Here Come the Strawberries

Strawberry Tart Photo Credit: Quentin Bacon

STRAWBERY CREAM CHEESE CRUMBLE TART (BAKE! page 45)

I’ve often confessed in the past to being addicted to crumb topping. Recently I even found a new way to enjoy it – atop a tart that has a prebaked crust and a creamy filling. This does necessitate the extra step of baking the crumb topping separately, but you can do that while baking the tart crust. The crisp crumb topping with a hint of chopped almonds is a perfect contrast to this tart’s light cream cheese filling and juicy strawberries.

Makes one 10-inch tart, about 8 servings

One unbaked Cookie Dough Tart Crust, below, chilled

ALMOND CRUMB TOPPING

1 1/4 cups (150 grams) all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)

1/3 cup (75 grams) sugar

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup slivered or whole blanched almonds, coarsely chopped into 1/4-inch (6-mm) pieces

8 tablespoons (1 stick/115 grams) unsalted butter, melted

STRAWBERRY CREAM CHEESE FILLING

1 pound (450 grams) cream cheese, softened

1 cup (115 grams) confectioners’ sugar, sifted after measuring

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 pound (450 grams, about 1 1/2 pints) strawberries, rinsed, hulled and halved or quartered if large, or left whole if very small (reserve 1 perfect whole berry)

Confectioners’ sugar in a shaker for finishing

One jellyroll pan lined with parchment or foil for baking the crumb topping

  1. Set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350˚F (180˚C).
  2. For the topping, in a medium mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Stir in the almonds. Use a rubber spatula to stir in the butter. Let the mixture stand for a few minutes, then use your fingertips to break the mixture into 1/4- to 1/2-inch (6- to 12-mm) crumbs. Scatter the crumbs on the prepared pan.
  3. Bake the tart crust in the lower third of the oven and the crumb topping in the upper third. After 10 minutes, remove the paper and beans from the tart shell and place it on the upper rack and the crumbs on the lower one.
  4. Continue baking the tart shell until it is dry and light golden, 15 to 20 additional minutes. Bake the crumb topping until it is deep golden and firm, 10 to 15 additional minutes.
  5. Cool the crust and the topping on racks. If the crumbs have clumped together during baking, let them cool completely and then use a bench scraper or table knife to chop them coarsely.
  6. For the cream cheese filling, place the cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed just until it is smooth. Beat in the confectioners’ sugar, lemon zest and vanilla and continue beating until lightened, about 1 minute.
  7. To assemble the tart, spread half the cream cheese filling on the bottom of the tart crust and arrange the berries on it, cut side down. Spread the remaining filling over the berries. Evenly scatter the crumb topping over the filling. Right before serving, lightly dust the topping with confectioners’ sugar and place the reserved berry in the center of the tart.

SERVING: Unmold the tart and slide it off the pan base to a platter. Serve wedges of the tart – it needs no accompaniment.

STORAGE: You may have all the components ready, but don’t assemble the tart until a few hours before you intend to serve it. Keep it at a cool room temperature until you do. Wrap and refrigerate leftovers and bring to room temperature before serving again. The crust will soften after it has been refrigerated.

VARIATIONS: Substitute raspberries or blueberries for the strawberries, or use a combination of all three berries. Peeled and diced perfectly ripe peaches or mangoes are also good choices.

COOKIE DOUGH TART CRUST

I like to include some ground almonds in this dough for extra flavor and texture, but you may omit them. Since the almonds don’t absorb any liquid, the dough will work exactly the same way with or without them; no need to make adjustments. This recipe makes enough for two crusts as all the other pastry dough recipes do, but the instructions below are for rolling a single crust from half the dough.

Makes about 1 1/2 pounds (680 grams) of dough, enough for two 10-inch (25-cm) tart crusts

1/4 cup (about 1 1/2 ounces/40 grams) slivered or whole blanched almonds, optional

3/4 cup (85 grams) confectioners’ sugar, sifted after measuring

2 1/2 cups (300 grams) all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 pound (2 sticks/225 grams) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 16 pieces

2 large egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

One 10-inch (25-cm) tart pan with removable bottom

  1. Combine the almonds and confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse repeatedly until finely ground, about 1 minute. No visible pieces of almond should remain. Use a thin metal spatula to scrape away any of the mixture caked up in the corner where the bottom meets the side of the bowl.
  2. Add the flour and salt and pulse a couple of times to mix. (If not using the nuts, start here and add the sugar.) Add the butter and pulse again repeatedly until no visible pieces of butter remain. Add the yolks and vanilla and pulse again until the dough forms a ball.
  3. Invert the dough to a floured surface and carefully remove the blade. Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces. Shape each piece of dough into a thick disk and wrap individually in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour. You may prepare the dough several days in advance and keep it refrigerated, or double wrap and freeze the second piece of dough, defrosting it in the refrigerator overnight before use.
  4. To form a tart crust, remove one of the pieces of dough from the refrigerator and allow it to soften at a cool room temperature for about 20 minutes, just until it is soft enough to roll without cracking, but still firm. Unwrap it and place it on a floured surface. Use the palm of your hand to press it to a thickness of about 1/4 inch.
  5. Flour the work surface and the dough and gently roll the dough into a 13-inch disk, adding pinches of flour under and on top of the dough as needed.
  6. Fold the dough in half and slide both hands under it, palms upward, and transfer it to the pan, lining up the fold with the diameter of the pan. Unfold the dough into the pan. Don’t be concerned if the dough cracks or tears – you can press it back together.
  7. Evenly fit the dough into the pan, making sure it’s flat against both the bottom and side of the pan. Trim away any excess dough at the rim of the pan by rolling over with a rolling pin or scraping it away with the back of a paring knife.
  8. Finish off the top edges of the crust by pressing outward against the side of the pan with your thumb and down at the same time at the top of the crust with your index finger.
  9. Slide the tart pan onto a cookie sheet, cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for several hours or overnight before baking.