I adore fruit desserts. I like cake, cookies, and bars of all types too, but if given the choice between a slice of fruit filled pie or a slice of chocolate cake- the pie is always going to win. However, as much as I’m smitten with fruit filled confections, I become panic stricken at the thought of making pie. Well, not the whole pie; it’s the crust that produces anxiety, specifically getting that crumbly mass of flour, fat, and ice cold water to come together in such a way that I can roll it out and successfully transfer it to a pie plate. And then, even if I do get the crust in the tin, there is the decorative crimping, braiding, and/or latticing business that has to be worked out! More than one pre-Thanksgiving prep day has resulted in me cursing the pastry gods, followed by a run to the store to buy a premade pie crust that I magically unfurl into the pie tin of my choice.
Homemade pie crust just stumps me. With plenty of practice, patience and loads of flour, shortening or butter and ice water I know I’ll figure it out. But for now, when the fruit at the market or farm stand is begging to be brought home, I rely on desserts that do not have a roll out, transfer to a pie plate component. Think cobblers, crostadas (free form crust) and tarts. Yes, tarts! With a tart, you just dump your crumbly dough in the pan and press it into place- no rolling or transferring required. And tarts are gorgeous. Pans with a removable bottom allow you to see their beautifully formed golden sides. You’ll look like a pastry pro!
This particular tart recipe also has the benefit of a no bake filling, a quick whisk of mascarpone cheese, powdered sugar, lemon juice, zest, vanilla and salt. Topping the tart are perfectly juicy strawberries, the result of a short and sweet mingle with granulated sugar. The tart is absolutely delicious left at that. However, a drizzle of balsamic glaze that has been enhanced with a bit of strawberry juice (product of the previously mentioned mingle) really pushes this dessert over the top. If your eaters are slightly skeptical of mixing balsamic vinegar with their sweets, serve it in a pretty pitcher on the side. Encourage a try, just a drop or two. I promise they will be converted.
Strawberry Mascarpone Tart with Balsamic Glaze
*adapted from Gourmet
For Tart Shell:
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp granulated sugar
rounded ¼ tsp salt
7 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into ½” pieces
1 large egg yolk
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
½ tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
3 Tbsp cold water
1 ½ lb strawberries, trimmed and halved lengthwise
1/3 cup granulated sugar
½ cup balsamic vinegar
1 lb mascarpone (about 2 cups)
¼ cup powdered sugar
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
½ tsp lemon zest
¾ tsp pure vanilla extract
Equipment: 9-inch fluted tart pan with removable bottom; pie weights, dried beans or raw rice
Make tart shell:
Blend together flour, sugar, salt and butter in a bowl with a pastry blender (or pulse in a food processor) just until mixture resembles coarse meal with some roughly pea-sized butter lumps. Beat together yolk, vanilla, lemon juice, lemon zest and water with a fork, then drizzle over flour mixture and stir with fork (or pulse) until mixture begins to come together.
Knead with floured hands on a lightly floured surface until a dough forms, then gently knead 4 or 5 times. Press into a 5-inch disk. Place in center of tart pan and cover with plastic wrap. Using your fingers and bottom of a flat-bottomed measuring cup, spread and push dough to evenly cover bottom and side of pan. Prick bottom of tart shell all over with a fork and freeze until firm, at least 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 375° with rack in middle. Line tart shell with foil and fill with pie weights, dried beans or raw rice. Bake until side is set and edge is pale golden, about 20 minutes. Carefully remove foil and weights and continue to bake until shell is deep golden all over, about 20 minutes. Cool in pan, about 45 minutes.
Make Filling While Tart Shell Cools:
Stir together strawberries and granulated sugar in a bowl and let stand, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes. Strain in a sieve set over a small saucepan, reserving berries. Add balsamic vinegar to liquid in saucepan and boil until reduced to about ¼ cup, 10-15 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl to cool slightly.
Meanwhile, whisk together mascarpone, confectioners sugar, lemon juice, zest, vanilla, and a pinch of salt until stiff. Cover and keep chilled in refrigerator until ready to use.
Spread mascarpone mixture evenly in cooled tart shell, then top with strawberries. Drizzle balsamic glaze all over tart. Alternatively, drizzle on individual slices as desired.
Here we go!