Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Strawberry Mascarpone Tart with an Almond Shortbread Crust

Strawberry Mascarpone Tart with an Almond Shortbread Crust

Yes, I know. Strawberries in late August!? Especially after I recently championed the bounty of the late-summer micro-season to a national audience? Though I enjoy and recommend eating with the seasons. I'm not the most diehard, and I assure you, this purchase of California Driscoll berries was for a very good reason. I'll explain.

About a month ago I was out with my fella, his sister, brother, and sister-in-law Luigia, at the Quarry House, a former basement speakeasy and one of the best and oldest bars in the DC area that boasts a great beer selection, whiskey menu, rockabilly/honky-tonk Saturday nights AND Old Bay tater tots. It was indeed, a Saturday night, and we were enjoying our Clipper City Ales, sampling the whiskey and dancing to some real genuine Southern rock. Back at the table, trying to hear each others' jokes over the loud music, all of our phones (except Luigia's) went off at once. We checked our messages to discover that we had all gotten the same text, from, of course, Luigia: "Don't forget my birthday party August 11." I put it in my calendar then and there.

Luigia is a wonder of a gal. She's Italian, and though she learned English within the past few years, she still manages to be utterly hilarious in a language not her own (Quite a challenge as I remember from my study abroad days, where I could only eek out a few lame French puns). She's fun and caring and strong-- just pretty radical all around. I was not gonna miss her birthday. And I was going to make her a birthday treat.

When the party weekend rolled around a month later, I asked Luigia what kind of pie/tart/cake she wanted. She said she liked fruit tarts and loved strawberries. So of course a strawberry tart it was for the birthday girl. When I found this recipe for a strawberry mascarpone tart with almond shortbread (& a brilliant red strawberry simple syrup!) I knew it hit a trifecta of Luigia's loves--the crust especially, as she had really dug the grapefruit-ginger marmalade with almond shortbread crostata I'd made back in the spring. As usual I was snapping these shots in a hurry before rushing off to the party, so please excuse the slight blur, but this recipe is no slouch.

Strawberry Simple Syrup

Strawberry Mascarpone Tart with Almond Shortbread Crust
Adapted from Dust Jacket 

Makes 1 11-inch tart

For crust:
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour, sifted
1 c. almond meal (make your own by grinding almonds in the food processor)
3/4 c. confectioner's sugar 
10 Tblsp. (1 stick +2 Tblsp.) butter
4 egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. almond extract
1 T. ice water

For filling:
1 c. heavy whipping cream
1 c. confectioner's sugar, sifted
1 vanilla bean, split in half and seeds scraped
3 c. mascarpone
2 Tblsp. lemon rind
1 lb. strawberries (3 1/2-4 c.), hulled and halved

For strawberry simple syrup: 
2 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. water
3/4 c. strawberries, hulled and quartered

1. Combine flour, almond meal, and sugar in a food processor and pulse until well combined. Add cold butter chunks to the almond mixture and process until mix is the size of small peas. Add egg yolks, extracts and ice water and pulse just until dough begins to form. Remove pastry dough from the food processor and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Chill for at least one hour and up to 1 day.

2. After dough has chilled, preheat oven to 350 degrees F and lightly grease the bottom and sides of an 11-inch tart pan. Remove the dough from the fridge. Roll out dough between two sheets of parchment paper and transfer to the tart pan, forming the crust up the sides (dough will be crumbly, so you may have to piece it together). Fold dough over the sides to ensure that the tart will have a strong edge. Prick all over the bottom with a fork. Chill for 30 minutes.

3. Line the pastry with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove paper and pie weights and bake for 10-12 minutes longer until golden brown. Let cool to room temperature.

4. While tart is baking, make the strawberry simple syrup.  Place sugar, water and strawberries in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Boil for 10-15 minutes until thickened. Strain out strawberries and let cool.

5. For the filling, place cream, confectioners sugar and vanilla bean seeds in a medium size bowl or bowl of a stand mixer and whisk until soft peaks form. Stir in mascarpone and lemon rind  until just combined.  Spoon mascarpone cream into the cooled tart shell and smooth with a knife or spatula. Top decoratively with the strawberries. When ready to serve, drizzle with the simple syrup.

Strawberry Mascarpone Tart with Almond Shortbread Crust

Looking for more strawberries? Try the Nothing-in-the-House Strawberry Crème Tart or our Strawberry Icebox Pie. Or maybe it's the almond shortbread crust you're after? Then get to this Almond & Grapefruit-Ginger Marmalade Crostata.

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