick, one bowl recipe that's ready in ten minutes.

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Cookie cravings are demanding. They have a way of urgently commanding your immediate attention. These cookies are good for those emergency moments, when there’s no time for fuss or lengthy ingredient lists. This is probably the easiest cookie recipe anyone could ever make: 3 ingredients, 1 bowl, 1 fork, 3 minutes to make the dough, 10 minutes to cook, and voila, you’ve got a high protein, low-sugar cookie that is mighty fine. They’re also great for the gluten-free friends out there.

This Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies recipe is a quick, one bowl recipe that's ready in ten minutes.

I first found this recipe online and was shocked how easily it yielded a great peanut butter cookie with only three basic ingredients: peanut butter, egg, and sugar. But the recipes I tried used a one-to-one ratio of sugar to peanut butter and I found that to be way too sweet. I tried halving the sugar amount and it was perfect for my taste. I also like to use coconut sugar which is lower on the glycemic index and has a deep caramel-like flavor. So my version of these flourless peanut butter cookies uses half the sugar, coconut instead of white sugar and lo and behold, the cookies are delicious. After experimenting a little, I found that adding a little baking soda and salt to these cookies makes them closer in taste to the traditional peanut butter cookies my grandmother used to make, but I often leave out the baking soda and salt altogether and they’re perfectly fine.

This Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies recipe is a quick, one bowl recipe that's ready in ten minutes.

Now, one caveat: the quality of the peanut butter is important here. It is after all the main ingredient. You need a nice smooth peanut butter that spreads easily. Stay away from very thick peanut butter as you’ll get a hard puck of a cookie. And of course, make sure to use fresh peanut butter, there’s nothing worse than the taste of rancid peanuts in a cookie. I use a very smooth organic peanut butter made of peanuts only, no additives. I can’t speak for this recipe using peanut butters that contain hydrogenated oils and I don’t recommend those, for health reasons. But if you use a basic, fresh smooth peanut butter, you should have good results.

This Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies recipe is a quick, one bowl recipe that's ready in ten minutes.

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies recipe

These Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies are a quick, one-bowl recipe. (Recipe Credit: Aube Giroux of Kitchen Vignettes)

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup natural smooth peanut butter (avoid anything too thick)
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar (white cane sugar is fine, increase amount to 1 cup if you prefer a sweeter cookie)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Mix all the ingredients together in a medium bowl until a stiff dough is obtained. Roll into 12 balls and flatten with a fork, making a criss-cross pattern. Bake on a greased or parchment-lined cookie sheet, about 1 inch apart, for about 8 to 10 minutes. Eat warm or cold. Will store at room temperature for about 1 week.

Yield: 1 dozen cookies


Aube Giroux is a food writer and filmmaker who shares her love of cooking on her farm-to-table blog, Kitchen Vignettes.

Aube is a passionate organic gardener and home cook who likes to share the stories of how food gets to our dinner plates. Her work has been shown on television and at international film festivals. Her web series has been nominated for multiple James Beard Awards for Best Video Webcast (On Location). In 2012, she was the recipient of Saveur Magazine’s Best Food Blog award in the video category.

Quebec-Style Yellow Pea Soup

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This soup is as familiar to me as fish chowder is to a Mainer. Like a true Québecoise, my mom would make Soupe aux pois on a regular basis, long after we moved away from Québec.

Continue reading “Quebec-Style Yellow Pea Soup”

No-Bake Tahini Chocolate Mousse Pie

This No-Bake Tahini Chocolate Mousse Pie recipe is a rich, velvety dessert that tastes like peanut butter cream pie.

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Here’s one for the tahini lovers! And if you’re not a tahini fanatic, don’t worry, the flavors in this velvety pie meld into something kind of indescribable. On first bite, this pie has been known to fool people into thinking it’s a peanut butter cream pie. But then the tastebuds realize it’s something else. And if you don’t tell, your guests will be guessing for quite a while. That’s my kind of dessert. A dessert with complexity and mystery! And a rich dessert, involving lots of cream. (Though if you’re not a fan of cream don’t worry, you can substitute avocado for a totally vegan version, the recipe for that one is over on my blog.

Continue reading “No-Bake Tahini Chocolate Mousse Pie”

Beet Tarts with Goat Cheese and Caramelized Onions

These Beet Tarts with goat cheese and caramelized onions are the savory version of apple rose tarts.
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Last fall, I became obsessed with the adorable rose-shaped apple tarts that were going viral on social media. They’re so easy to make and with a light dusting of icing sugar, they make even a novice baker pass for a seasoned pastry chef. For Valentine’s Day, I wanted to make some beet and goat cheese tarts and I opted to use the same technique for a savory take on those little apple roses. It makes for a unique tart that combines sweet and savory. Served with a green salad, it’s a simple yet elegant Valentine’s Day meal.

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Savoy Cabbage, Blood Orange, and Avocado Salad

This Savoy Cabbage Salad recipe is healthy and colorful with avocado and blood oranges.

This Savoy Cabbage Salad recipe is healthy and colorful with avocado and blood oranges.

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It’s not always easy to add vegetables to our diets but I find if I don’t make a point of making a salad almost every day, I begin to feel sluggish and not at my best. I loved Mark Manson’s recent post about looking at New Year’s resolutions through the lens of developing good life habits instead of aiming for hard-to-reach goals. And a salad a day seems like a worthy habit to adopt, one that will have all kinds of positive spin-offs in your life.

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Leekchi

Leekchi is like kimchi's leek-based cousin! It is a highly flavorful fermented condiment made simply of leeks, salt, ginger, garlic, and hot peppers.
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I’ve been known to polish off entire jars of kimchi in record time, so when I first heard of kimchi’s leek-based cousin, my curiosity was piqued.

Leekchi is like kimchi's leek-based cousin! It is a highly flavorful fermented condiment made simply of leeks, salt, ginger, garlic, and hot peppers.

Each year, I make as many batches of sauerkraut and kimchi and various other lacto-fermented veggies as I can muster, with all kinds of variations on the themes. It can get rather experimental, as were this fall’s lacto-pickled kohlrabi and eggplant (the first was delicious, the latter not so much). But until I read a beautiful feature on leekchi in Taproot Magazine, I had never thought of experimenting with leeks. It was a revelation.

Leekchi is like kimchi's leek-based cousin! It is a highly flavorful fermented condiment made simply of leeks, salt, ginger, garlic, and hot peppers.

My friend beat me to it last summer and then generously shared a jar of her homemade leekchi. I ate it on everything for days on end until the sad day came when I peered into the jar and realized it was all gone.

Leekchi is like kimchi's leek-based cousin! It is a highly flavorful fermented condiment made simply of leeks, salt, ginger, garlic, and hot peppers.

So this year, I vowed to make leekchi in large enough quantities to keep myself well stocked for as long as possible. I just can’t seem to tire of the stuff. I eat it with scrambled eggs, on toast, on cheese and crackers, in sandwiches, next to rice, I’ve put it in soups, stir-fry’s, and wheat berry salads. It adds indescribable salty spicy umami goodness to every dish I’ve used it in.

Leekchi is like kimchi's leek-based cousin! It is a highly flavorful fermented condiment made simply of leeks, salt, ginger, garlic, and hot peppers.

We could all use a little more facto-fermented foods in our diets. In the last few years, a growing body of research is showing the incredible benefits of increasing our friendly gut bacteria. Eating fermented foods (such a yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and yes, leekchi!) has been shown to help our digestion, reduce our risks of diseases like cancer, and even improve our emotional health! And while it may seem like a far-fetched claim to say that fermented foods can reduce our anxiety and boost our moods, that claim is now being backed up by scientific research.

Leekchi is like kimchi's leek-based cousin! It is a highly flavorful fermented condiment made simply of leeks, salt, ginger, garlic, and hot peppers.

People of different cultures around the world have been eating fermented foods for eons. The bottomline is, we need lots of friendly bacteria in our gut in order to have good overall health, and in our current era of uber-cleanliness, heavy antibiotic use, and pesticide residues, our poor little gut bacteria are constantly under attack.

Leekchi is like kimchi's leek-based cousin! It is a highly flavorful fermented condiment made simply of leeks, salt, ginger, garlic, and hot peppers.

I won’t go into all the specifics of lacto-fermentation because entire books and websites are devoted to the topic, but I do want to say that there are many, many different techniques and vessels that will yield successful ferments. There is even a fair bit of controversy surrounding which method is best. Bottomline is, so long as vegetables are submerged under liquid in an oxygen-free environment, successful fermentation should occur. This article goes over some of the ways to ensure submersion. You can use a traditional crock and weights or a simple mason jar (loosening the lid every day to “burp” the jar and allow the gases to escape). These methods will sometimes produce a thin layer of mould on top that is harmless but should be skimmed off the surface. I’ve always been a bit turned off by the potential of mould, so I recommend using an airlock system, such as Pickl-it or Go Ferment. A cheaper option is to use clamp-down jars with rubber gaskets and metal clasps, such as Fido or LeParfait. The clamp-down jars do pose a small risk of shattering from the build-up of gases and pressure and though this has never happened to me or anyone I know who uses this technique, I’ve heard it does occasionally happen and it sounds pretty scary. When I use this method, I wrap my jars in towels and tuck them in a closed cardboard box in a closet for the active fermentation part, as a precautionary measure.

Leekchi is like kimchi's leek-based cousin! It is a highly flavorful fermented condiment made simply of leeks, salt, ginger, garlic, and hot peppers.

I love this type of food preservation because unlike canning, you don’t need to sterilize your jars or worry about botulism. Of course, jars, hands, and tools should be clean. But through the fermentation process, the friendly bacteria crowds out any harmful bacteria. The general rule is that if your ferment has gone bad, it will have an unmistakable foul odor that will make you not want to eat it. If you’re new to the adventures of fermenting, you should definitely read up on it in more detail before trying this recipe out. A good place to start is the video on fermentista.us by Kirsten and Christopher Shockey whose Leekchi recipe mine is based on. They have also written an outstanding book called Fermented Vegetables. I also recommend listening to renowned expert Sandor Katz (aka Sandor Kraut!) explain fermentation in this video. I highly recommend his books as well.

I hope you’ll give this a try, do let me know how it turns out for you in the comments below. Enjoy!

Leekchi is like kimchi's leek-based cousin! It is a highly flavorful fermented condiment made simply of leeks, salt, ginger, garlic, and hot peppers.

Leekchi

Leekchi Recipe

Leekchi is like kimchi's little cousin, a highly flavorful fermented condiment made simply of leeks, salt, ginger, garlic, and hot peppers. (Recipe Credit: Aube Giroux of Kitchen Vignettes)

Adapted from Kirsten Shockey and Taproot Magazine (Mend Issue)

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Ingredients

  • 6 cups thinly sliced leeks (about 1 1/2 pound or 3 large leeks)
  • 2 tsp sea salt (pickling or kosher salt is ok but do not use iodized table salt)
  • 2 large cloves of garlic (about 1 Tbsp, minced)
  • 1 Tbsp finely grated ginger
  • 2 tsp hot red pepper powder (ideally Korean kimchi pepper, but a mix of cayenne, paprika, or dried chili flakes is fine - for a really hot leekchi, increase the amount accordingly)

Directions

  1. First, rinse the leeks very well. Soil tends to get stuck in between the layers at the part of the leek where the dark leaves begin to branch out. Also, wash your hands well before starting this recipe because you’ll be using them to mix everything together.
  2. Place the thinly sliced leeks (including some of the green tops) into a large bowl. Sprinkle the salt on top. Use your hands to massage the leeks and salt together until the juices begin to release (about 5 minutes). Cover the sliced leeks and allow them to rest for about 45 minutes so the juices continue to release.
  3. Add all of your flavoring ingredients: minced garlic, grated ginger, and hot pepper. Mix well until fully incorporated.
  4. Press the leek mixture into a clean 2-quart mason jar or crock, or a 1-quart jar if using a clamp-down Fido or Le Parfait jar. In order to ferment vegetables properly, you must keep them submerged under liquid. You’ll want to compress the leeks down to remove all air pockets and to encourage their juices to rise to the top, really packing them down. If you don't have a wooden tamper, you can use the back of your hand or the end of a wooden spoon or rolling pin to press down. If you've pressed the leeks down but there is still not enough liquid to cover them, you can add a bit of homemade brine. Stir 1 tsp salt into 1 cup water until the salt has dissolved. Pour just enough of this brine on top of your leek mixture to cover it.
  5. The fermentation process will push the leeks up out of the brine so you may need to weigh them down, depending on the vessel you’re using. If using a mason jar or a crock, top your leeks with a follower and weight combination or use a simple weight made out of a quart-sized ziplock bag. Press the plastic down onto the top of the ferment, then fill it with water and seal. For a jar, screw the lid loosely on top. Do not seal so that gases can escape during the fermenting process. Clamp-on jars such as Fido and LeParfait do not need a weight to keep the vegetables submerged because they can remain closed until the ferment is ready to eat. However, if using this technique, be aware of the small risk that a jar can shatter, as explained in my write-up above. Though this is unlikely, you should wrap any jars in rags or towels and place them in a closed cardboard box in a closet for the active fermentation part, as a safety measure. This article has additional information about how to keep ferments submerged.
  6. Leave your leekchi at room temperature, away from direct sunlight for about 1 week. The contents may bubble and seep out so you may want to keep your jars on some newspaper. Unless you are using the clamp-down jar option, you should check your ferment daily to ensure the vegetables are still submerged under brine. Scoop out any scum that develops on the top. Your leekchi is ready when it has turned yellowish, the leeks have softened and developed a nice sour aroma.
  7. After about 7 days, the active part of the fermentation should be complete and you can move your jar or crock to the fridge where they will keep for about 6 months.
  8. Leekchi is wonderful as a condiment served alongside a warm meal. It’s also lovely with cheese and crackers. You can add it to stir-fry’s, soups, omelettes or scrambled eggs.

Tips/Techniques

If you’re new to fermenting or feeling nervous about the process, consider investing in an airlock system. This is the optimal way to ferment. Some companies that sell airlock kits include: Pickl-it and Go Ferment.

Once you get comfortable with the base recipe, you can use special add-ons such as sesame seeds, seaweed flakes, fish sauce, smokey chipotle or paprika, gourmet salts etc… Feel free to experiment with these types of add-ons and personalize your leekchi to suit your taste.

Yield: Makes about 1 quart


Aube Giroux is a food writer and filmmaker who shares her love of cooking on her farm-to-table blog, Kitchen Vignettes.

Aube is a passionate organic gardener and home cook who likes to share the stories of how food gets to our dinner plates. Her work has been shown on television and at international film festivals. Her web series has been nominated for multiple James Beard Awards for Best Video Webcast (On Location). In 2012, she was the recipient of Saveur Magazine’s Best Food Blog award in the video category.

Veggie Pâté

Vegge Pate recipe

I often joke that I was a flower child baby, because by the time I came into the world, my mom had already embraced many aspects of the “hippy” lifestyle of late 1970’s Montreal. One of the areas where this was most evident was in her approach to food and cooking. A cherished cookbook in our household, published the year after I was born, is Le Bonheur du végétarisme (The joy of vegetarianism) by Québec author Danièle Starenkyj. Danièle’s book turned végépâté into a Québec classic. If you go to just about any grocery store in Québec today, you will find an assortment of different brands of végépâté, so tasty they are enjoyed by meat eaters as much as by vegetarians. But veggie pâté is also incredibly easy to make at home.

Continue reading “Veggie Pâté”

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