Berry mascarpone tart from my three mothers

A dessert made from memories of the guiding women in my life, but you don't have to know them to love it

Topics: Guest Chef, Mother's Day, Motherhood, Food,

Berry mascarpone tart from my three mothers

Blame the twisted super-boondoggle called fate, but I was the first kid on the block to grow up with (my) three moms. I love them all, and there is not one I would trade for another. But the one who can always find Hostess HoHos in a blizzard might have a slight edge.

Mom 1.0 was a quintessential Brooklyn girl by way of old Romania and eventually became a stalwart ’50s housewife, which included the wearing of pillbox hats on special occasions. She was already at work teaching me how to make the old Jewish family recipes when all I could manage was to toddle by her fabulous red shoes on the kitchen floor. It was never too soon to learn the heart and soul of those old recipes along with handy kitchen skills that serve me still. She could roll strudel pastry so thin you could see through it, without tearing the dough.

She baked special Valentine cupcakes and provided mom-made matching clothing for both of us that was as good as couture. She inherited the dressmaking gene from her mother and aunts. Frail and ill, she died way too young and missed out on the best years with her children and grandchildren.

But her kitchen spirit carries on in my heart every time I bake Ada’s brownies, or when I roll out her strudel dough. And sometimes I swear I can see her snicker smile as I add one more giant spoonful of chocolate to her brownie recipe.

The Ad Man remarried just a year after my mother died. Enter the very young, but determined Stepmother. Mom 2.0 arrived just as I was turning into a pubescent cacophony of attitude-ness. If ever there was a poster child for wicked stepdaughter, it would have been me. I give her a standing ovation for patience and fortitude, along with a medal of valor for keeping the worst of my dirty tricks from my father. I took away more pearls of wisdom from Mom 2.0 than I’ve ever admitted. I learned that women could work in the outside world and be equal to men, especially in the Ad Man’s world. That the art of a negotiation is nothing without charm, grace and kindness — all attributes she taught me.

I also learned supermarket 101; shop early and there will always be HoHos. That red Jell-O mixed with Cool Whip was a dessert that never went bad, even if stored in the back of the refrigerator for weeks. And brisket has a sense of humor. She taught me the biggest lesson of all: that I could count on her to have my back. I call it a mom thing.

And then along came the lemon-loving in-laws and mom 3.0: the Granola Version. I’ve known my mother-in-law since I was 15 years old. Even back in the day when no one was sure that our teenage marriage would last the length of a teenage attention span, she was there. She introduced me to natural foods, co-ops, bread baking, homemade yogurt, granola and raspberries fresh from the backyard bushes.

She taught me how to warp a loom, which I promptly forgot. She tried to teach me to sew, sure that latent DNA would kick in. It did not. So she created mom-made clothes for her granddaughters so they wouldn’t be embarrassed with stuff I tried to make. She taught me how to bake a pie. She showed me how both mayonnaise and lemon could partner with almost every food and make it oddly better. She gave me my first Christmas stocking with trinkets that made all my childhood Santa dreams come true. But most of all, she gave me her son — willingly.

I honor my three moms this Mother’s Day with a pastry that has something for each of them. For Mom 1.0 this contains a stellar crust similar to her old-fashioned rugelach, but with a twist. For Mom 2.0 it has a fabulous raspberry-mascarpone whip, sort of like that red Jell-O with Cool Whip, but tastier and with a shorter, more natural shelf life. And for Mom 3.0, the mascarpone is loaded with lots of her favorite condiment, lemon.

My Three Moms Mascarpone-Berry Tart

Tart Shell

Makes two 9-inch shells

8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
4 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1 cup almond flour
1 cup flour (or gluten-free flour, plus a pinch of xanthan gum)
¼ cup ice-cold water (more if necessary)


1 cup mascarpone cheese
1/3 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon almond flavoring
zest of one large lemon
2-4 pints fresh, very ripe berries (I like raspberries)

For the tart shell:

  1. In a food processor pulse together flour and almond meal. Cut shortening and butter into small pieces and add. Pulse in short bursts until it resembles cornmeal. Add ice water (not actual ice!) a little at a time. Pulse until it comes together in a ball.
  2. Remove to parchment paper and gather dough until it is all incorporated. Split into two equal pieces. Flatten each ball slightly, wrap in plastic or parchment and refrigerate for at least an hour. Dough will keep for a few days in the refrigerator and longer in the freezer.
  3. Remove one disk from refrigerator and rest 20 minutes at room temperature. Place in 9-inch tart pan or in several small tart pans. Press to fit. Place on cookie sheet. Freeze for 20 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 350. Bake straight from freezer about 30 minutes or until lightly brown. Remove and cool completely.

For the filling:

  1. Put all the ingredients except berries in a bowl and whisk until fluffy. Add in about 1/3 of the berries and fold with a spatula until incorporated, but some berries remain whole. Spoon a thin layer into cooled tart shell(s). Top with whole or cut berries.
  2. Fill the same day you are serving. Shells can be baked a day ahead. Store in a tin.
  3. Refrigerate filled tarts. Let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.

Serve plain or with whipped cream.

Note: You can also find tart shells in the freezer at the grocery. Bake and cool before filling.

Optional: Drizzle honey or spoon macerated berries over the top.

Bon appétit and Happy Mother’s Day. 

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