Author: Rebecca Lindamood (adapted from Krysta Guerrero of Evil Chef Mom)
Recipe type: Dessert
Brown sugar shortbread tart shells are the perfect vehicle for the creamy, fluffy, slightly sweet and ever so slightly tangy mascarpone filling topped with bursting-with-flavour strawberries and a touch of fresh thyme.
Ingredients for the tart shells:
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 tablespoon corn starch
⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup well-chilled butter, cut into small pieces
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Ingredients for filling:
8 ounces softened Neufchatel cheese
1 cup (8 ounces) mascarpone
1 cup (8 ounces) half and half
3 tablespoons light brown sugar, firmly packed
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound (about 1 quart) fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced. If you are making mini tarts, each tart requires about 3 berries.
Optional: 1 small sprig of fresh thyme per tart.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Spray 9 mini tart pans (with removable bottoms) ~or 1 [9-inch] large tart pan with a removable bottom~ with nonstick cooking spray and place on a rimmed baking sheet.
Using a food processor fitted with a blade, pulse together the flour, brown sugar, salt and cornstarch until evenly combined.
Add the pieces of butter and vanilla extract to the food processor and pulse until you have very finely textured crumbs that hold together like a dough when you squeeze a small handful.
Divide the mixture between the tart pans and press evenly over the bottom and up the sides, taking care to firmly press the sides so it holds together. Shake off any excess crumbs.
Place baking sheet in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the edges are golden. (If using one large tart pan, bake closer to 22 minutes.)
Transfer the tart pans to a cooling rack to cool completely.
When tart shells are fully cooled, carefully push the bottom up through the tart pan, removing the cooked shell from the pan. If the shells seem sturdy, you can try to remove the bases as well, but if they're even the littlest bit crumbly, leave them on the bases.
Set the removed tart shells on a rimmed platter or baking sheet.
Beat the softened neufchatel cheese on medium-high speed (in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer) until it is smooth and creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the mascarpone, half and half, brown sugar and vanilla.
With the mixer on medium, blend, scraping the side of the bowl at least twice, until the mixture is smooth and even.
Scoop the cream filling into the tart shells, mounding slightly.
Arrange a circle of strawberries, cut side up, around the edge of the tart.
Follow this inside with slightly smaller, overlapping circle of strawberries, cut side down.
Complete the topping with a couple slices of strawberries arranged in the center.
Cover loosely with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours prior to serving.
If desired, top each tart with a small sprig of fresh thyme just before serving.
You can, as noted above, use one large tart pan instead of nine miniature ones. If you opt to do that, simply arrange the strawberries in alternating circles of cut sides up and down for visual appeal. You can scatter minced thyme over the top prior to serving or top each slice with a small sprig.
Recipe by Foodie With Family at http://www.foodiewithfamily.com/2011/05/09/brown-sugar-strawberries-and-cream-mini-tarts/