Saturday, May 5, 2007

Jay, Conan and Dessert

My husband and I are attending a dinner tomorrow/today we are requested to bring dessert. I usually make desserts after my daughter has gone to sleep for the night so that I can have the kitchen to myself. So I usually end up watching (although it's more like listening to) Jay Leno and Conan while I make my dessert. It's quite relaxing.

The dessert we are bringing is a berry tart made in individual servings.

Yes, it's a PITA sometimes to make individual servings but I like them for the following reasons:
  1. Each person can have their own piece without feeling ripped off because they had to scrape the pie pan for a serving.
  2. Sometimes after eating a large meal, you only want a bite of dessert
  3. They're cute
This recipe was adapted from a three berry tart recipe from one of those booklets you find at the checkout line. My version uses a pastry crust (a pate brisee) instead of an animal cracker crust just because a cookie/graham cracker crust would crumble in someone's hand.

This recipe for Pate Brisee is so simple and the crust comes out nice and flaky.

Pate Brisee (Shortcrust Pastry)

Makes 2 9-inch pie shells or 24-36 mini tarts

2-1/2 cups of all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) of unsalted butter cut into cubes and chilled
1/4 to 1/2 cup of ice water

Rolling pin
Mini cupcake pans or mini tart pans
Fork or parchment paper/aluminum foil and uncooked dried beans

In a food processor, pulse together the flour, salt and sugar until combined. Add butter and pulse until butter chunks beceome pea-sized. Add water slowly until it just comes together. It should look a little dry and if you squeeze a little bit in your hands, it should come together. Don't over-pulse or the dough will be tough. Turn out the dough onto a board and bring it together with your hands. Divide the dough in half and wrap each of the halves in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least one hour to allow the gluten do develop.

30 minutes before rolling the dough, bring the dough out of the fridge to room temperature. On a lightly floured board, roll out the dough to 1/8 of an inch. When you roll out the dough, keep the dough moving by picking it up and rotating it every few passes of the rolling pin. This will prevent sticking.

Use a 2-1/2 inch round cookie cutter to cut out the circles for your mini tarts. Press them down the bottom and sides of your mini cupcake pan or tart pan. Dock the dough (that's a fancy way of saying poke holes in the dough) with your fork along the bottom and sides of the cake pan. This will reduce the uneven rising in the oven. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes before baking. Alternatively, you can cut small pieces of aluminum foil or parchment and tuck them in your dough and fill it with pie weights or uncooked dried beans and then place them directly in the oven (no need to refrigerate, but it's better to let it rest if you have the time).

Bake at 400°F for 20-25 minutes or until the dough is lightly browned. Allow to cool completely before filling.

Cream Cheese Filling
makes enough for one pie or one large tart pan or 24-36 mini muffin cups

8-oz package of cream cheese at room temperature (neufchatel works great, too)
1 cup of heavy cream
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
zest of 1/2 a lemon
2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Beat cream cheese, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla extract until light and fluffy. Add heavy cream and beat until stiff peaks form. Scrape the bowl frequently.

Filling the pastry cups
Fit a large star tip (Ateco #824) on a 16-inch pastry bag. Fill the bag with the cream cheese filling. Pipe nice swirlies in the cups to about 1/2 inch - 3/4 inch above the crust. Refrigerate at least 3 hours or overnight.

Berry Top
This is pretty straightforward. Fresh strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries work well together. I pick two or three berries for the tarts. The key is contrasting colors so try not to work with both raspberries and strawberries together (unless you're going for a red theme). Quarter regular-sized hulled strawberries. I had gigantor strawberries and needed to cut them into eighths.

Glaze: 2-tbsp of strawberry or seedless raspberry preserves and 1 tbsp of water. Heat preserves and water in the microwave for 30 seconds until melted.

Push two or three berries onto the peaks of the filled cups. Lightly brush glaze over the berries to keep the berries shiny and moist.

You can make this into a large tart with a graham cracker crust and it is a HIT at parties. It's also about 500 calories for 1/10th of a piece of pie. That's why I like little bites better.

And there you have it! Mini berry tarts. Cute, sophisticated, and oh-so-yummy!

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