Needless to say, it’s been a busy last two weeks. Between Easter, birthdays, a new car, and a new job, I’ve certainly had my hands full. However, that did not stop me from making a beautiful Easter dessert I first made ages ago in college. (Note the picture above and the hand-towel improvised as a table cloth on the MDF furniture. That was Easter 2009. Okay, not ages ago, but a while back). In college, my roommate Megan, who had a wonderful skill with pastries, made the crust. This time around, I managed to make the tart shell no problem – except I over baked it perhaps a bit.
You’re probably tired of me telling you how simple all these dishes are. I don’t mean to sound redundant, but comparatively, they are simple. The tart shell for this desert is a basic pastry dough with flour, sugar, lemon juice, salt, and an egg. The filing starts with marscapone cheese whipped with confectioners sugar and lemon juice. The strawberries are sprinkled with sugar and allowed to sit for at least thirty minutes. If you like, there is port reduction that can be poured over the tart, but as I was making the dish for
finicky adults and children, I skipped that step.
Originally debuting in Gourmet magazine, the recipe caught my eye from the get go. How could it not – the stunning red strawberries a stark contrast against the creamy marscapone. And from the picture, you could just tell it looked good. The tart makes a beautiful finish to an Easter brunch or dinner, or perhaps mother’s day (right around the corner). It’s easy enough to make for a small dinner party. The tart shell itself can be made the day ahead and stored wrapped in plastic at room temperature (for those of us who are already experiencing 90 degree weather, be sure to store in a cool room).
The recipe calls for the use of a food processor. If you haven’t got one, you can substitute a pastry blender. And if you have neither, the pastry blender is the more economical of the two. However, if you rarely make pastries, then the food processor is the more versatile of the two. I’ll leave that choice up to you.I also used a fluted tart pan, 10 inches, with a removal bottom.
Strawberry Marscapone Tart, with optional Port Glaze, adapted from Gourmet 2009
Let’s talk crust:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
1 and 1/4 cup all purpose flour
3 tbsp granulated sugar (I used organic, because it’s what I had on hand)
7 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (this is easier to do when the butter is chilled)
1 large egg yolk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (the better the quality, the better the taste)
1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
3 tbsp cold water
Using the food processor, pulse the sugar, salt, and butter until the mixture looks something like coarse oatmeal with about pea-sized lumps of butter. Beat together the yolk, vanilla, lemon juice, and water in a separate bowl, pouring over the flour mixture when combined. Pulse the flour mixture with the egg mixture until combine and starts to form a dough. On well floured surface, gently knead the dough until it forms (until it holds together, really), then need about 4 or 5 times extra, but try not to need it too much. Place in the center of the tart pan and cover with plastic wrap. Using fingers or a flat small saucepan or metal measuring cup, press the dough until it evenly covers the bottom and sides of the pan. Prick the bottom of the tart with a fork, then stick in the freezer for about 10 minutes to firm up the dough. *If you’re using a pastry blender, just follow the steps above and blend using the tool. It’s just a little more work for you, but if you like to feel involved with your pastry crust, then the pastry blender or your fingers is the way to go.
Line the tart shell with foil, and place pie weights or dried beans evenly around the center. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the sides are golden. Carefully remove the foil, and bake until a deep golden color sets in, about another 20 minutes. Cool in pan. If you’re making this the day ahead, be sure to cool fully before wrapping in plastic wrap and storing at room temperature.
For the filling:
2 lbs strawberries, washed and dried, then trimmed and halved lengthwise
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 lb marscapone cheese
1/4 cup confectioners sugar
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
Mix the strawberries and the granulated sugar in a bowl and allow to sit for at least 30 minutes. If you’re interested in the port glaze, the sweetened juices from the strawberries are an essential part.
Mix together the marscapone, lemon juice, lemon zest, confectioners sugar, and vanilla extract until firm. This can be done with a mixer, or by hand with a wire whisk. Spread the marscapone mixture in the cooled tart shell.
If you’re not making the Port glaze, then drain the strawberries and put them over the tart. Serve on a beautiful platter, cake tray, or whatever you have on hand.
If you are making the Port glaze, Strain the strawberries in a colander over a small saucepan. Add 3/4 cup Ruby Port and reduce the mixture to about a quarter (1/4) cup. Drizzle the port glaze over the tart.
The hardest part of the process is the tart shell, and it’s 100% worth it. Enjoy!