Hearts For Your Valentine (or for YOU)

Heart Tarts

Heart Tarts

Valentine’s Day can be fun, warm, and exciting…or major stress. Sweethearts stress over WHAT TO DO that is EXCEPTIONALLY romantic. And loners can’t bear another Kay Jewelers ad on TV.

My advice? Relax. If you love someone, you’re loving them every day. Just because they SAY this is the BIG day of love you don’t have to stand on your head over it. Just be together. That should be plenty. If you’re not with a sweetheart, then this is the day to love YOURSELF. Give yourself a gift. Treat yourself with tender care.

In any case, a nice easy heart-inspired sweet red dessert may be just the thing. Here’s mine. Mini-Heart-Tarts. They’re smile-producingly cute. Small bites of tasty pleasure. And tickle you while you bake.

Start with a defrosted sheet of puff pastry. And 2 heart cookie cutters…1 bigger than the other. Mine were 2 inches and 1.5-inches (borrowed from my mom’s cookie cutter collection).

cutting out the hearts

cutting out the hearts

Don’t have hearts? Find 2 other shapes, one smaller than the other. Doesn’t have to be hearts; this is your day to shape as you please. Cut out 2 larger hearts, then cut out a smaller heart from the middle of one of the larger hearts.

smaller heart

smaller heart

Brush egg wash on the larger heart and place the cut-out/stencil-looking larger heart on top so you have a small heart-opening. Brush the top with egg wash. Brush the little cut-out heart with egg wash, too.

hearts on sheet pan

hearts on sheet pan

Place them on sheet pan. Cut up some strawberries into small pieces, and/or raspberries, add some sugar and mix up in a mixing bowl…

Cut-up strawberries

Cut-up strawberries

Fill the smaller heart opening with your berries…

ready to bake

ready to bake

Sprinkle some sugar on top of each. Bake for about 15 minutes until golden in a 375 degree oven.

baked heart tarts

baked heart tarts

The border will puff up and the little hearts will puff up, too. Serve as is or add a dollop of whipped cream over the berries, and top with the little heart. A sprinkling of powdered sugar looks nice, too.

A heart for your heartthrob, a heart for a pal, a heart for your mom or sister, or dad or brother, a heart for you. Keeping the love pouring in all directions.

I Heart You

I Heart You

Strawberry Heart Pastries (makes about 8)

8 strawberries, or 12 raspberries, or combination, cut into tiny pieces

2 teaspoons sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed

1 egg, beaten for egg wash

1 2-inch heart cookie cutter

1 1.5 -inch heart cookie cutter, or smaller

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Mix the berry pieces with the sugar until well combined.

Lay out the puff pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface. Using the larger cookie cutter, cut out 2 hearts. Using the smaller cookie cutter, cut a heart within one of the larger hearts, leaving a border all around. Brush the whole large heart with egg. Place the heart with the cut-out over the large heart lining it up the borders to fit exactly on top. Brush top with egg. Fill open heart cut with pieces of strawberry. Place on parchment lined sheet pan. Brush tiny heart that you cut out with some egg wash. Place next to large heart on sheet pan. Repeat with the rest of the dough. Sprinkle the pastries lightly with sugar. Bake for about 15 minutes until golden.

Serve tiny puff pastry heart with each larger pastry, Optional: add a dollop of whipped cream.



Red White & Blue 4th of July Tart

Red White & Blue Tart

Red White & Blue Tart

If you saw my spot on WSMV Channel 4 on July 4th you might have been looking for the full recipe for the 4th of July Tart (which is good any ole day!)…Here’s the recipe posted below. As I mentioned in the segment if you want to use a store-bought pie crust that works just as well. Just make sure you bake it till done before adding the cream and fruit.

Red, White & Blue Cream Cheese Vanilla Tart w 4th of July Berries

For the Crust:

1 1/4 cups flour

1 teaspoon sugar

pinch salt

6 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces

scant 1/4 cup cold white wine

For the Filling:

1 8-oz package cream cheese

1/4 cup sugar

Zest of one lemon

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons powdered sugar

For the Fruit:

1 cup strawberries, trimmed & quartered

1 cup blueberries

1 cup raspberries

1/4 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

For the Crust: place the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine well. Add the cut up cold butter and pulse till it’s broken up into smaller pieces. Add the wine and pulse until a dough forms. Place dough on a sheet of plastic wrap and press into a thick disc. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to about 1/8” thick. Fit the dough into a 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Lightly butter or Pam a piece of parchment a little bigger than the tart pan. Place the buttered surface down and fill with dry beans. “Blind” bake tart for about 10 minutes. Take out the beans, “dock” tart (poke with fork all over the bottom) and place back in the oven for another 8-10 minutes until golden. Let tart crust cool.

For the Filling: In a medium mixing bowl whisk the cream cheese, 1/4 cup sugar, lemon zest and vanilla until smooth and well combined. Add a few drops of milk if it feels too stiff. Beat the 1 cup of cream until stiff peaks form. Whip in powdered sugar. Fold cream into cream cheese mixture. Fill cooled tart shell with mixture and smooth top to even.

For the Fruit: Toss fruit with sugar. Place the fruit in a decorative pattern. Serve or chill for a little while before serving.


Me And Kacy Hagerty with the July 4th tart.

Me And Kacy Hagerty with the July 4th tart.

Some Favorite Pals: Strawberries & Cream & Cake

Strawberry Yogurt-Shortcake

Strawberry Yogurt-Shortcake

Oh, tiny dessert, at last I’ve found you (sung to “Sweet Mystery of Life”).

Why do I like tiny desserts so much? My eye just always goes for the miniature. I love the detail. The care. It doesn’t feel overwhelming. I like small bites. (Remember YEARS ago the movie…I think it was called “Gemini”…and the commercial would always isolate the moment when one character is wolfing down a plate of food and another character watches in disgust yelling: “Take human bites!”)

That’s what I like: human bites. Did you ever get a salad in a restaurant and the leaves are the side of your face? So now you have use a fork and knife and get it into pieces you can fit in your mouth. What’s wrong with serving a salad someone can actually eat with a fork?

Same with wine pours. I’ve spent a lot of time in Italy. Nowhere have I found anyone to fill a glass of wine…or fill it to 3/4…odd to see even 2/3 full. A few swallows in the glass. Then pour some more. When someone pours me a too-full glass I get a passing feeling of almost drowning. Too much liquid to comprehend. Sip human sips!

But back to desserts. I never even ate desserts until the last few years. And so I naturally love the little desserts. Pastries, cupcakes, cookies, and slim slices of cake and tarts.

Strawberry Yogurt-Shortcake? Let’s make ’em small. And this isn’t really a shortcake. I use the word to evoke the traditional sweet of strawberry-short-cake. But this is a pleasant surprise of a taste that gives you what you expect and then adds more yumminess.

Mix 2 cups of sliced strawberries with a couple of teaspoons of sugar. Let sit at room temperature for about an hour. Brings out the juices.

In a medium mixing bowl whisk together 2 cups of flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, healthy pinch of salt and 3 tablespoons sugar. Cut a cold stick of unsalted butter (8 tablespoons) into chunky dice. Add it to flour mixture and using a pastry cutter or 2 knives, cut butter into small or pea-sized pieces. Make a well in the center and pour in a very generous 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt and 1 large egg. Mix until just combined well.

Knead dough gently on a lightly-floured surface, then pat into a ½ -inch to 1-inch thick circle. Using a biscuit cutter, cut out circles and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Reform leftover dough into a disk and cut out more until all the dough is used. Sprinkle the tops with sugar. Bake for about 12-15 minutes in a 400 degree oven until golden. Let them cool.

Add 1 cup cream to a medium mixing bowl. Beat until soft peaks form, add 1 tablespoon of sugar and a drop of vanilla. Beat till stiffer peaks form.

Cut cooled cakes in half horizontally. Add a layer of cream to the bottom half and a layer of sliced strawberries. Top with top half. Add a small dollop of cream to top, and place a slice of strawberry in the cream.

These cakes have a soft consistency with a little chew-bite. The flavor & texture the yogurt brings is perfect for the addition of strawberries and cream.

Strawberries and cream.

Such a perfect pair, you can picture them hand in hand skipping down the lane. Seems a dessert deserving of a Proust-memory-zapping experience. That perfect pair leads us groping around with closed eyes in the days of our childhood. Ah! Here’s Buster, my teddy bear. And here’s my little white furniture desk that my mom painted with a few delicate pink and red flowers. And here’s my strawberries and cream…in a bowl…held by my small hands.

Strawberries & Cream Yogurt Cake

Strawberries & Cream Yogurt Cake


Ewww! You’re gonna eat that?


French rolling pin, my favorite

When I was a little kid my mom steered me away from sweets. If I picked up a tootsie roll she’d scrunge her face into a frown and say: Eww. You’re gonna eat that? 

That’s the story I’m told. She’s a sweets lover (whipped cream being especially alluring). My sister, too, can happily munch cookies and candy every day. Me? Bakery displays used to appeal to me as much as the nuts & bolts bins at the hardware store. Eyes glaze over, not even seeing anything.

But that has, unfortunately, changed. I think it started in culinary school. I went to culinary school while I was still living in NYC. I was on the culinary, not pastry, track. But they interrupted our frying, braising, roasting and fabricating meat, for a quick 6-week pastry module. We whipped through puff pastry, cakes, caramel, and candies–each day bringing on a new technique.

It felt like a mini-vacation. No grease, no slimy hands, no potential salmonella, no leg joints, silverskin, or fish scales. Just butter and flour. Eggs. Everything felt lighter and happier. I feel in love with our puff pastry croissants, pain au chocolate and raisin rolls. I suddenly wanted to trail at my favorite NY cafes to learn how they made those pastries that would now pop into my eyes (and mouth) when I came in for a cappuccino or cafe au lait.

Since then I like to bake. It first felt a little foreign in my hands, but I’ve warmed up quickly. These little baked mini-pies have been haunting me since I first made them. In this recipe the filling is blueberries, strawberries, aleppo pepper & cinnamon. But I’m now dreaming of adding mascarpone. I’ll let you know how that comes out!

Mini-Pies w Fruit Filling

To make the crust, pulse in a food processor: 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon sugar, pinch salt. Add 1 stick cold unsalted butter (that has been cut into cubes). Pulse until broken into small pieces. Add 1/4 cup of very cold white wine. Pulse until dough comes together in a ball. Remove and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for 1 hour.


unsalted butter, the baker’s friend


like magic, food processor makes your pastry dough

Meanwhile make the filling. Combine 1 cup blueberries, 1 cup strawberries (cut into small pieces the size of blueberries), 1/4 cup of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon aleppo pepper.


isn’t it great when food is as pretty as it tastes good?

Roll dough out and cut into 3-inch squares (or choose your shape & size). Place about a teaspoon of the mixture in the middle. Fold into a triangle and press sides together with fork tines to seal. Place on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Repeat with the rest. (You can knead lightly and roll out the scraps to make a few more.)


your own personal assembly line!

Makes about a dozen. Lightly beat an egg with a little water. Brush egg on top. Make a small slit in each and sprinkle a little sugar on top.


dough, pin, cutter, little pie

Bake at 400 degrees F. for about 20 minutes until golden. YUM.


I can eat at least five of them