Friday, May 6, 2011

Perfect for Spring: Strawberry-Rhubarb Tart

This tart recipe is nice and straightforward, and would go well with just about any berry topping. The secret weapon:  cream cheese!

I based this on a recipe for a rhubarb tart in Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook. It starts with a cream cheese-based shell made of:

1 cup flour
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
6 tbsp unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
3 oz cream cheese, cold

Pulse the dry ingredients in a food processor, just to combine.  Then add the butter and pulse until you get small pea-sized crumbs.  Next, add the cream cheese, and pulse until the mixture just starts to come together when you press a handful in your palm.

Pour out the mixture onto a piece of plastic wrap and mold the dough into a ball.  Flatten into a disc, wrap in plastic, and chill for at least 1 hour, up to 1 day before using.

Remove the dough from the fridge and roll out the dough into a circle, about 1/8 inch thick.  Fit dough into a 9-inch round tart pan with a removable bottom and press it into the corners.  Trim off any excess from the top.  Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork and chill the tart shell until firm, about 20 minutes in the freezer or 40 in the fridge.  (I'd recommend freezer.)

Preheat your oven to 350.  Line chilled shell with parchment and fill with pie weights.  Bake until edges just turn golden, about 20 minutes.  Remove parchment and weights and continue baking until crush is DEEP golden brown all over about 12 minutes.  You want a nice firm, fairly brown crust or it will soften too much with your filling.  Cool completely.  (You can make this a day ahead, cover loosely and leave at room temperature.)

Now making your berry topping. Hull a pint of strawberries, slice in half, mix with 2 tbsp sugar and 1 tsp lemon juice, and let this sit at room temp for 20 minutes.  You could substitute any berry you like for the strawberries.  (You could do this a day ahead of time.)

You could also poach 1 lb of rhubarb, trimmed into 2-inch pieces.  Bring 1 1/2 cups of water, 1 1/2 cups sugar, and 1 tbsp vanilla to a boil.  Add rhubarb, turn off the heat, cover, and let stand until rhubarb is just tender.  Check frequently as you don't want to overcook the rhubarb.  This process could take anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes.  Drain the rhubarb on paper towels before adding to your tart.

I did a mix of strawberry and rhubarb in the tart above.

Now for the secret that you don't see in the picture:  a fresh, lemony filling that is simply 4 oz of cream cheese at room temperature, zest of 1 lemon, 2 tbsp of sugar, and 1/4 cup sour cream.  Beat until smooth, and then spread over the cooled tart shell.  Top with your berries and serve as soon as possible, or keep chilled in the fridge up to 4 hours.

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