Pies + Tarts

raspberry tartlets with amaretto cream

My Dear and Lovely Winter,
Today we were working in our garden. I was incredibly crabby, because [as you’ve probably figured out], I’m a terrible gardener: so, so impatient in that space. There was an ungodly amount of scraggly, prickly weeds taunting me, not to mention all the raspberries about to fall off the bush, herbs on the verge of flowering, and a big pile of compost to turn. As I was muttering unmentionables under my breath you ran to me. But I didn’t want you to help. I just wanted to work in quiet and bask in my annoyance, ripping and plucking and pulling alone. I hesitated and you quietly asked again, there among all our weeds and thorns, with your little arms outstretched.
You moved toward me, and I was struck. All you want is to be part of us: this family, this little unit of four, in whatever shape or turn it takes. Nothing more is needed – you are content with the untidy garden, grape juice stained couches, used Hondas, thrift store toys. You are willing to help weed gardens, sweep floors, dust bookshelves, whisk batter. You look through cookbooks, dance to Ella Fitzgerald, memorize Star Wars characters; embracing all the things we love and do just to be near, just to make up the whole. And as you stood there waiting for my response, well, that’s when I felt the very core of me shake. Because so often what I want to be part of, and what I want to be doing, is a much more grandiose affair. There are the all dreams of what could be, time spent longing for what is missing; putting minutes and hours that can’t be returned into who is watching me, who is reading me. And some days [oh! too many days!], I miss what I am a part of – the absolute and the real; this gorgeous, wonderful, tangible life. I’ve left so many blank pages in my books, precious pages that I could have filled.So, dear one, here is my hand, my heart. Yes, come kneel beside me; let us till this dirt, plant these seeds, tend to this garden. You will look over and often find me watching you, stunned by your sincerity, your faithfulness. In those moments I will be paused, writing furiously across my soul, filling line after line with your grace, your beauty, and your friendship. And maybe. If I choose not to run and hide from my part in things, you will also learn to embrace all the simple, glorious days of your life.

Your Mommy

Promise me you will not spend so much time treading water and trying to keep your head above the waves that you forget, truly forget, how much you have always loved to swim. – Tyler Knott Gregson

raspberry tartlets with amaretto cream and whole wheat pat-in-the-pan crusts

These tarts were a favorite treat at a coffeehouse I worked at, made by the wonderful Amy Hughes [Amy! I hope you are well, where ever you are]. I’ve tweaked the crust – added whole wheat flour and less sugar, but the filling is kept the same. I didn’t want to change it at all.
*If you don’t have a tartlet pan, you could probably substitute a muffin pan. At the coffeehouse these tarts were originally made with lovelier tartlet molds, which gave them a much more crisp, finished look. But they are  typically a bit larger, so you will have to adjust accordingly if you use those. I used a 12 cup tartlet pan with 1/4 cup capacity. This recipe makes 12 tartlets, although you will have dough leftover. You can either make 24 by doubling the filling, or save/freeze the dough for a later use.

for the crust
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup [2 sticks] butter, cut into small squares
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla

Put the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor, and pulse until combined. Add the butter, and pulse until butter is the size of small peas, 8-10 pulses. Add the yolks and vanilla, and process until the dough starts coming together, about 10 seconds.
Place dough on a light floured surface, and gently kneed until dough forms a ball. Split dough in half, and refrigerate 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375. Very lightly grease a 12 cup tartlet pan [see note, above]* and set aside. Using one half of the dough, separate dough into 12 pieces. Gently pat the dough into each well of the tartlet pan, pressing them firmly to the sides and bottom. Pierce the bottoms of each tart with a fork several times. Line each little shell with parchment paper or foil and fill with baking weights. Bake tarts 15 minutes. Remove parchment [or foil] and weights and return the pan to the oven. Bake 2 or 3 more minutes, until crust is light golden brown. Remove and place on a wire rack. When cool to the touch, remove each tartlet from the pan and let cool completely on the wire rack.
for the filling
8 ounces cream cheese, soft
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons Amaretto liqueur
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup raspberries [or other berries]
In a standing mixer, mix cream cheese until smooth and no lumps remain. Add remaining ingredients, and mix together until combined. Spread evenly on cooled tart crust. Place raspberries on top of the cream, gently pressing them in. Chill until firm, about 30 minutes.
  • Reply
    Adrian J.S. Hale
    Friday, July 6, 2012 at 5:26 pm

    I woke up this morning and looked at my youngest son, and it struck me how much time has gone by without noticing him. Really noticing him. I get so caught up in the day-to-day grind that sometimes I forget time is passing. I vowed to make this a day about being mindful and being together. After I got the kids off to camp, I came home and read your blog post. It’s perfect. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  • Reply
    Tuesday, July 3, 2012 at 11:59 pm

    This is beautiful. I wish I had read it sooner. We can learn a lot from a child’s innocence, sincerity, and curiosity. I’m so happy you have this light in your life. I hope she reads it one day. And, of course, the tarts look and sound lovely. It’s funny, I’ve been playing a lot with amaretto lately. I love it.

  • Reply
    Saturday, June 30, 2012 at 3:19 am

    What a beautiful post (and gorgeous tarts, to boot)! You really have a way with words, woman.

  • Reply
    lisa heaner
    Friday, June 29, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    Contentment comes so much more easily when all we hope for is to love and be loved. Thank you for the reminder.

  • Reply
    Thursday, June 28, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    This, THIS Sarah, is so beautiful, perfect and sweet–the tarts, the writing. It’s breathtaking. A little misty eyed just thinking of your daughter reading this a little later on in life. Love that last photo of her sweet little hands holding the tart.


  • Reply
    marissa at the boot
    Thursday, June 28, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    sarah this was gorgeous. thank you for your beautiful words and for letting us into your life. it is so refreshing in a sea of just, “try this, it’s delicious!” 🙂

  • Reply
    Thursday, June 28, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    So beautifully written, Sarah. I love coming to your blog it’s so peaceful here.

  • Reply
    Heidi @foodiecrush
    Thursday, June 28, 2012 at 3:12 am

    That might be the prettiest thing I’ve ever read. And puts an arrow right through my heart as I relate to it on a daily basis with my own little helper.

  • Reply
    Thursday, June 28, 2012 at 2:12 am

    stunning, sarah. she will cherish these words, keep them folded away in her heart, when she’s my age. i know this to be true. she will go out and spread her wings and your love will carry her through it… i promise.

  • Reply
    Thursday, June 28, 2012 at 1:08 am

    This is really sweet! What a wonderful note; you captured the moment so poignantly.

  • Reply
    Thursday, June 28, 2012 at 1:07 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Reply
    Paula @ Vintage Kitchen
    Thursday, June 28, 2012 at 12:18 am

    It´s almost magical sometimes the way you can put your thoughts on paper. I always think, how great that your daughter will be able to read it someday! Just beautiful and your tartlets go perfectly well with it.

  • Reply
    london bakes
    Wednesday, June 27, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    So beautiful Sarah and so full of emotion.

  • Reply
    Wednesday, June 27, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    Enjoyed every bit of the post. The love .. the bonding .. it’s beautiful 🙂

    • Reply
      vanilla bean blog
      Wednesday, June 27, 2012 at 8:15 pm

      Thank you so much. The bonding process is pretty amazing.

  • Reply
    Wednesday, June 27, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    Very beautiful post, I identify with this feeling so much. Thank you for sharing.

  • Reply
    Wednesday, June 27, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    So, so lovely. Tilling the garden, indeed.

  • Reply
    Sue/the view from great island
    Wednesday, June 27, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    This post brought tears to my eyes…my two girls are grown, but this is a lovely reminder to live in the moment, thanks!

    • Reply
      vanilla bean blog
      Wednesday, June 27, 2012 at 8:14 pm

      Thank you Sue! It can be so hard to be in the present. Baby steps. 🙂

  • Reply
    Wednesday, June 27, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    sarah, lovely letter to your daughter. i don’t have children either, but you’ve encapsulated something magical in your words and shared it with the rest of us. thank you.

  • Reply
    Wednesday, June 27, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    Sarah this is such a beautiful post. I don’t have children yet, but I hope that when I do our bond is as special and loving as yours with your children, and that we can bake and enjoy life together exactly as you do 🙂

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