Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Fresh Berry Tarts

1/3 C. sugar
3 T. vanilla sugar*
1/2 c. butter
2 large eggs
2 1/2 C. flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt

*you could also use all regular sugar and add a little vanilla extract to the mixture.

1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 8 oz. package reduced fat cream cheese (aka Neufchatel cheese)
1 large egg
1 t. vanilla extract

2 T. vanilla sugar (see note above)
You will need a total of about 3 pints of berries total. The original recipe calls for setting aside 24 perfect berries to put on top of the tarts, but I ended up with more like 36 tarts, so be sure to set aside plenty of berries for topping. You will need at least one pint of strawberries to make the topping, but the other two pints can be pretty much any berry you want.

To prepare the crust, cream sugar and butter together until fluffy. Beat in the 2 eggs. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt; pour into the mixer at low speed until blended. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate in the fridge at least a few hours. Can also be chilled overnight.

Next, prepare the topping. Slice any strawberries that will not be used whole, about 1 pint total. Top with vanilla sugar and mix well with a spoon. Cover and refrigerate a few hours or overnight.

Once the dough has been chilled sufficiently, prepare the filling. Mix the sweetened condensed milk with the cream cheese, egg, and vanilla until creamy. Next you'll be rolling out the dough: leaving half the dough in the fridge, roll out the other half very thin - about 1/8 of an inch. If you go much thicker you'll wind up with cookie blobs instead of tarts. You'll also need to flour your surfaces very well - put flour down on the cutting board or counter, then plop the dough down. Sprinkle some more flour on top of the dough blob, flour your rolling pin, then start rolling. I find that the easiest way to accomplish all this is to fill an empty shaker jar with flour. Use a biscuit cutter or wide-mouthed jar to cut out circled that are approximately 3 to 3-1/2 inches across. Carefully drop each circle of dough into a greased nonstick cupcake pan - I used both standard size and mini-cupcake pans, and I found that while both work well, I liked the shape of the smaller sized ones better. Top each shell with 2 T. of the cream cheese filling. Don't overfill. Bake for 15-18 minutes until the crust is golden and the filing is puffy and firm to the touch. Remove the tarts from the pan immediately.

Now you're ready to top the tarts with your whole berries. I ended up quartering some nice-looking strawberries and using two quarters for each tart, along with either a blueberry, a raspberry, or a blackberry, but just do whatever looks good to you. Next, take the strawberry topping out of the fridge. Pour a small amount over each tart - 1/2 to 1 teaspoon. The topping will help hold everything together and adds a nice fresh taste, but if you prefer you can brush on a little of your favorite jam. Once you are done pouring off the syrup for the topping, you will have some macerated strawberries leftover. These are tasty on top of vanilla ice cream, or you can use them to make strawberry ice cream!

Refrigerate until ready to serve. Enjoy! These are a lot of work but are very elegant and tasty.

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