Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Strawberry Cream Cheese Tart

For whatever reason, anytime we have a potluck gathering at church, I feel the pressure.  I just always want to whip up something special and memorable, and this Sunday was no different.  The "theme" for our monthly gathering of POPS members (Parents of Preschoolers) was brunch, and that is just the one meal for which I always struggle to produce inspired dishes.  But, this time I think I finally did it.  This strawberry cream cheese tart was delicious (or so I was told after it was quickly gobbled up), and so easy to prepare.  There are a few elements to it, and so it takes a while to complete the entire thing, but each individual component was easy to prepare and the final product is stunning.  My photos are certainly inadequate.  

A couple notes:  If you are preparing this for an early morning event, I'm sure it will be tempting to assemble the final product the night before.  I just don't think I would do that.  I didn't test it out, but I assume the crust would become soggy and a flaky crust is a must for a successful tart.  I made the crust, cooled, and topped with the chocolate layer and let sit out overnight so it would set.  I did also make the cream cheese filling ahead and refrigerate overnight.  But, I waited to slice the strawberries because I didn't want them to become too juicy or wilted overnight.     

Strawberry Cream Cheese Tart:  

For the crust:
1 large egg yolk
1 Tbsp. heavy cream
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup powdered sugar
¼ tsp. salt
8 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into 16 cubes

For the ganache:
2 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
¼ cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the filling:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
½ cup powdered sugar, sifted
½ tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. milk

For topping:
Fresh strawberries, sliced
Melted semisweet chocolate for drizzling (optional)
Small amount of vegetable oil

To make the crust, whisk together the egg yolk, cream and vanilla in a small bowl and set aside.  Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse just enough to combine.  Drop the butter pieces sporadically over the flour mixture and pulse to cut the butter into the flour until the mixture is crumbly, several 1-second pulses.  With the food processor running, add the egg mixture and process until the dough just comes together, about 7-10 seconds.  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, in a 6-inch disc, and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 48.  (If you plan to roll the dough out, refrigerate for at least a few hours.  If you just plan to press into the pan, 1 hour is enough).  

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and, if you would like to roll it out, lightly flour a work surface with flour and roll the dough to a roughly 13-inch sqaure.  Transfer the dough to a 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom, press the the dough evenly to the sides of the tart pan and remove the excess.  

If you do not want to roll the dough out (I did this because my dough was not stiff enough), just press the dough evenly into a 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom.  If you have extra hanging off the top, just remove it.

Set the tart pan on a large plate and freeze for 30 minutes.

While the dough is in the freezer, adjust an oven rack to middle position and preheat the oven to 375°F.  Set the dough-lined pan on a baking sheet and line tightly - but gently – with aluminum foil, making sure to cover the edges, as well.  Either fill with pie weights or with a bag of dried beans, making sure to fill to the top of the pan.  Bake for 30 minutes, rotating halfway through the baking time.  Remove from the oven and carefully remove the foil and weights/beans.  Continue to bake until edges are deep golden brown, 5-8 minutes longer.  Transfer to a wire rack and cool.

To make the ganache, place the chocolate chips in a heatproof bowl.  Bring the cream to a simmer in a small saucepan stirring often to keep a skin from forming.  Remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate.   Stir together until a smooth ganache forms.  Whisk in the butter.  Spread the ganache in a thin even layer over the bottom of the cooled tart shell.  If completely assembling the tart, allow the ganache to set before proceeding.  If preparing over the course of two days, allow to sit overnight.

To make the filling, beat together the cream cheese and powdered sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until smooth.  Mix in the vanilla and milk.  Spread the cream cheese mixture over the cooled ganache in the tart shell.

Slice the fresh strawberries, choosing the prettiest ones in the container.  Starting from the outside and working toward the center, place the sliced strawberries, pointy side towards the outside edge of the tart, in concentric circles slightly overlapping each other.  Very gently press/tap the berries into the cream cheese mixture to help keep them in place, but be careful not to submerge the strawberries in the cream cheese, as the tart will begin to look messy.  

If using melted chocolate as a final garnish, combine chocolate chips and a splash of vegetable oil in microwave-proof bowl.  Melt in the microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring in-between.  Once melted, place the chocolate in either a freezer bag or pastry bag, snip off the end, and drizzle in circles around the tart.  Chill until ready to serve.

Source:  Slightly adapted from Annie's Eats.

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