(This is a reposted recipe post from 2016. I wanted to share again, since I will be making shortbread and curd this Easter too!) xox, Mili
I can’t get enough of desserts with fresh berries and citrus. I wanted to make something extra special for our Easter celebration, so I made two different tarts to complement one another, in one of my favorite fruit and berry combinations: key limes and raspberries.
The crust is an incredibly important part of the tart. I’m really excited to share my super easy and delicious shortbread tart crust recipe and how-to. I love this recipe so much, that the ratio of crust to curd/fruit filling is a lot higher for my tarts. It’s just what I prefer. This recipe is also perfect for making lemon bars. If you prefer less crust, I recommend you cut the shortbread tart crust recipe in half.
I’ve been loving fresh curd/fruit fillings in my desserts for spring. So far I’ve made lemon, orange, key lime and raspberry. If you’re a big fan of lemon, simply use my lemon curd/pie filling recipe from my lemon meringue pie post. The recipes will be exactly the same, except for omitting the citrus zest when using berries. Below I’ll demonstrate the raspberry curd/filling.
All right. Let’s make a tart! You will first need to prepare the crust.
Shortbread Tart Crust Recipe by Mili’s Sweets
Here’s what you’ll need:
18 tablespoons of butter (2 sticks, plus two tablespoon)
2 and 1/2 cups all purpose flour
6 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Here’s what you’ll do:
Place all of the ingredients into the bowl of your standing mixer. Use the paddle attachment and mix on low until all ingredients have literally lifted from the bowl, forming the dough.
Before handling the dough, prepare the pan with a light amount of cooking spray and set aside a small amount of flour to powder your hands. (The spray is probably not necessary with a non-stick pan, but I tend to be overly careful use it anyway.)
I used a 7″ x 11″ rectangle tart pan. The dough will form a ball in your hands within seconds. Place your formed ball in the center of the pan and arrange it so that it completely covers the pan and goes up to the top of the sides. To have a beautiful finish, where the tart will have the ridges of the pan, use your hand and thumb to push the excess dough away from the top edge of the pan.
Next, use a fork to make an edging and a toothpick to poke holes at the bottom of the dough (so that when you bake it, it doesn’t misshape). Cover with plastic wrap and allow to chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes. You can have this prepared in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. When you are ready, bake at 350 degrees for 22 minutes, until golden brown. Allow to completely cool before pouring in your fruit curd of choice.
Mili’s Sweets Raspberry Curd/Filling Recipe
Here’s what you’ll need:
1/2 cup of salted butter (two sticks), softened
1 cup sugar
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup raspberry puree (blended fresh berries, with seeds strained/removed)
(For Key Lime Curd/Filling, use the zest of 6-8 key limes, along with substituting the puree with 1/3 cup of freshly-squeezed lime juice. Place the zest, after your butter has been creamed to the bottom of your standing mixer bowl. It will take about a dozen key limes, depending on their size.)
Here’s what you’ll do:
In a standing mixer, with a paddle attachment or scraping paddle attachment, on medium-speed, cream the softened butter until it completely covers the bottom of the mixing bowl. (If you are making the key-lime version, you’ll now mix in the zest.)
Add the sugar and salt. Mix until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, until all are incorporated. Mix in the raspberry puree last.
Pour the mixture into a saucepan at medium heat. Use a whisk to constantly stir the ingredients. Use a timer to keep your time of 10 minutes. In 6-7 minutes, you’ll notice that it will start to bubble. It will also be turning a deeper pink color. At that point, lower the heat to medium-low and continue whisking. By the end of the 10 minutes your arm might be a little sore but it will be worth it. Once the 10 minutes are up, remove the pan from heat.
Pour the hot mixture directly into the cooled, prepared pie crust. Use an offset spatula to spread the filling evenly. I don’t like to use plastic wrap to cover tarts before I refrigerate, since it creates snags in the filling. Place the tart into the refrigerator as is, for at least 2 and a half hours, or until you are ready to serve.
When you are ready to serve and the tart has been removed from the pan and plated, decorate and garnish by placing fresh berries and slices of lime at the top of the tart. It would also be beautiful if the tart was completely covered with only slices of key lime or only fresh raspberries.
The end result is a vibrant, delicious and memorable dessert. I hope you’ll be able to make one of these tarts or any of the fresh curds this spring. If you do, and use my recipes, please let me know how it goes!
Over the years, I’ve made it my business to know and understand food and ingredients. This is not just about being a professional with a small business and caring a lot about the end result of my products for my customers. This concern is about keeping my family (especially my son whom is severely allergic to peanuts and tree nuts) safe from harm.
I think it’s important to average-joe moms like myself, or anyone for that matter, to understand what it entails to be vegan, soy free, nut free, gluten free, sugar free, organic, etc. Many people are confused about what some of those ideals mean. I plan on writing a break down of them and even paleo, which seems to be the trend that is becoming as popular/trendy as gluten free once was, in a future post. I just find it incredibly important to know about the food I’m putting into my body. I want to know about everything real and everything fake. I’m not passive about ingredients because I can’t be.
Ten years ago, it was not mandatory to label processed products with all ingredients or the main allergens, so it was a scarier world when it came to food. It’s easier and much better now when I go grocery shopping for my family or for ingredients for my custom dessert recipes. However, since my son’s major allergic reaction all those years ago, I still prefer to make most all of our meals and keep a very short list of trusty snacks. It’s honestly the local restaurant/dessert shop level, that I have found myself most concerned. I’m just not sure that we’re at the optimum level of education just yet for those serving at the counter, or even behind the counter – those making the food.
I wanted to share a couple of my mom-experiences and even give some notes about what these foods mean, so that I can put it out there and maybe we can all be best-educated about the food we are consuming – whether it be because we want to try a new health trend, or because we truly need to avoid certain foods to survive. I’m sure that many, many parents can relate to this, especially now a days when I’m finding food allergies and food intolerances more and more common. It’s good to not feel totally isolated and alone in this, as I did when my son was just a baby.
I do find it incredibly frustrating when I go into any food restaurant/shop and find that there is confusion about the significance of the ingredients used. This typically happens at the counter, with the check-out employee. They are just doing their job and aren’t paid to really know how everything is made or what is in it. I’m not mad at them. However, I do think that there needs to be more transparency. For example, I want to see an ingredients list, not just the nutritional values. If I’m not feeling it, I’ll just decide not to purchase anything. It’s no big deal. I’m happy to ask, and if my basic questions cannot be answered, then I don’t feel like it’s a good purchase-decision for my child and therefore, not me either. It’s common sense that I’m not about to experiment with my son’s health.
One thing about me is that is a blessing and a curse, is I’m totally fearless. I’m not easily scared or intimidated, and I can’t be embarrassed too easily, especially when it comes to my kids. I’m relentless and it’s a matter of fact thing. (My kids know this all too well and sometimes I have to apologize for it.) So, it’s not a problem for me to ask basic questions about the foods I’m considering to consume, and I think anyone who needs to know, should definitely ask. There are many times when parents with specific concerns about ordering my desserts, want to know about the products I’m using and different details about my process. I’m more than happy to schedule the time to answer these questions and explain, because I want them to be at ease. I know where they are coming from, because I live this life too. I get it.
My family and I do love to go out and try new restaurants and dessert places. I’m not a hater at all about enjoying any and all dessert places! I love dessert. I want to support dessert places! I’m obviously overly passionate about it and I get it, that even if I don’t like a place (because I’m a snob when it comes to processed or pre-mixed/boxed ingredients) I do appreciate and understand that these are businesses too, that have families behind them and employees that they support. We all need to make a living and I support any company just trying to make it. It’s not about that and we all can have our own taste-opinions. I would never ever call out any business for a bad experience I have had. I’m not that person.
And when we do go out, I don’t want to have anxiety about it. I’m not going to pick a place that has peanuts thrown on the floor (do places still do this?!) or anywhere that my kid has had the slightest reaction in the past, or anywhere where there is obvious mess or food-crossed all over the place. And places have gotten smarter! I noticed that Souplantation, for example, got rid of the peanut topping for their soft serve. I’d have my boy stay away from it anyway, and he’s not interested, but this is a very good thing, since people can’t possibly keep them out of the other toppings when it’s open, buffet style like that. Good job and thank you! (He still can’t, however, eat any of the baked goods at this restaurant, like muffins or breads, but it has not been hard to avoid.)
We also find ways to work around the peanuts and tree nuts, because we have to live and not seclude ourselves from the world. For goodness sake, someone could forget to wash their hands and touch a public doorknob and my son would get a reaction. It is what it is and the best any of us can do, is be prepared and just keep at it.
For example, we like to go to Baskin Robbins. They have nut-ice cream and plenty of non-nut ice cream. We give a heads up that we need an extra cleaned scooper and it’s no big deal. We have gone way too many times to count over the years, and there never being an issue. I do, however, have an issue with their labeling. When there is a coconut flavor, they label it as a tree nut. Sorry friends, coconut is most definitely not a nut. It’s a seed. It grows from a tree – yes. Someone used the word “nut” when naming it, but it’s not a nut. Period. I mention it and the sweethearts behind the counter couldn’t care less. I have even reached out to Baskin Robbins and they never replied to my note/question. I guess it’s just OK to just know better, right?
It’s something I truly appreciate about MiaBella (where my current baking facility is located) is that they make sure that their open toppings are free of any major allergens like peanuts or tree nuts, so that there can be no harmful cross-contamination. They also keep their peanut and tree nut toppings closed and separate and they keep the area clean. It’s wonderful too, that I can produce food there with no worries since everything is separated and I use all of my own tools, surfaces and even cleaning materials. And when we go for frozen yogurt, it’s a relief and MiaBella is the only yogurt shop we have ever been to, that my son has never had any sort of allergic reaction. I’m grateful because these are our friends and they truly care about my son and about their customers!
Today, my son and I went into Frost Gelato for the first time. It basically sparked my desire to write this little post. I asked some questions and the counter and was told that in the flavors we were questioning, use peanut oil to produce. Now, I’m just wondering how or why any oil would be used in the process of producing gelato/ice cream at all, so it was a no for me. It got to the point, where I was ready to walk out and just be done with asking more questions about different flavors. I get it that it gets annoying (maybe?) to the people working there and I do wish that it wasn’t. I asked my son if he wanted to leave, but he said no, that he wanted to try. We did find one and my son went with the water-based blackberry. (It was good, but nothing can compare to the real-deal gelato in Italy.) I went home and googled for their ingredients listings for their flavors since the oil in ice cream just seemed so strange, but there was none to be found, only nutritional values. It’s a bummer too. I just don’t think it’s that hard, to provide a list, even if you have 70+ flavors. Communication is key for the savvy, food-loving customer and/or for one who just wants to be safe.
But there’s one thing about peanut oil I do want to bring up. People allergic to peanuts in any way, shape or form, are allergic to the protein. The typical, all fat, cheap-processed peanut oil contains absolutely no protein at all, so it should not be a problem. Many places like Chick-fil-A and most fair-food and restaurants who deep fry items use peanut oil. I think it’s because of the burn temperature and how it keeps. However, I won’t and don’t ever use it. It’s just something to be aware of, so that you don’t totally freak out if you come to find out you have eaten this fast-type of fried food. Besides, if you do have a reaction, it will begin within seconds and you should be prepared for yourself or your child. It’s the higher-end peanut oil that is the potential-killer. These refined oils can and do contain peanut protein, and they need to be kept away from use for anyone who has even the slightest allergy. It’s why when you go into nicer restaurants, the server will ask if there are any allergies at the table, so that you and they can be aware. This is a great practice. However, please know, that years ago we were at a Chinese food restaurant out of state and were told that there would be absolutely no cross contamination, and yet, our son still suffered from a major allergic reaction. I thank God he didn’t need an epi-pen. It’s my opinion that if a restaurant uses peanut proteins to cook any meals at all, it’s your best bet to avoid these places. It may not be about the cook. It may be a poorly cleaned pan and/or a sponge or cloth used to clean it that was contaminated. You never know and I like to be extra cautious. My son simply won’t eat any Chinese food and that’s ok. Whatever your personal decision, we can all agree that communication and knowledge can equal progress.
In the end, I think it’s only fair for all of us to know what we’re eating and to not be afraid to ask/be educated about it. I do keep an ingredient book at the counter of either MiaBella shop, but since I stopped being at retail every day, almost two years ago, it’s now a non-issue. I give my customers whatever they need at any time, especially since I do so much custom-recipe development and can make changes to fit the needs and desires of my customers.
My kids know especially, that l do to stay away from things I don’t like the taste of – especially synthetic ingredients or syrups since I love the real taste and texture of real food (again, I’m overly passionate and my stretchy jeans are proof). But do I occasionally eat foods that are “boxed” or contain shortening? Yes. Do I tell my kids to never eat these foods? No. But I try to be smart about it and feel like educating them on knowing what they are eating, and never being afraid to ask what is in their food, is a very good way to keep them healthy and safe.
So there you have it! Thanks for being here and for letting me share my little mom-life notes. If you have comments or questions, please reach out to me anytime!
This was the cake I made for my son’s birthday last month. Notice the Oreos and Oreo-cones. Sometimes I do incorporate processed food, but I’m totally educated about them. xox
Baby Siena has recently come into the world with a family who loves her, cherishes her and prays for her.
I was so honored to cater and set the dessert table for the special day to honor Kristen, the mom-to-be.
Her mother in law is a friend of mine and I always love working with her! She is truly one of the best hostesses I’ve ever known! Her taste level and style is wonderful and I truly appreciate that she trusts me.
We talked about making this event very customized and beautiful for the special day. Everything was worked out, so that I could provide smaller desserts that were decorated perfectly.
The palette was very pale pink with white and gold. I had to create the color of crystallized sugar, since there was nothing I could purchase to fit what we wanted to achieve. The shade was really pretty on the white-chocolate glazed sugar cookies!
The centerpiece for the table was a beautifully-crafted wooden “Siena” made by the dad-to-be. It was so precious with the floral pieces at the base. They also helped to cover the holder we used.
We decided to keep the desserts on the small-side so that the ladies at the shower could easily enjoy a variety. On the menu were classic Eclairs with some white chocolate shavings on top, alongside mini cupcakes in Strawberry-Lemonade, Red Velvet and Chocolate with White Chocolate buttercream.
I made smaller cookies in Sugar, Vanilla Biscotti with a white chocolate drizzle, Oatmeal Raisin and Chocolate Chip.
I used my white plating and pedestals to go with the white tablecloth that was provided.
The room at the La Costa Resort and Spa was stunning. I loved the table settings and all of the floral arrangements done by Bella Florina Event and Design.
As with every event, this was a lot of work behind the scenes and there was so much joy when it all came together at the dessert table. I’m so grateful to be able to do this.
It’s about that time, when we go out of our way to show and tell our sweethearts how much we love them and cherish them. One way I share my love, is by making sweets for my sweets!
I’ve compiled a group of three of my favorite Valentine’s Day recipes that are all themed with heart-shapes. (This is a re-post.) xox, Mili
Sweet Heart Treat #1:
Chocolate Pops, with Love
First up, homemade Valentines for the kids to pass out, are my favorite. No one really wants another heart-themed pencil or piece of paper with a superhero on it.
Making something unique that takes a little time and love, is even better.
The best part is, with a tiny bit of help, your child really can make them. They will be really happy and proud to pass them out to their friends.
Sweet Heart Treat #2:
Sweetheart Cheesecake Tart
My kids would really love it if I made this one again! It’s absolutely delicious.
This take a little extra time and effort but for the people you love, you can squeeze it in!
Sweet Heart Treat #3:
Chocolate Pots de Creme
I’m going to put it out there, that chocolate is an absolute-must for me to enjoy on Valentine’s Day. I don’t need a whole box of chocolates or a large treat. A little goes a long way. I just want (or should I say need) a little chocolate-something that is extra rich, deep and delicious.
Chocolate pots de creme will definitely cover the want and need for Valentine’s Day. To make the recipe, will give you a bit of an arm workout, and is definitely not a beginner-recipe, but it’s well worth making it happen. I prefer the espresso version but do not include it when making it for little ones.
This is my one of my favorite recipe posts of all time. Here, I document my mom making one of my all-time favorite Italian treats, typically enjoyed on Christmas Eve and on special occasions: frittelle.
There are many versions of frittelle. Most of them found and scattered all over Italy are small and served as a donut or a fritter. This is the original. The tiny town of Tricarico, Italy, where my mom was born and raised, is known for inventing this food which is a fry-bread and peasant-food, made as the best that could be done to celebrate on Christmas Eve for many families. It was so delicious that it caught on and neighboring towns would develop their own takes on the treat. Generations of Italians have made their own versions of frittelle, based on where and how their family was raised.
Traditionally, most everyone would enjoy them filled with a dried/cured Provolone cheese (the convenience of refrigeration was not always around) that was cut into cubes and would melt while being fried. This is how my Nonna made them. Frittelles are also commonly served without any filling. Having them as a sweet-dessert was not really an option. In my mom’s hometown, many years ago, sugar was considered a luxury-item to most families. Because of my grandmother’s profession as a doctor, my mom’s family of eight was fortunate to have enjoyed sugar. I am proud to tell you that they shared their sugar and everything else that they had.
We are not going to miss out on the opportunity to make some dessert-frittelles! We have modified a few details for our recipe-options, substituting the dried Provolone for shredded Mozzarella cheese. Unfilled will always be an amazing option. And then there are the dessert versions, with freshly-fried frittelles, dipped into sugar or cinnamon-sugar.
Obviously, some details of how to make this recipe have been updated and simplified, so that you are able to conveniently heat the water for the dough preparation with the use of a microwave, and use the many other convenient tools, available in our modern kitchens.
The air in the dough and the texture of the bread makes it taste like a delicious, fluffy, warm pillow. There is no way to not be satisfied with such a generous serving of fried-deliciousness. Every time I see them, smell them or pull one apart, it takes me back to some of the happiest days and memories of my childhood. It is a very good thing!
The recipe is actually very simple, but it will take some time for me to master bread dough the way my mom has. The way she prepares it blows my mind! Her hands are so fast, that my camera could barely keep up. I had to write down her notes quickly too. When hands have mastered a craft and are this skilled, there is no measuring or referring to recipes. Therefore, if I don’t write down her work, it might one day, be lost.
With that, I hope you can save and share this recipe!
Nonna’s Traditional Frittelle Recipe by Mili’s Sweets
(We also use this recipe to make pizza dough)
Here’s what you’ll need:
1 and 3/4 cup water, heated
4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup of flour, reserved for dusting
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup water, heated
1 packet dry active yeast, or 2 and 1/4 teaspoons of dry active yeast
canola oil for frying
optional ingredients: shredded mozzarella cheese, granulated sugar, or a cinnamon-sugar mixture
Here’s what you’ll do:
First, prepare the 1 and 3/4 cup of water by heating it in the microwave for 2 minutes. Set aside.
Next, prepare the yeast.
How to prepare yeast for making bread-recipes:
In a glass container, measure one cup of water. Heat in the microwave for 40 seconds. Stir in the dry active yeast and the 1 tablespoon of sugar. Cover for 10 minutes. The yeast will have activated and will be ready to use.
Now it is time to get to work and knead the dough by-hand. In a large bowl, place the 4 cups of flour and create a well in the center. Pour in the activated yeast-water mixture and pour on the salt.
Watch my mom’s hands. I had to really edit down the photos so that you can see how she puts it together. After the well is filled, she brings her hands around to edge to let flour into the center. She moves her one hand in and out to get more flour into the center, a little at a time. Once all of the flour is combined into the moisture, she uses a little of the 1 and 3/4 cup of water that was heated and set aside, to dip in her hand and add the moisture. Next, she uses both hands. Her hands move up and down and “squish and squash” in the dough. It is sticky. She lifts the dough ball and takes a scoop of water with her hand, to grab the flour that is at the bottom of the bowl. With that, she works-in all of the dough together.
She takes the access dough from her hands and then gets a sprinkling of flour from the reserve that was set aside for dusting. She dries her hands with the flour as well. As tradition, she says a prayer over the dough and makes a sign-of-the-cross over the kneaded dough – just the way her mother did and generations before her have done. It is beautiful.
Now it is time to cover the dough and allow it to rise.
She covers the dough with a homemade blanket that she always uses. You can use a large dishcloth. Completely cover the bowl and keep in a dry, warm place. Allow to sit, untouched for one hour. Please set a timer so that you don’t forget.
When the one hour is up, you will have a beautifully-risen bread dough that is ready to use.
If you are ready to go, it’s time to prepare frittelle! Make a prep-area on a table to work on the individual servings of dough. We put down some parchment paper. Cut the dough into small pieces, that fit into the palm of your hand.
Take the piece and stretch it so that it’s a nice and flat, with no holes but a good amount of light coming in without breaking.
While this process is happening, you will want to prepare the oil in a pan so that it can get hot enough to properly fry the bread. In a pan, heat the oil. We use canola oil. The amount of oil you need, will depend on the size of pan you use. Our oil goes up to the little knobs in the pan. I’d say between 1/2″ and 1″ up, depending on the mood we are in. You will know what is best for you. When you are frying most any food, a trick to being successful, is to make sure that it has the opportunity to float. Set the stove to medium-heat.
Now it is time to fill (or not fill) and fold the pieces of dough.
We are going to start with dessert-versions of frittelle, so they will not be filled.
Once you have the dough flattened, fold it over to make a kind of taco. Seal the edges closed with your finger tips.
When the oil in the pan has reached 350 degrees, you can start to fry the bread. Be prepared since this process will go quickly. You will want to have an area to dry and cool the frittelle and have a pair of tongs handy, to flip the pieces.
You can flip the dough over and over, until it has become golden brown and is floating in the oil. I cannot give you an exact time since it depends on the quality and make of the pan you are using. For the first try or two, you will want to eyeball-it. They can be done frying in as little as two minutes. Here is what unfilled dough looks like, after it is fried. It is not as round as filled frittelle, but there should always be a lot of air and texture on the inside.
If you are dipping into sugar or cinnamon-sugar, have a bowl prepared and ready. The best result for a sweet frittelle is to cover them when they are still hot and the oil is still warm on the bread.
One of the most beautiful details of frittelle is the light that shines through from the parts of the dough that have been pulled to the point of almost-breaking.
It is a skill and a gift to have the confidence to stretch the dough before it breaks. If it does break, do not worry. You can patch it back together with your fingers before frying.
Here is how to fill them, if you want to make a more traditional, savory version, with cheese:
Sprinkle one side with cheese. Fold over and lightly pinch the edges closed. You do not want the cheese to come through into the oil since it will burn. It will still taste good, but it won’t be pretty.
I really hope you enjoy this recipe as much as my family does!
It is so important to me, that my family can hold on to traditions that I was raised with, so that they continue to thrive in my home and in my heart. I believe it is important for any family to continue the legacy of their culture(s). I honestly cannot imagine my world without the special foods and traditions that have helped to shape my life.
Being blessed with my mom living in our home means that my kids and I can learn about the food she has made most of her life. We can document it and always have it. The best part is, she loves to share how she does it. It brings her joy and another opportunity to be bossy. I love my mom so very much and I’m actually happy when she tells me to do something. It wasn’t always that way, but it has been for a very long time now. Her grandchildren totally get it and love every minute of her sharing with us as well.