It’s Mother’s Day and I am in awe of the dedication and hard work that mothers and grandmothers everywhere around the world devote to their children, partners, and families. I was blessed to come from a long line of very caring, organized, dedicated women at the center of family life. I would not be able to come up with the number of hours my Mom played with me, helped me with homework, prepared meals, and baked birthday cakes. I love that we set aside a whole day to celebrate the women who raised us, and I also like to include in this list aunts and great-aunts and even mentors, teachers, and lots of women who are nurturing, encouraging, generous, and strong, because they all helped me become the person I am today, too. Every year, as Mother’s Day arrives, I think of the many gatherings we had in Buenos Aires with my entire extended family. Due to the warm and pleasant climate in Buenos Aires, most of the gatherings happened in the garden with the tables set under the trees, and a flurry of women would set the table with tablecloths, plates, and silverware, and then bring wonderful homemade dishes and desserts to grace the table. I loved these gatherings because each person had their own way of showing that they cared for me, as a grandma or as an aunt, and it was so fun and so festive to have the house full of guests.
One of the favorite desserts for many of these gatherings, including Mother’s Day and birthdays, was my Mom’s strawberry custard tart. This is probably the dessert I make the most in the summertime, when strawberries are abundant, and truly no other dessert comes close to the volume I make of this tart. It’s an impressive dessert, and yet it can be made ahead and in multiple steps, but the strawberries are just so beautiful that it allows the fruit to shine and look so impressive on the table. Whenever I see a tart with pastry cream and strawberries, it makes me think of my Mom, because it was and still is one of her all-time favorite desserts. It also helps that it’s one of my favorites, too! I seem to have taken after her in my love for French patisserie. This tart is wonderful because the pâte sablée crust is firm, buttery, and rich; the pastry cream is light and refreshing; and the fruit topping adds a bright sweetness, as well as lots of visual appeal to it all. It’s a spring dessert, and also a summer one, but I’ve never seen it turned down even when served in winter, even if it’s not very seasonal!
The pastry cream for this recipe is a little bit different than what you normally find in the US: it’s made with flour instead of cornstarch. There is no cream in it, and no butter, and this is truly in honor of my Mom. My Mom has a phobia of heavy cream, butter, and heavy concoctions. I think the fad of the 1980s and the craze for low-fat foods influenced this, together with my Grandpa getting a triple heart bypass when I was a kid sometime in the 1990s. From then on, my Mom lightened most recipes to never include butter, and cream could never cross the threshold of our home. My Grandma balanced the scales of the heavy cream consumption by making large serving dishes of chocolate pudding with fluffy clouds of whipped cream on top and secretly serving them to my Grandpa with a good dose of chocolate curls on top. So as you see, my Mom and my Grandma balanced each other out perfectly. Although I do use butter and cream in many of my recipes, for this strawberry custard tart, I honor my Mom’s preference for a lighter consistency to the pastry cream and I followed her recipe which omits cream and butter in the filling. I confess it’s not just to honor her dietary preferences, I just can’t help but hanker for that taste of childhood in the form of a slice of strawberry custard tart that was incredibly light and refreshing instead of overly sweet or heavy.
This year, I won’t be able to see my Mom for Mother’s Day, but we can share recipes by email and blog, and I am hoping that despite the distance, my Mom and all of the mothers in their different roles can feel loved and appreciated, taking a look around at the lives, children, and people they’ve nurtured, and realize how much they’ve done and feel proud of it. Motherhood is not for the fainthearted! It involves the patience and discipline of a thousand iterations and habits throughout the day, weeks, months, and even over the years. Of course, I think my Mom is special for so many reasons. She’s an incredible woman who is immensely productive, kind, and cheerful. She makes things effortless and has put a ton of energy into her children, her family, and also the students in her classroom. Somehow she always finds a solution to every problem with her wonderful optimistic spirit. Now that I’m older, I also try to remember that, as much as I like to see my Mom as a superhero, which I still think she is, she’s also human, she has her own needs, dreams, and challenges, as most women do, of getting pulled in too many directions at once. So anyway, for all of you lucky enough to be with your Mom on Mother’s Day or to have nurturing women in your life, even if it’s not your biological mother, be sure that on this day and hopefully every day, you celebrate her life, cherish her, take care of her, and remember all the sacrifices big and small she has made for you throughout the years. Happy Mother’s Day!
Strawberry Custard Tart
Prep time: 20 min.
Cook Time: 20 min.
Chill Time: 4 hours, non-consecutive
For the Crust:
- ½ cup + 2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
- ½ cup + 2 tbsp powdered sugar
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 hard-boiled egg yolk
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 1 ¾ cups cake flour, sifted
- ¼ tsp salt
For the Patisserie Cream:
- 4 cups whole milk
- 2 eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 cup cane sugar
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1 vanilla pod or 1 tsp vanilla powder
For the Fruit topping:
- 1 lb box strawberries, washed and sliced
- 2 tbsp apple jelly
Make the Pâte Sablée Tart Shell:
- In a medium bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and powdered sugar together until smooth.
- Push the hard-boiled egg yolk through a sieve into another bowl and stir the raw egg yolk and vanilla into it.
- Then add this mixture to the butter and sugar. Stir until blended.
- Add the flour and salt to this mixture and stir until incorporated. The dough will be very soft.
- Shape the dough into a disc, cover with plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator at least 2 hours, until firm.
- On a lightly floured work surface, gently knead the dough to soften. Roll out the dough to a circle at least 12 inches in diameter and ¼ inch thick.
- Carefully lift the disc and press it into a 10-inch, removable-bottom fluted tart pan. Make sure to press it into the bottom and sides. Trim away any excess dough.
- Chill the dough in the tart pan at least 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 325ºF.
- Dock the pastry using the tines of a fork and bake the chilled tart about 20 minutes, or until the edges are just slightly browned.
- Cool to room temperature before pouring in the filling.
Make the Patisserie Cream:
- Place all but 2 tablespoons of the milk in a saucepan over medium heat with the vanilla pods or powder and lemon zest, bringing it to just below a simmer.
- In a small bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and egg yolks, whisking until smooth.
- Add the 2 tablespoons of reserved milk to the yolk mixture. Stir gradually to avoid creating granules. Whisk vigorously until the mixture is smooth and combined.
- After the milk in the saucepan has simmered, let it cool down before using it on the next step so it doesn’t scramble the eggs.
- Strain the vanilla pods, if using, and the lemon zest out of the simmered milk, and slowly pour the hot milk over the yolk, sugar, and flour mixture, whisking constantly.
- Return the mixture to the saucepan, warming over low heat, stirring constantly for about 10 minutes until the custard thickens and coats the back of the spoon.
- Remove the custard from the saucepan and transfer it to a bowl, covering it with plastic wrap, and chill it in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours, before using.
- Whisk the custard to soften it, then spread evenly across the bottom of the baked and cooled tart shell, distributing the amount of pastry cream evenly across.
- Chill the filled tart another 2 hours.
- After it has chilled, top the custard tart with sliced strawberries, creating any kind of pattern that you like. You could just put the strawberries in a semi-circle by the edge of the tart; you could arrange them in an asymmetric fashion, like I did; or any other arrangement that you prefer.
- Once the tart has been garnished, melt 2 tbsp of apple jelly in a small saucepan over medium heat, until it has a semi-liquid consistency.
- Using a brush, coat the berries with the jelly until they glisten. Garnish with flowers if desired.
- Store the tart in the refrigerator and consume within 3 days.
© 2021 Carol’s Baking Adventures