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Strawberry Tart

I am so thankful that I was able to spend Easter at home with my family. As this may be my last break for quite some time, I soaked up the opportunities to see old friends, bum around the house, enjoy a holiday meal with family, and bake!

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After what seemed to be the longest winter ever, the sight of bright pink strawberries in the grocery store makes me almost giddy! I knew they must be incorporated into this year’s Easter treat.

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This strawberry tart keeps it simple and delicious. It showcases the beautiful berry and is full of texture and flavor! My dad’s famous flaky pie crust is filled with a luscious pastry cream, all topped off with sweet berries.

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This tart would also be delicious with any other spring/summer fruit like raspberries, peaches, or plums! Your friends and family will definitely be impressed:)

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Strawberry Tart

1 fully baked pie crust
pastry cream
about 3 cups fresh strawberries, sliced
glaze (2 Tablespoons jam + 1 Tablespoon water)

Shortly before you are ready to serve the tart, spread the pastry cream in the bottom of your baked pie crust shell and arrange the strawberries on top. Combine the jam and water together and heat (either in the microwave or a small saucepan) until combined. Using a pastry brush, spread the glaze over the strawberries to give your tart a shiny finish!

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Pie Crust
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 stick cold butter, cut up into small chunks
  • 1/4 cup (+ 1 Tablespoons if necessary) ice water

(We made the crust by hand with a pastry cutter. Using a food processor works wonderfully, as well.) Stir together the first three ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Add your small pieces of cold butter. Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour mixture until you have little bits of pea-sized butter pieces remaining. Pour in 1/4 cup of ice cold water and blend together with the pastry cutter and your hands until a nice dough forms. Add another tablespoon of water if it is still too crumby. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for a couple of hours before rolling it out.

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Put a piece of parchment in a circle to fit in the bottom of your pan. We used a tart pan with fluted edges, but any kind of pan (pie, tart, quiche, flan) will do! After your dough has chilled, it’s time to roll it out into a circle with a diameter a couple of inches bigger than your pan. Sometimes this is easier on top of the plastic wrap or a floured sheet of parchment paper. Keeping your dough sprinkled with flour will also help to prevent it from sticking. As you roll out the dough, occasionally turn, flip, and lift the dough to free it from the surface. After you’ve reached the desired size, turn the dough out into your pan. At the bottom edge, lift the dough up and press in to make sure it gets fully in there. Trim the overhang to 1/2 inch. Fold the overhang in to make double thick sides.

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Now, it’s time to blind bake! We’re going to bake the crust by itself, since the filling doesn’t need to be baked. This method also keeps the crust flaky and wonderful, protecting it from becoming soggy after we load it up with pastry cream and berries.

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Preheat your oven to 425F.  Gently place a piece of aluminum foil on top of the crust. Then, place your pie weights or “baking beans” on top of the foil. You can purchase official pie weights, but we are totally happy using dried beans. (After they cool, you can store them in a bag and use them over and over again as pie weights!) Spread out the beans delicately and evenly.

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Bake your crust, filled with foil and weights/beans, for 15 minutes. Then, remove the weights and foil and bake for about 5 minutes more, until the crust is cooked through and turns light brown. Remove from the oven and allow the crust to cool in the pan.

 

Pastry Cream
modified from Smitten Kitchen and Williams-Sonoma Dessert
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 Tablespoons butter, room temperature

In a saucepan over medium heat, warm the milk until you see small bubbles form along the edges. Remove pot from the heat. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Slowly add about one quarter of the hot milk to the egg mixture, while whisking. Continue to add the milk very slowly until it is all incorporated. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and place over medium-low heat.

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Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens. Continue to cook, still stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds. Pour the mixture into a clean bowl. Add the vanilla extract and butter (cut into small chunks). Stir until smooth and combined. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until cold, for at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.

 

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Mrs. Perotti’s Apple Pear Pie Cake

I have never met anyone yet who has eaten an apple pear pie cake. This dessert seems confused about its identity, but it is not exactly a cake and in many ways not like a pie!

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I believe this unique recipe originates from my childhood neighbor, Mrs. Perotti, and I’ve been making it ever since!  The apple-pear mixture combined with the layers of soft dough creates so many wonderful flavors.. I hope you’ll give it a try!

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Continue reading

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Nona’s Chocolate Cake

Birthday cakes are really important to us. They might even be the most important birthday decision, and they are definitely the most delicious present. In our family, my Nona’s chocolate cake is often the birthday treat of choice. Boston Cream Pie or berry trifle sometimes make an appearance, but this cake celebrates birthdays with us at least a couple of times a year. We don’t know exactly where the recipe came from, but my Nona (grandmother) used to make it for me all of the time when I helped out at her house as a kid.

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While it may look like your average chocolate cake, this recipe is truly the ultimate. The cake is incredibly moist, perfectly chocolately, and destined to be paired with delectable cream cheese frosting. We have tired to make it in different types of pans, but the tube pan is the only one that does justice to our favorite chocolate cake. Continue reading

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Chocolate Almond Biscotti

My dad doesn’t call himself BiscottiDave for nothing. For starters, he always makes his famous biscotti to support bake sales and fundraisers. He even teaches biscotti making classes at our local community college and church! I might be biased, but I’m telling you that his recipes create the best biscotti I’ve ever tasted:)

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Here is the second installment in our biscotti recipe series – Chocolate Almond Biscotti. If you haven’t seen it yet, make sure to check out our classic almond biscotti recipe! Continue reading

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Buckwheat Banana Bread (Gluten Free)

I’ve been baking way too much this week. I like to tell myself that it’s a healthy form of stress release.

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Thank goodness for hungry med school friends who are always willing to take the masses of banana bread off my hands. The recipe for this bread appears somewhat similar to the gluten free chocolate muffins I posted yesterday, but it totally deserves its own post. To me, the flavor and texture of this banana bread are out of this world. It’s like something you’ve never tasted before, but once you experience it, you want to keep eating nonstop.

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My friends have even asked me if I put some sort of magical ingredient in here. Luckily, the ingredients are simple and extraordinary on their own:) I’ve already made this bread twice this week. It’s a good thing that I ran out of bananas…or I’d be likely to bake it again.

 

Buckwheat Banana Bread (Gluten Free)

modified from Happy Healthy Life – Triple Banana-Dark Chocolate-Peanut Buckwheat-Banana Bread

3 large bananas, mashed (can also substitute pumpkin or sweet potato puree for some of the banana)
1/3 cup agave (or maple syrup, honey)
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cup oat flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground flax seeds
3/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup pecans (or any nut), roughly chopped

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and line a bread loaf pan with parchment paper or grease with coconut oil.
Add bananas to a large mixing bowl and mash very well. Add in the melted coconut oil, vinegar, vanilla extract, and agave.
Fold in the flours, salt, cinnamon, baking powder, flax seeds. Stir well to form a very thick batter. Add in the chocolate chips and 1/3 cup of pecans. Pour this mixture into the loaf pan and smooth out the top with a spoon. Sprinkle the remainder of the pecans on top.
Bake at 400 degrees for 35-40 minutes. Cool the loaf before slicing and serving. Enjoy!