Please welcome Sonya Hemmings of the Hemmings Half Dozen blog. Sonya lives in Arizona with her sweet family, and as you will soon learn, a bountiful lemon tree. I'm really excited that she's sharing her real-food makeover of a beloved lemon tart recipe. Her goal was to maximize its nutrition without sacrificing the delicious taste. Did she succeed? I'd say so! In this guest post, she shares the side by side comparison, complete with a tell-tale picture and family responses. This is a very fun read!
When my husband, Shawn, and I moved into our home in 1997, we soon learned that life would be giving us lemons—literally and liberally, in the form of fruit from an established and prolific backyard tree. We were excited (and admittedly a little overwhelmed) by our bountiful first harvest, but we quickly tackled the task of picking and preserving all we could of the crop.
We juiced and zested loads of lemons, freezing it all for year-round use. That activity has now become an annual tradition in our household—where, yes, we do make a lot of lemonade, and where we also collect recipes and cookbooks that feature lemons.
Among our favorites is a dessert called Tiny Lemon Tarts from The Lemon Lovers Cookbook by Peg Bailey. Each bite-size pastry cup cradles a delicious custard-like filling that perfectly marries sweet and tart in a morsel of sunshine-y goodness.
So why, you might wonder, would I mess with a recipe we already know and love? Well, my recent foray into real-food cooking got me thinking that there might be room for improvement. The key would be to adapt the recipe using traditional preparation methods and optimal ingredients without sacrificing the delicious taste to which we’d become accustomed.
To find out whether that was possible, I decided to make two batches—one following the original recipe and using typical ingredients, and another making real-food substitutions. The only ingredients the two batches would have in common were the juice and zest from our own lemons. Following are the lists of the remaining items.
- Butter (store brand)
- Cream cheese (store brand)
- All-purpose flour (unbleached King Arthur brand)
- Salt (iodized)
- Sugar (refined)
- Eggs (store brand)
- Grass-fed butter (Kerrygold brand)
- Yogurt cheese (made by draining whey from plain Whole Foods 365 brand)
- Sprouted whole wheat pastry flour (made from sprouted and dehydrated soft white wheat berries)
- Sea salt (Celtic brand)
- Evaporated cane juice (less-refined sugar)
- Eggs (from pasture-raised chickens)
When each batch was completed and cooled, I asked my family members to compare them. Shawn and three of our four children happily complied. (Our oldest son, Kellen, 9, is allergic to dairy, eggs and wheat—plus he’s not a big lemon-flavor fan—so he opted out.) Without revealing which batch was the original or the altered, I asked them first to look at the tarts and describe any differences they noticed.
They all remarked on the deeper yellow color of the filling in one batch (the real-food tarts, because of the grass-fed butter and golden yolks of the pastured eggs). Then came the tasting. All of us—including me, who knew exactly what tweaks had been made—were surprised at the difference! Shawn was the first to comment that the pastry in the original batch had a slightly bitter aftertaste that we hadn’t noticed before we tried it side-by-side with the altered version.
The sprouted flour definitely made for a more tender, flaky and delicious pastry that allowed the flavor of the filling to shine. “This one tastes more lemon-y,” said Kerrick, 7, and Kennah, 4—while Keillor, 2, gave us a crumb-filled grin and nodded in agreement.
My conclusion after this experiment: It is possible to make a good thing even better while, at the same time, making it healthier. Of course, I kind of already knew that. But it was fun to watch my sometimes wary and change-resistant family members reach the same conclusion—and enjoy their dessert, too.
Which is which? Can you tell the original tart from the real-food version? The hint is in the tint—of yellow.
I have really spotty internet right now, so I may not be available to moderate or respond to comments on this post or others for the time being. But please do comment, and I'll let Sonya know to be watching out for what's said or any questions. And I'll see you all here on Thursday (hopefully)!
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