I was about six years old and had been saving for a week to buy my mom a Mother’s Day card. At that age, all of my disposable income went to sweets and other everyday necessities, like…soapy liquid for bubbles. Because I didn’t qualify for any bank loans, for seven days, I put away money given to me (from my parents) for treats. After relentlessly saving and digging for change wedged in between our sofa cushions, I had accumulated a whopping sum of $3.
Now that I had acquired the necessary funds needed to get the card, I had to figure out how I was going to physically buy it. I couldn’t drive to the store or leave the house without a grown-up. This was a problem solving exercise, not unlike the rigorous addition and subtraction work I had been doing at school. I sat down at my little plastic table, illustrating different plans with fat crayons and sheets of paper torn out of my older brother’s black and white composition notebook. But I had nothing. I was getting ready to give up and start on a macaroni picture frame when my mom called to me and asked if I wanted to go to the grocery store with her. Then it came to me.
I would go to the store with my mom, sneak off to the card aisle while she picks out produce (because that lady can spend all day picking out a potato). Without answering my mom, I dashed to the garage, my ponytail flying behind me, and strapped myself into the car.
I walked along side my mom for a quick escape, instead of climbing into the cart like I usually did. Boy do I miss those cart rides. It didn’t take long for me to find the aisle with all the cards and wrapping stuff, despite not being able to read words with more than three letters. I stood in line at check-out, and being the only person in line under 3 feet, I stuck out like a sore thumb. An older man jumped in line right behind me. I reflexively turned around, and he shot a kind and gentle smile down at me. His gaze went to my mother’s day card, lying flat on the belt, and he asked, “Is that card for your mom?”. I bashfully nodded yes, and then it was my turn to pay.
The cashier scanned my card. I can’t remember the exact total, but I remember being short by some change. My eyes widened in a panic, and my heart began to race. I had $3 in my hand, and that was all I had. When I didn’t look up from my feet after what felt like hours to me, the old man next to me said, “Don’t worry, I’ll help you out”. I looked up, confused, but incredibly touched by this kind stranger’s eagerness to help me. The cashier handed the card to me, and I grabbed it with care, not wanting to bend the edges. I graciously thanked the old man, before waltzing off to find my mom. Our interaction was very brief, but years later, I still appreciate what he did for me!
Because Mother’s day was yesterday, I made this very special lavender custard tart with honey mascarpone cream in honor of Mama Choi – the beautiful woman who, with my dear papa, raised my siblings and me with so much love, attention, and care – and Mama U, who brought up four handsome, bright men (one them is currently my boyfriend!) and welcomed me into their loving family from the very first day.
The recipe is adapted from my Chai Vanilla Tart recipe and inspired by a french macaron I had when I was in NYC. These tarts are infused with dried edible lavender (which I bought from Amazon) and topped with cream made from honey, heavy cream, and mascarpone.
The custard is so smooth and fragrant. How wonderful is it to eat something made with such a beautifully scented herb? The cream topping is lightly sweetened, creamy and decadent, thanks to the mascarpone. You’ll need to pipe the cream over the tarts. If you don’t have a piping bag, you can use a gallon-size ziplock bag – just fill up the bag with the cream then snip off a corner. I prefer a more rustic look, so with my piping bag, I made messy circular motions around the tarts when piping on the cream. I used the tip of my piping bag to blend any sharp lines.
This recipe will yield four 4.75 inch round tarts, or one 4½ x 14 inch rectangle or 9 inch round tart.
Lastly, happy Mother’s day to all of the amazing moms!
- ½ cup unsalted butter, soften
- ½ cup powdered sugar, sifted
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1¾ cup whole milk
- 1 egg
- 2 egg yolks
- ⅓ cup, plus 1½ tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon dried edible lavender flowers
- 2 drops red food coloring (optional)
- 1 drop blue food coloring (optional)
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1½ tablespoons clover honey
- 1 cup mascarpone
- In a large bowl, combine the butter and sugar, then mix on medium speed until smooth, about 4 to 5 minutes. Stop once or twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg and vanilla, and mix on medium speed until well combined, about 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce the speed to low, then add the flour, cornstarch, and salt. Mix until just combined, and do not overmix.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Shape the dough into a 5-inch disc, then wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight, until firm.
- Preheat the oven to 400F degrees. On a lightly floured surface, divide the dough into 4 balls, then roll out the dough, making it slightly larger than the tart pans. Transfer the dough into your tart pans, fit into the pan, then trim the edges. Line each crust with foil, then fill the pans with dried beans (this will act as a weight). Bake for 10 minutes, until the crusts are slightly golden. Take the crusts out of the oven, and lower the baking temperature to 350F degrees. Remove the beans and foil, then bake for another 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from the oven, and place the crusts on a wired rack to cool.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the ¼ cup milk, egg, and egg yolks. Slowly mix in the ⅓ cup brown sugar and cornstarch, and whisk until it's free from lumps (pour through a sieve if there are lumps that won't dissolve).
- In a medium saucepan, heat up the remaining 1½ cup milk and remaining 1½ tablespoons brown sugar over medium heat, and stir to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat just before it begins to boil, then stir in the dried lavender. Steep for 5 minutes, then pour through a sieve and discard the lavender. Stir in the food coloring (optional).
- Slowly add ⅓ of the hot milk mixture to the egg mixture, whisking quickly to temper the eggs. Return the tempered egg mixture to the remaining milk mixture in the saucepan and cook, stirring continuously until it reaches a boil. Cook for an additional 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat, then stir in the butter.
- Evenly distribute the custard filling into the prepared crusts, then smooth and level with a butter knife or an offset spatula. Place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming. Allow it to cool at room temperature for 1 hour, then refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
- In a medium size bowl, whip the heavy cream on medium-high speed. Once the cream starts to thicken (about 2 minutes), slowly add the honey. Continue to beat the cream, until smooth and thick, about 3 minutes. Add the mascarpone, and mix on medium-speed until smooth and incorporated.
- Pipe over the chilled tarts.