The thing about having a sweet tooth the size of a Mac Truck is that, in spite of all my running/hiking/swimming/biking/worrying, the pounds can really sneak up on my ass because of it. So I haven't been doing much baking lately. I think I'm still hungover from all that holiday partying, so I've mostly been sating my sweet tooth with fruit and tiny bits (ah hem) of hard candy. But when Shamu announced a Dim Sunday Sunday with a baking theme, how could I resist?
This recipe is inspired by something La Diva Cucina made during my recent visit to her swanky Miami abode. After plying Moi with wine, tostones, grilled skirt steak with chimichurri sauce, potato salad and the best cole slaw I've ever had, I still managed to have room left over for a fig compote with walnuts, balsamic vinegar, and mascarpone cheese. Which promptly made me think of how wonderful the combo would be as a tart. Which I fully intended to make for this challenge, but when I found out a dinner guest to whom I would serve the tart didn't like figs (!?!?!), I used strawberries instead. But I still intend to use the figs at some point . . .
Anyway, here's what I did, using what in my mind is the most fail safe tart dough known to man, courtesy the sadly now defunct Gourmet magazine. I apologize in advance for the crap photos. I STILL can't figure out my camera. Sheesh. Math.
STRAWBERRY & MASCARPONE TARTLETS
For the dough:
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large egg yolk
3 tablespoons ice cold water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
For the strawberries:
Core and cut into half a pound of fresh, ripe strawberries, and place in large bowl. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of granulated sugar stir, and let sit about 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Place strawberries in a sieve over a small saucepan, and let the juices slowly strain into the pan, about 30-60 minutes. Reserve berries. Add to the juice in the pan 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar (you can also use any alcohol of choice, like sherry, port, Kirsch, etc.), along with a tablespoon of sugar. Stir and bring mixture to a rapid boil until sugar has fully dissolved, about 2-3 minutes. Let sit for about 30 minutes to cool and thicken.
Take one pound of mascarpone cheese (2 cups) and thoroughly mix with 1/4 cup of confectioners sugar, and one teaspoon each of fresh lemon juice and vanilla extract.
Set of six, 3" diameter tartlet pans (I like the shiny tin ones from Williams and Sonoma. They're French, don't cha know, and their surface is perfect—your dough won't stick, but neither will it slip and shrink while baking like non-stick surfaces tend to do.)
OR: a 10" round tart pan with removable bottom.
Blend together flour, sugar, salt, and butter in a larger bowl, either with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. You can also do this in a food processor. Mixture should look like this:
Beat together the egg yolk, water, and vanilla then pour into middle of flour mixture and use fork to stir until a rough dough forms. Again, you can also do this in a food processor.
Then, pour mixture out onto a clean, lightly floured surface, and knead very briefly until a dough forms:
DO NOT OVER MIX or your tart dough will be tough.
Form dough into a flat disk about 5" around, wrap in wax paper, and refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to overnight.
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F. with rack placed in the middle of the oven.
Once dough is thoroughly chilled, take out of fridge and roll out into a round disk about 1/4" thick. Use tartlet pans to cut out perfectly formed disks and press those disks evenly into the pans, building up a kind of ridge at the top. Place tartlets on a larger baking pan.
Line each pan with a small piece of tin foil and fill with pie weights or beans to weigh down. Place in oven and bake for 20 minutes. Take pan from oven and carefully remove foil and weights. Place back in oven and cook another 15-20 minutes, turning once, until shells are an all over uniform deep golden brown. Cool in pans about 30-45 minutes.
To assemble your tartlets, spread about two tablespoons of mascarpone in each tart shell. Then, top with strawberries and drizzle the balsamic vinegar glaze over the top.