When you walk into a bakery, or even by the bakery section of the supermarket, what catches your eye? Is it the tray of perfectly decorated cupcakes? The seven-layer chocolate tortes? The piles of huge, perfectly-formed chocolate chip and shortbread cookies? Each and every option has its appeal (which is precisely why bakeries cleverly use clear cases to showcase their product), but I would put money on the fact that fresh fruit tarts will almost immediately grab you attention. When well-made, the tarts are a rainbow of colors glistening under a clear, satiny glaze. The fruit is almost always a mix of berries, kiwi and/or stone fruits, all of which look excellent on top of a creamy white background nestled in a shortbread crust.
This fruit tart is one of my favorites. It is easy to make and looks fantastic. When you serve it, people are just about guaranteed to ask you where you bought it because it is so elegant.
The tart has a shortbread-type crust, which can be made by hand or mixed up in the food processor. The crust is baked and cooled completely before being spread with a very thin layer of dark chocolate, which protects the crisp crust from becoming soggy after sitting with the filling in it (only a problem with leftovers, almost never an issue if the tart is made the day it is to be served). A sweet cream cheese filling is spread on top of the cooled chocolate layer and topped with fresh fruit and another drizzle of chocolate.
I tend not to measure things like chocolate and strawberries when I make this tart. For the chocolate, I simply melt some to coat the bottom of the crust, then remelt it (along with more, if necessary) to do the finishing drizzle. For the fruit, I always overbuy. This allows me to pick and choose the best looking berries, etc. for my topping and gives me plenty left over for munching while I work. It’s hard to go wrong with fresh fruit and chocolate, so keep in mind the fact that if you have both leftover, you can always indulge in a bit of chocolate fondue before serving the tart.
Strawberries and Cream Cheese Tart
2 cups all purpose flour
3 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup butter
1/4 cup ice water
Preheat oven to 350F.
In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar and salt. Rub in butter with your fingertips (or use “pulse” on a food processor) until mixture is crumbly and resembles wet sand. Stir in water, adding an additional tablespoon if necessary, until dough starts to come together and clumps easily.
Press dough into a disc and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Roll out dough between two sheets of wax paper and press into a 9 or 10-inch round tart pan. Pastry will be a bit thinner with a 10-inch pan.
Place tart pan on baking sheet and place a piece of aluminum foil on top of pastry. Fill foil will pie weights (or uncooked beans/lentils) and bake for 12-minutes at 350F.
Remove foil and weights and continue baking for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown. (May need an extra minute if using a 9-inch pan).
Cool completely before filling.
Dark chocolate (approx 6-oz.)
8-oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tbps Bailey’s irish Cream*
Fresh strawberries (approx 2 pints), sliced
Melt 4-oz dark chocolate in a small, microwave-safe bowl and pour into crust. Spread evenly to coat the bottom with a thin layer of chocolate.
Refrigerate for 30 minutes, or until cool and firm.
Beat cream cheese, powdered sugar and Bailey’s in a large bowl until smooth. Pour into cooled crust.
Top cream cheese filling with sliced berries (or other fruit).
Melt remaining dark chocolate and drizzle over the berries.
Refrigerate tart for at least 30 minutes, or until ready to serve.
*Feel free to use vanilla extract and 2 tbsp milk or cream if you don’t want liqueur. Bailey’s works well with strawberries and raspberries, but if you want to use other fruits – oranges, kiwi, blueberries, etc., try using an orange liqueur.