Sunday, March 7, 2010

My Mother's Tarts

When I was a little girl my mother took her first trip to Paris. What she brought back was something that she, as well as I, would long treasure. In fact, what she stowed in her bags did indeed look like treasure. At least it did to me as a young child. The precious cargo was two small metal boxes of tiny tart tins. It may not sound that precious in this day and age of Williams- Sonoma and Sur la Table, but when I was growing up gourmet stores were few and far between. The box was lavishly decorated with pictures of miniature tarts filled with custard and fruits. Just looking at the box made you eager to open the lid and begin to cook. Shaking it was fun too, hearing all the tins clank like a tambourine. For years the box was kept on the first shelf above the kitchen counter where little fingers could not grab it. As the years passed the box was moved to the middle shelf and eventually to the top shelf; always out of reach no matter how old I was.
The tins appeared only a couple times during the year. They were always part of the Holiday cooking in the Winter, and sometimes they were used in the Spring if my mother made them for a baby shower or a wedding. The box from France did not come with instructions or recipes for making your very own tiny tarts. It was my genius mother who came up with the recipe....which till today remains a SECRET. Shhhhh... Many have tried to pull the recipe out from my sweet mother's lips. She is so nice that she could not say, "NO!" Instead she would smile and then conveniently forget about the request. There was, however, a very persistent woman in our church who asked for this recipe it seemed for 20 years! Smiling only works for so long, and smiling at this particular woman was very hard indeed. My mother finally gave her a recipe. Yes, she gave her a recipe....the wrong recipe. I am not sure what the silly lady thought she was going to do with this recipe absent of fancy tart tins. I always fantasized that she would sell our secret to someone and make a profit. Not with the wrong recipe though! Boy was she ever mad!

I can tell you that the shell was something much like a short bread. My mother's fillings included pecan caramel, lemon curd, and hazelnut cream. The pecan caramel was my favorite, and my mother made them for my wedding. Now,whenever I go home to visit I open the cabinet to look up at the treasure. There is only one box now. My mother presented me with the other box several years ago, and I placed them on a shelf far from the little fingers in my house.

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