Monday, April 10, 2006

Strawberry Tart

I never liked Strawberry Shortcake growing up. I’m not talking about the dessert, but the doll. She was terribly pink and I never was a fan of pink. All high and holy on her board game; Rainbow Bright was much better. She sported moon boots even when they went out of fashion, a mini skirt that looked like a flotation device, had a tattoo on her face (so risqué), and her best friend was an unicorn! Okay, so now Rainbow and her friends look like they have spent all night at a Rave doing copious amounts of acid, but back then, she was cool.

Strawberry Shortcake did allow me to remember one important bit of information: dessert has two “s” like Strawberry Shortcake, while desert, cannot be a cake—or doll.

While I have pretty much gotten over my loathsome tendencies toward Shortcake (the doll) I must say the dessert is pretty darn good. And really, there is nothing better to usher in the warmer months than strawberries—Just do a Google search for ”strawberry festival” and you can see over 3 million people agree.

Unfortunately, it is the one fruit (or vegetable) I do not particularly enjoy picking for myself. I picked blueberries, corn, nectarines and peaches in heat that topped 100 degrees last summer. The strawberry fields… I stayed away from. It is just too laborious of a task to bend so low and rummage for the ruby in the haystack. (Note to self: borrow young child who does not mind stooping over for 1 hour to pick self fresh strawberries.) But humans do crazy things for love and this is why strawberries hold the status they do.

This dessert is no shortcake. It is a little bit classier, looks spectacular, tastes sophisticated enough to hold its own at dinner party, and yet is festive enough to highlight a BBQ. Made only yesterday, it has almost vanished, smacking a smile on D’s face with each bite.

*This recipe is adapted from an April 2005 Gourmet magazine. In mine, the cream cheese filling has been altered, as well as the topping. I also made a quick crust found in The Joy of Cooking. The original used kiwis, a store-bought pre-made crust, and incorporated no herb.

Makes: 8-10 servings. Active Time= 30 minutes. Inactive Time=15 minutes
The Crust
*This is the recipe as it appears in the The Joy of Cooking.
For a double-crust 9-inch, or a single-crust pie with a generous lattice, use the following amounts. For a one-crust 9-inch pie, use half the recipe.
Sift Together:
* 2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 tsp salt
Measure and combine:
* 2/3 cup chilled leaf lard or shortening
* 2 Tbl chilled butter
Cut half the shortening into the flour mixture with a pastry blender, or work it in lightly with the tips of your fingers until it has the grain of cornmeal. Cut the remaining half coarsely into the dough until it is pea size. Sprinkle the dough with:
* 4 Tbl water
Blend the water lightly into the dough. You may lift the ingredients with a fork, allowing moisture to spread. If needed to hold the ingredients together, add:
* 1 tsp to 1 Tbl water
When you can gather the dough up into a tidy ball, stop handling it.
1) Preheat oven to 450F. Roll out the dough and place it into your pie tin or tart mold. Bring the dough about ¼ inch over the edge of the tin; fold back to reinforce the edge.
2) Poke dough several times with fork. Cover bottom with tinfoil, add pie weights or dry beans or rice. Bake for 6 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and weight. Bake for 7-10 minutes more; until crust is golden.
3) Place on rack to cool. While cooling, make the filling (below).

The Filling
*Adapted from Gourmet, April 2005. Use a pie tin with removable bottom for easy serving.
* 6 oz cream cheese, room temperature
* 2 Tbl sugar
* 2 Tbl milk
* 2 tsp finely grated fresh orange zest
* 1 tsp vanilla
* 2 tsp fresh mint, chopped
* 10-12 ripe strawberries, tops removed, sliced in half
1) While crust (above) is cooling, in a bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, milk, zest, and vanilla with a mixer until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes.
2) Add chopped mint; mix with spatula to incorporate.
3) Spread cream cheese filling evenly in cooled shell; top with strawberry slices.
NOTE: Can be made ahead and chilled. Tart should be brought to room temperature before serving.

Head on over to Sweetnick's for today's ARF round up!

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