I’ve pondered at length what to make for Mother’s Day this year. There are so many Breakfast in Bed recipes running around and, honestly, my mom has never been that kind of mom. She does more than most people do in an entire day before the sun comes up.
On Mother’s Day she, my aunts, and my Grandma make an incredible meal for our entire family. Appetizers, a main course with two types of meat, salad, several side dishes, homemade rolls, and dessert with good, hot coffee. Eating out or being pampered was unheard of – she’d rather cook for the people she loves.
The apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree.
So much of who I am today is because of the woman my mom chose to be, day in and day out. On the easy days and the tough days, too. As each year passes, my awe and wonder grows at how she ever managed it all. Three girls, my dad’s job that required lots of travel, volunteering at our school and at church, our activities, home made meals every night…I never once had Hamburger Helper or any other frozen or boxed dinner.
She did it with love.
Fresh Fruit Tart
My mom’s not a dessert person. She’ll take a bite or two. Maybe three if it’s really good. I think this tart would get her to take four. The pecan crust is perfect with the light-as-air, lightly lemon cream filling.
This recipe is quite simple – the crust can be made and baked in less than 20 minutes. You can make it the day before, wrap it in plastic wrap once it’s cooled, and refrigerate it overnight. (Just a note – if you’ve never made pastry cream you might want to give it a practice run. I mean it when I say don’t stop whisking!)
The filling can really be made of anything – chocolate mousse, lemon mousse, custard. I used Opera Cream, a pastry cream based recipe we made in baking class last week. It’s been adapted so that it’s refined sugar-free. The recipe is in weight measures. Pastry chefs don’t use cups. They weigh everything to ensure consistent results.
Weighing Instead of Measuring
My hypothesis is that gluten-free baking can be made simpler if we baked by weight instead of by measuring. A cup of brown rice flour weighs much more than a cup of tapioca flour. It would be nearly impossible to substitute one for the other with good results. The same goes for subbing a gluten-free flour for an all purpose, bread, or cake flour.
I’ve been using this precision scale for school and I love it – it’s compact, easy to store, and measures in grams, kilograms, ounces, and pounds. If you don’t have a kitchen scale, I highly recommend you buy one. I use mine daily for everything from weighing pasta to making cake, even when I’m not at school.
I’m going to start adding weight measures to my baking recipes. I hope you’ll join me as I venture out to test my hypothesis and see if, together, we can’t make more sense of baking gluten-free.
Happy Mother’s Day! Any special plans or dishes you’re whipping up this weekend?
- 2 cups pecans
- 3 large medjool dates, pitted
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare an 8 inch tart or pie pan with cooking spray.
- Place the pecans and dates in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until chopped. Add melted butter and process until a dough forms. Press into your pan. Bake for 8 – 10 minutes until light golden brown. The crust will puff slightly. Let crust cool completely before filling.
Advance preparation: This can be made a day ahead of time, cooled, wrapped, and refrigerated overnight.
- 16 ounces 1% milk, divided
- pinch of kosher salt
- 1 1/2 ounces cornstarch
- 6 ounces eggs, beaten
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 ounces unsalted butter, cubed
- 2 ounces agave nectar
- zest from 1/2 of a small lemon
- Gather and measure all of your ingredients before starting. This is super important because you can’t stop once you start the cooking process.
- You’ll also need to gather your equipment and prepare an ice bath to cool down the pastry cream. (Just put some ice in a bowl large enough to fit the bowl you’ll use to store your final product.) Other equipment you’ll need: a whisk, a spatula, a four quart or larger stainless steel sauce pot or sauce pan, a clean bowl to store the final pastry cream, and plastic wrap.
- Put 12 ounces of milk and a pinch of salt into your sauce pan. Bring to a boil, stirring with your spatula. The milk will start to foam up so watch carefully. If you don’t pay attention you’ll have a mess on your hands. While the milk is coming to a boil, combine the remaining 4 ounces of milk and the cornstarch well with a whisk. Add the eggs and vanilla to the milk mixture and whisk until combined.
- Once milk comes to a boil, temper the egg and milk mixture by pouring about one third of the boiling milk directly into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Don’t stop whisking or your eggs will curdle. Now, pour the tempered egg mix back into the milk, again, whisking constantly. Brint this back to a boil while whisking. Keep whisking. Don’t stop or your eggs will cook.
- As it comes to a boil, you’re going to see it start to look like scrambled eggs. Keep whisking. Don’t stop. The whisking keeps the eggs from scrambling. Once your mix thickens and comes to a boil, take it off the heat and immediately dump in the cubed butter while still whisking. Don’t stop until all the butter is melted into your pastry cream. Add in agave and lemon zest. Taste with a clean spoon – if you want it a little sweeter, go ahead and add more agave but do it quickly.
- Turn hot pastry cream into a clean bowl, set on your ice bath, and put plastic wrap directly on the cream. This will keep it from forming a skin. Wrap the bowl with plastic wrap to protect it from absorbing any odors while in your refrigerator. Place in refrigerator to cool completely.
- Let your pastry cream chill completely. Whip 1 cup of heavy cream with 1/8 teaspoon powdered white stevia to stiff peaks. Put two cups of pastry cream into a large bowl. Use a whip to break up the pastry cream so it’s smooth. Stir 1/4 cup of whipped cream directly into the pastry cream. Fold another 1 1/2 cups into the pastry cream in two additions. This is the consistency of a light mouse. Total heaven. This makes a very light filling. If you want your opera cream to be thicker, use one part whipped cream to three parts pastry cream.
- 1 baked pecan crust
- 4 cups opera cream**
- an assortment of fresh fruit – berries, kiwi, grapes, and oranges
- 2 tablespoons no sugar added apricot or apple preserves
- 2 tablespoons water
- Turn opera cream into pecan pie crust. Spread evenly.
- While washing and preparing fruit, put preserves and water into a small sauce pan. Bring to a simmer to melt. Strain if necessary to remove any pieces of fruit.
- If using cut fruit, lay it on paper towels with the cut side down to absorb any juices that would otherwise mar the top of your tart. Create an attractive pattern on the surface of your tart. Brush with melted preserve mixture to give it an extra special shine and finished look. Chill before serving.
**Opera cream is a classical recipe used for pastry fillings. Make a batch of pastry cream, chill it, then fold whipped cream into the pastry cream.
When cutting this tart, use a good quality, sharp serrated knife and let the knife do the cutting. If you press down into the tart, you’ll smash it.