Category Archives: dessert

strawberry-almond cream tart

At an intersection just down from my neighborhood, there is a white canopy-style tent set up on the side of the road. The tent is the home of a fruit and vegetable stand, and, while it probably should be a temporary thing (city ordinances and all that), the fruit stand and the guy running it are always there. Pretty much every day. He usually sells Plant City strawberries, and occasionally the sign will read “beefstake tomatoes.” I never buy the tomatoes, mostly because I’m perpetually annoyed that he can’t spell beefsteak. I do buy the strawberries, however.

strawberry almond cream tart

Plant City is in Hillsborough County, about 25 miles east of Tampa. Plant City is most known for strawberries, and there is a big festival each year – the Florida Strawberry Festival – honoring and celebrating that fact. And those strawberries are good. Really, really good.

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So, since we’re overrun with fresh strawberries, I decided to put some to use. And, since I try to at least consider eating healthy (whether or not it actually ends up happening), I pulled a recipe from one of my favorite food magazines – Cooking Light. It was also a great chance to try out my new tart pan.

The crust is a graham cracker crust, and I followed the recipe instructions exactly. However, when I poured it into the tart pan and pressed the graham cracker mixture into place, there were some bare spots in the pan. It was easy to fix. I made another batch of the crust and just used what I needed to fill in the holes.

graham cracker crust

I also used the light cream cheese called for in the recipe. You could use regular cream cheese, but honestly? I don’t think you need to. It was plenty rich and creamy without the extra fat from regular cream cheese.

The strawberry puree glaze was wonderful, and the recipe actually makes about twice as much as is needed for the tart. I saved half of the glaze with the intention of using it over ice cream, or perhaps stirred in some steel cut oats.

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The strawberry-almond cream tart was so delicious that it’s easy to forget that it’s relatively healthy. It took us a handful of days, but the four of us managed to polish it off without too much difficulty.

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Strawberry-Almond Cream Tart

(Adapted from Cooking Light magazine. Note: in this version I increased the amount of cream cheese from 6 to 8 ounces and I used more crust, so the nutrition information for the original recipe is not going to be accurate. )
Crust:
  • 36 honey graham crackers (about 9 sheets)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 4 teaspoons water
  • Cooking spray

Note: I doubled this and only used what was necessary to form the crust without any bare spots.

Filling:
  • 8 oz light cream cheese, softened  (or feel free to use regular if that’s your preference)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Topping:
  • 6 cups fresh strawberries, divided
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted
Preparation
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. To prepare crust, process crackers in a food processor until crumbly. Add the sugar, butter, and water; pulse until just moist. Place mixture in a 9-inch round removable-bottom tart pan coated with cooking spray. Press mixture into bottom and up the sides to about 3/4 inch. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until slightly browned. Let cool completely on a wire rack.
  3. To prepare filling, combine cream cheese, 1/4 cup sugar, and vanilla and almond extracts in a bowl; stir until smooth. Spread mixture evenly over the bottom of the cooled tart shell.
  4. To prepare topping, place 2 cups strawberries in food processor; process until pureed. Combine strawberry puree, 2/3 cup sugar, and cornstarch in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring with a whisk. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low; cook 1 minute. Remove glaze from heat and cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.
  5. Combine 4 cups strawberries and lemon juice; toss to coat. Arrange berries, bottoms up, in a circular pattern over filling. Spoon half of the glaze over the berries (reserve the remaining glaze for another use). Sprinkle the sliced almonds around the edge of the tart. Cover and chill for 3 hours.
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lovely lemon bars

Last week as I was browsing some of my favorite food blogs, I came across this post for lemon shortbread bars from La Fuji Mama. Then I discovered this lemon bar post by Smitten Kitchen. You see, I have a thing for lemon bars. You may have guessed that.

lemon shortbread bars

So, after a tough week, I thought making a nice batch of these tart but sweet treats might lift my spirits and brighten the weekend.

lemons for lemon bars

I wanted to use Meyer lemons, but my impatience got the better of me. I sent my husband to the closest grocery store to see what he could find, and regular ol’ lemons it was. No Meyers.

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I used a blend of recipes for these lemon bars. I slightly modified La Fuji Mama’s recipe for the shortbread crust by adding a half teaspoon of Kosher salt. For the filling, I used this recipe from Gourmet magazine, but I added a teaspoon of lemon zest and half teaspoon of good vanilla.

shortbread crust, ready to bake

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freshly dusted

I loved the thickness of the shortbread. The ratio of lemon filling to shortbread was essentially one to one, and this helped cut down on the tartness of the lemon in each bite. The best thing? Watching my family devour them. It worked — my spirits were lifted.

lemon shortbread bars

lemon shortbread bars

Lemon Shortbread Bars

(Adapted from La Fuji Mama & Gourmet)

Ingredients for Shortbread Base:

3 cups all-purpose flour

1-1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar (plus 3 tbsp for dusting the top of the bars)

1-1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

Ingredients for Lemon Filling:

4 large eggs

1-1/2 cups granulated sugar

3/4 cup fresh lemon juice, strained

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon good vanilla

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9 x 13 x 2 inch baking dish.

2. Make the shortbread base: Using a food processor, combine the flour, confectioner’s sugar, butter, and salt. Pat dough into greased baking dish. Bake for 18-20 minutes (crust will be slightly golden-colored).

3. While shortbread base is baking, make the lemon filling: Whisk together the eggs and granulated sugar until combined well. Stir in lemon juice, flour, vanilla, and lemon zest.

4. Pour lemon filling into baking dish, over the hot shortbread filling. Bake for an additional 20-25 minutes, until filling is set.

5. Let cool completely before cutting into bars. Sift confectioner’s sugar over bars prior to serving.

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ad hoc-inspired peach cobbler

Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc cookbook is now one of my favorites. But, like most of the cookbooks I’ve purchased lately, I tend to read all the recipes but never make a single one. For a recent meal, I decided to give the cobbler recipe in Ad Hoc a try. The recipe is for blueberry cobbler, but since my husband is anything but a blueberry fan, I had to go with peaches.

I used seven large peaches, but ten or eleven would have been better. After mixing the fresh sliced and peeled fruit with sugar, a bit of flour, and lemon zest, I poured the peaches into a 9 x 13 inch pan and topped it with the homemade topping.

a watched pot...

The cobbler smelled delicious as it was baking in the oven. I usually go more for chocolate desserts, but the aromas that filled my kitchen were heavenly and irresistible.
peach cobbler

After baking it for 40 minutes at 350 degrees, the peaches bubbled and the topping was golden brown on top.

peaches and crust

The cake-like topping was wonderful with a subtle sweetness, and the cinnamon sugar topping added a nice flavor to each bite. I didn’t think there was enough juiciness in the fruit, but I can probably remedy this by using more fruit next time around.

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