An amazing event happened last week just in time for Mother’s Day. My friend Tami became a grandma. Tami’s daughter gave birth to a healthy 7 plus pound baby boy and both mom and baby are doing fine. She is the first of my friends from Yorktown to become a Grandma and because it is Mother’s Day this weekend, I wanted to honor her and her growing family with a gluten free strawberry tart. Tami, Alissa and her husband Victor are a great support to me and my blog and I am grateful for their continued interest and encouragement. A month ago, Tami sat by and watched as our book club friends ate two strawberry tarts I was testing. Now, it is Tami’s and her family’s turn to dig in and enjoy a gluten free nut crust tart filled with strawberry rhubarb jam and fresh strawberries.
Gluten Free Strawberry Tart
My inspiration comes from a recipe in Jacques Pépin’s cookbook, Essential Pépin. His raspberry tart uses a pâte sucrée dough that he rolls out then shapes the tart by hand on a baking sheet. Once baked, the tart is filled with a layer of jam and fresh berries. Jacques Pépin makes everything look so easy. I am always in awe when I watch a video of him roll out pie dough in under 2 minutes like it is as familiar to him as his own hand.
Gluten Free Tart Pastry
Gluten free strawberry tart is a gluten free and nut version of a traditional sweet cookie pastry dough. I used white rice flour for its’ neutral flavor, butter, sugar, and ground and peeled pistachios. This is a very different gluten free nut pastry dough from the crust in my Double coconut pie . That pie crust is made with all nuts and egg whites, like a coconut meringue cookie. This tart I used a whole egg for extra strength, and it tastes like a shortbread cookie.
Gluten free pastry is fragile to say the least and this gluten free sweet cookie pastry dough is no exception. Fortunately, I found the dough very easy to work with. It was soft, not too sticky, and rolled out nicely between sheets of plastic wrap. The challenges came later, when the dough became crust. Once baked, the gluten free tart crust is very fragile, and it broke apart easily whenever I touched the tart. It was very difficult to keep the tart crust in one piece while removing it from the pan. Afterwards, I started to wonder why all the recipes I researched never talked about how to get the tart crust out of the pan. Hmmm, very curious.
After my third tart crust turned into cookie crumbles, I decided to make this a free form tart. It might look more rustic, but it stayed in one piece as I transferred the tart to a serving plate. Rustic is all right with me.
Regardless of the fragility, it tastes delicious. The strawberries are bright and sweet, and the crust is nutty and crumbly in a good way. The white flour gives the crust a grainier texture, but it compliments the ground pistachios.
Variations for a Gluten Free Strawberry Tart
First you can swap out the pistachios and substitute it with almonds or walnuts. Both those nuts pair nicely with other fruits.
Switch up the filling. You can make a pastry cream and top it with berries. Switch out the jam with another flavor. Change the fruit and use any berry or a mixture of fruit. Most fruit will taste great in a jam tart.
Chocolate ganache filling is wonderful in a strawberry tart. Take 3/4 cup heavy cream and bring to just a boil. Remove from the heat and add 6 oz of bittersweet chopped chocolate to the hot cream. Stir to melt the chocolate and let it cool until it starts to thicken. Pour the chocolate into the tart shell, then loosely cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours. Add the strawberries.
If you want to make this with all-purpose flour, switch the white rice flour with 3/4 cup (106 g) all-purpose flour and add 4 TB of heavy cream instead of water. Omit the xanthan gum. This all-purpose flour pastry crust is the Sweet Nut Cookie Tart Crust recipe from The Pie and Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum.
Happy Mother’s Day
Tami, Alissa and Alissa’s husband Victor, are a great support to me and my blog and I am grateful for their continued interest and encouragement. Happy Mother’s Day.
Gluten Free Strawberry Tart with Pistachio Nut Crust
An elegant strawberry tart gets a gluten free upgrade when made with a pistachio sweet pastry dough. The pastry is tender but crumbly like a giant nut cookie. The tart filling is a simple one filled with a thin layer of the best quality jam, or homemade, and fresh strawberries.
To get that nice green color from the pistachios you need to peel off the thin dark skin off the nut. See recipe notes for how to do this. I bought my pistachios in bulk at a the grocery store with the skins already removed.
You can substitute the pistachios with almonds or almond flour, or toasted walnuts.
Lightly butter a piece of parchment paper and place on a rimmed baking sheet, at least 12 inches (30.5 cm) wide. Set aside.
Add the pistachios and the sugar to a food processor and pulse until the nuts are finely ground, but not starting to turn into nut butter. Pour the ground pistachios with sugar into a medium size mixing bowl.
Add the white rice flour, Kosher salt, lemon zest, and xanthan gum. Stir with a fork to mix all the ingredients.
Cut the butter into small pieces then add them into the flour mixture. With clean hands, rub the butter into the flour until it is thoroughly mixed in. The dough will look like rough sand.
Add the egg and 1 TB of water and mix in with your hands. If the dough feels too wet, add more white rice flour 1 tablespoon at a time. The dough will feel wet, but it should not be sticky.
Roll out the dough. Cut a piece of plastic wrap to make a 16-inch (40.5 cm) square. Depending on the width of your plastic wrap you may need to overlap two pieces of plastic wrap. Place on the counter where you will roll out the dough. Place the pistachio pastry dough in the center of the crust and flatten it with your hands into a disk. Cover the pistachio dough with more plastic wrap the same size as the bottom layer.
Roll out the pastry dough into a circle until it reaches 12-14 inches ((30.5 - 35.5 cm) in diameter. You are aiming for a 1/4 inch (.5 cm) thickness.
Drape the dough covered in plastic over your rolling pin. Remove the top piece of plastic and roll the pastry dough onto the prepared baking sheet, plastic side up. Remove the plastic wrap from the pastry dough.
Roll the edge of the dough inward about a half an inch, (1 cm), creating an edge for the tart. Roll the edge inward another 1/2 inch (1 cm) for a more defined edge. Make a decorative edge or keep as is.
Loosely cover the pistachio pastry with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator. Refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.
25 minutes before you plan on baking, preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C/ Gas Mark 7). Make sure the oven rack is in the middle position.
Remove the plastic wrap and pierce the bottom of the pastry dough with a fork. Place in the oven and bake for 5 minutes. Turn down the heat to 375°F (190°C / Gas Mark 5). and bake for 10 -15 minutes, or until the tart is a light golden brown. Watch the tart carefully so it does not burn.
When done, place the baking sheet on a cooling rack and completely cool. Lift the parchment paper with the tart, supported underneath the tart with a large BBQ spatula or pancake spatula. Place the tart on the counter and remove the baking sheet. Carefully slide an offset spatula under the tart to loosen it from the parchment paper. Slide the tart onto a serving plate.
Assemble the tart
Spread the strawberry rhubarb jam in an even layer over the bottom of the tart. Clean the strawberries and dry them. Remove the stem and arrange the strawberries around the tart and fill it up., cut side down. You can add other fruit to fill any gaps between the strawberries, like blueberries or raspberries, if you wish.
Add the seedless raspberry jam and raspberry liquor in a microwave safe bowl. Stir to mix and warm up in 10 second intervals until it thins out. Baste the jam over the strawberries with a pastry brush. Sprinkle with chopped pistachios and other garnishes like chopped basil or mint.
Serve within an hour of assembly. This tart is best eaten within a couple of hours from when it is made.
If you do have leftovers, loosely cover the remaining tart with plastic wrap and keep on the counter.
I was able to buy my pistachios in bulk which cut down the price and they already had the dark skins removed. If you cannot buy pistachios with the skins removed, buy roasted pistachios (preferably not salted) remove the shells and blanch in boiling water for one minute.
Drain the pistachios from the water and place on a lint free and clean kitchen towel. Cover the pistachios with one side of the kitchen towel. With your hands on top of the towel, rub them back and forth until all the skins have come off.
Separate the pistachios from their skins and set aside on a plate in an even layer. Some skins on pistachios need extra encouragement and you may need to rub the skins off with your fingers. Air dry the pistachios before using.
Xanthan Gum helps stabilize gluten free ingredients, so they do not separate and makes it easier to work with. Normally, Bob's Red Mill sells it in an 8 oz bag for $13.99 which is a lot if you only need a half teaspoon. If you plan to do a lot of gluten free baking buying that amount makes sense. Fortunately, some groceries sell xanthan gum packets made by Hodgson Mill and is more reasonably priced.
A few years ago, I offered to bring a dessert for our Russian themed book club meeting. Our theme had nothing to do with the current US and Russian political climate, but was literary based around a love story from a classic Russian novella by Sergeevish Turgenev. At the time, the possibility of Russia interfering with the 2016 election was not even a blip in our imagination. Our job was to decipher the leads told throughout a melodramatic Russian love story and form an opinion if “First Love” was the definitive love story written in the 19th century. The task was not as insurmountable as it sounds, but my bigger concern lay with what should I bring for dessert?
After reading the story, and not feeling enthusiastic about it, I waltzed into researching ideas for a “Russian” dessert. It did not take long to discover a meringue dessert created to honor the Russian prima ballerina Anna Pavlova. Pavlova is a dessert consisting of a meringue nest filled with whipped cream and seasonal fresh fruit. Each bite is a choreographed dance of sensual textures and flavors. It is soft and crispy, sweet and tart, and as light as a ballerina pirouetting on a cloud.
In 1926 and 1928, Anna Pavlova toured with her ballet company to Australia and New Zealand. Her world tours were as anticipated as the Beatles and considered a major event for both countries. Chefs in Australia and New Zealand built on the excitement and honored her by creating and naming a meringue cake in her honor. Both countries have a long-standing dispute over the origin of the pavlova, inspired by the dancer’s tutu. The pavlova turned out to be as captivating as the ballerina’s graceful dancing, growing in popularity around the world for almost a hundred years. There is evidence that neither country created this meringue cake, but they did influence in its legacy. A true love story in its’ own right.
How to Make a Pavlova
Unlike other meringues, like my peppermint meringue cookies, that are crispy through and through, a pavlova has a crispy outside and a creamy-marshmallow center. A small amount of corn starch makes this marshmallow middle possible. The luscious contrast in texture is one reason for the dessert’s popularity.
Making a pavlova is not difficult, but like all meringues they are temperamental. The right conditions, cool dry air, and slowly adding sugar to the developing meringue are key to success. Another important factor is making sure your mixing bowl and beaters, or whisk, are clean. Any oil or fat residue will prevent the eggs whites from developing into an airy cloud. A new trick I just learned is clean out your mixing bowl and beaters with distilled vinegar then wipe the bowl and beaters dry with a lint free cloth. This extra step will ensure your bowl is free of any traces of fat.
Once the egg whites are all glossy and fluffy, bake the meringue in a low temperature oven. Don’t peek. Keep the door shut throughout the cooking and cooling process. Like a soufflé, meringue deflates when exposed to air before it is set.
Meringues are very sweet, so I offset the sweetness with tart fruit and lightly sweetened whipped cream. Adding extra sweet fruit, jams, fruit curds, or sauces makes the pavlova cloyingly sweet. Passion fruit has a tart flavor and is perfect with meringue. If you can find fresh passion fruit scoop out the flesh and seeds and drizzle it over the whipped cream for a dramatic affect. Otherwise you can buy frozen passion fruit pulp in the freezer section of your grocery store. I made a sauce with the passion fruit with a little sugar and reduced it slightly. Resist the temptation to add more sugar. The sauce is tart by itself, but combined with the sweet meringue, the tart flavor subsides.
Switch it up
For a dairy free option, make whipped cream with coconut cream found in full fat coconut milk.
For a vegan option make the meringue with Aquafaba, chickpea water, and use coconut milk whipped cream. Top with fruit and passion fruit sauce.
For more lemon flavor add 1 TB fresh lemon juice to the finished meringue. Fold it in with the lemon zest, corn starch. Omit the vinegar.
Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of unsweetened natural coco powder for a chocolate Pavlova. Fold in the coco powder with the corn starch until no streaks are left. (omit the lemon zest in this recipe)
Pavlova is a sweet, airy and show stopper dessert made with meringue that is crispy with a creamy center. Covered with lightly sweetened whipped cream and fresh fruit, a pavlova is a spectacle to see and eat. A very elegant dessert named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova.
For best results, assemble the pavlova just before serving.
This recipe is adapted from Ina Garten, Mixed Berry Pavlova
5egg whitesabout 1/2 cup (125 ml)
1cup7 oz/ 202 g granulated sugar
Zest from 1 lemon
1cup250 ml heavy cream
1kiwipeeled and sliced thin,
3/4cup185 ml frozen passion fruit pulp, or one fresh passion fruit
1-2TBgranulated sugarif using pulp
Berries and fresh mint to garnish
Preheat the oven to 350°F /180°C and place the oven rack in the middle position.
Draw a 9 inch (23 cm) circle in the middle of a piece of parchment paper large enough to cover a large rimmed baking sheet. Turn the paper over, and place the parchment paper on your baking sheet. The drawn side is facing down. Set aside.
Wipe your mixing bowl and beaters with some distilled vinegar then wipe dry with a lint free cloth.
Add the egg whites with a small pinch of Kosher salt to a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Turn the speed to medium-high and whisk until the egg whites become foamy and hold soft peaks.
With the motor running add the sugar one tablespoon at a time, whisking between each addition. This will take some time, about 5 minutes, but it prevents the egg whites from deflating. When all the sugar is added, turn the speed up to high and beat until the egg whites are glossy and hold stiff peaks and all the sugar is dissolved, about 2-3 minutes. Test if the sugar is dissolved by rubbing a small piece of whipped egg whites between your fingers. If it feels course, then the sugar has not fully dissolved. If so, continue beating the egg whites or a minute more, but be careful to not over beat the meringue because it will deflate.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and sift the cornstarch over the meringue. Add the lemon zest and vinegar then carefully fold the ingredients into the meringue until evenly combined.
Pour the meringue on to the parchment paper aiming for the middle of your circle. Spread out the meringue to evenly fill the circle.
Place in the oven and turn the heat down to 300°F / 150°C Bake for 1 hour then turn off the oven. Keep the oven door closed no peeking. Cool the meringue in the oven for an hour, or until it reaches room temperature.
You can make the meringue a day ahead and store in an airtight container on the counter. A cool oven is a great place to store the meringue overnight. Do not refrigerate.
Passion Fruit Sauce
Pour the passion fruit sauce into a medium saucepan. Turn the heat to medium-high and add 1 TB of the sugar. Whisk to combine and bring to a gentle simmer. Taste add another tablespoon of sugar if needed. Remember the meringue is very sweet so keep the passion fruit sauce on the tart side. Whisk to combine and simmer. Cook until the sauce begins to thicken and slightly reduces. Turn off the heat and pour the sauce into a heat proof container. Cool to room temperature.
Make the Whipped Cream
Add the chilled heavy cream to a medium bowl and whip with a hand held mixer, or use a free standing mixer, until just starting to thicken. Add the vanilla extract and sugar and beat until soft peaks form. Cover and keep refrigerated until needed.
Assemble the Pavlova
Just before serving, slowly peel away the parchment paper from the meringue. A thin spatula helps release any stubborn parts. Slide the meringue onto a serving plate, then layer with the whipped cream. Scatter the fruit on top of the whipped cream then drizzle with the passion fruit or some of the sauce. Garnish with fresh mint if using.
Serve immediately with extra sauce.
Once assembled, pavlovas do not keep very long because the whipped cream makes the meringue soggy. You can cover any leftovers with aluminum foil and keep in the refrigerator for one day with the understanding some of the crispiness will subside.
Meringues are temperamental to humid condition. Store in an air tight container until needed. A cool oven is the best place to store a meringue, just make sure you don't accidentally turn it on.
You can also make 6 - 8 small nests instead of one big one. Each meringue then gets a large dollop of whipped cream and fresh fruit.