If you are planning on preparing a lovely meal for your special Valentine on Monday, this might just be the perfect ending. Fresh, light, creamy, a little sweet but not over the top, it goes beautifully with a rich entree. This is the kind of dessert that makes people want to lick their plates so they don’t miss a drop!
I don’t know where I first ran across the idea for this dessert. It probably was about the time I discovered mascarpone, the luscious Italian form of cream cheese. Topping cheesecake with fresh fruit was common, but the creaminess of mascarpone took that concept to a whole new level. This is not a cheesecake, it isn’t baked (well, the crust is baked…), but it may become your preferred sweetened cheese dessert!
Mascarpone (moss-car-poh-nay) is a triple-creme cheese made from fresh cream. The cows have been fed a special diet high in fresh herbs and flowers giving the cheese a lightness with floral overtones. It is one of the regional dishes of Lombardy and can be used in the place of cream cheese in nearly every recipe. It doesn’t have the same tanginess, so you may want to reduce the amount of sugar slightly to compensate.
The traditional colors for Valentine’s Day are red and white, and that is what prompted my use of raspberries. But you can use any type of fruit that you like and that is sweet and fresh. Pineapple, kiwi, strawberries, blueberries, etc. all make good options. The primary intent is to completely cover the surface with fruit. This helps keep the cream fresh. If you are using different kinds of fruits, sketch out your design ahead of time so you have a pattern to work from. It makes it much easier and more organized! This can be as simple or stunning as you want.
We’ve all walked into professional bakeries and marveled at the glorious fruit tarts on display. Did you ever wonder how they got them so shiny on top? It is a very simple trick that also helps preserve the fruit. Just melt red currant or apricot jam (depending on the color desired) and brush it over the top. Your guests will be astounded and flummoxed – while you sit back and smile, LOL!
The tart dough is really easy to work with and quite forgiving. It is much easier to work with than regular pie dough and you don’t need to be nearly as careful with it. If there are any cracks when you put it in the tart pan, just press them together to patch it. Make sure you press the dough firmly all the way up the sides. It will probably extend over the top; just use the heel of your hand and press it down all around. The top of the tart pan will cut off the excess for you!
While we’re talking about the tart pan, make sure you get one with fluted sides and a removable bottom. Like an Angel food cake pan but without the center tube, when you are ready to serve, hold your hand under the center of the pan and ease the sides down. Because you pre-baked the crust fully, it holds up perfectly on its own, unlike a pie crust. If you prefer, you can also make these in tiny tart pans for individual servings. Either way, make sure the filling is evenly distributed and smoothed before placing the fruit on the top.
This can be made anytime of the year, but if it is warm, keep the tart refrigerated so the cheese filling doesn’t melt. This is one of those desserts that can be presented very simply with just a drizzle of the raspberry sauce and no fruit, to a full-blown extravaganza of fruit. Let your imagination go wild!! Happy Festive Friday – enjoy your weekend!!
- 1-1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 6 tbsp unsalted butter, chilled
- 2 tbsp vegetable shortening, chilled
- Large pinch salt
- 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
- 3 tbsp ice cold water
- 1-1/2 cups mascarpone cheese, about 3/4 lb
- 3 tbsp powdered sugar
- Up to 1/2 cup very cold heavy cream
- 2 cups fresh raspberries, rinsed and patted dry, or any combination of fresh fruit, peeled and sliced if appropriate
- 1/3 cup red currant jelly or seedless raspberry, melted over low heat
- Raspberry Sauce
- 1 (10 oz) package frozen raspberries in syrup, thawed or 2-1/2 cups fresh raspberries (if using fresh berries, increase sugar to 1/4 cup)
- 2 tbsp sugar, or to taste
- 1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice, or to taste.
- Pastry: In the bowl of a food processor, place the flour, butter, shortening, salt and sugar and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add water, 1 tbsp at a time, and pulse just until dough comes together. Wrap in plastic and chill 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Roll-out dough on well-floured work surface, to about a 13 to 14 inch circle or big enough to fit an 11-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Ease dough gently into pan, pressing against the bottom and sides. Line with foil. Fill with raw beans or pie weights all the way to the top and bake in the bottom 1/3 of the oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove beans and foil and return to the oven. Continue baking for another 5 minutes or until pastry is golden brown. Set aside to cool.
- Filling: In a medium bowl, mix mascarpone cheese and sugar together gently with a fork. Taste and add more sugar if desired. Add cream, 1 tbsp at a time, mixing gently to blend. Add only enough to make a smooth consistency. Do not over-mix or the cheese will become too thin.
- Assembly: Spread cream in cooled pie shell. Arrange cleaned berries over top, pointed end up, completely covering the cream. Brush berries with melted jelly, making sure to completely cover the berries and any exposed cream filling. This helps keep the tart fresh. Chill in refrigerator for 3 to 4 hours before serving.
- Make the Sauce: Combine the sauce ingredients in a food processor or blender. Puree until smooth. Taste and adjust sugar and lemon juice to taste. Using a very fine wire sieve set over a bowl, press mixture with the back of a spoon or ladle, extracting the liquid and removing all the seeds. If necessary, pour through the sieve twice to make sure it is perfectly smooth. Transfer to a small pitcher or squeeze bottle. Will keep, refrigerated, for up to 3 days.
- To Serve: Slice tart into wedges and dust with a little powdered sugar if desired. Drizzle with a little of the Raspberry Sauce and serve.
- Yield: about 8 servings