What a beautiful day today! The sun is shining, the sky is bright blue and there is this gentle breeze, just enough for flying the flags that decorate the many homes around us.
By now, Ken is pretty much used to the idea that the entire country is celebrating his birthday. For years, we were always envious, but concurrently happy for him, having fireworks around the country, music and dancing events everywhere and sizzling hot dogs, hamburgers and juicy stakes on BBQ grills, that we could smell the aromas even through the computer. What luck to be born on July fourth.
It is also a great time to take advantage of the many summer fruits displayed so attractively in Supermarkets, Farmer’s Markets, and at the kiosks and stands of individual farmers that you have to hold yourself not to grab one peach or apricot and bite into it while the juices are running down at the side of your mouth (although that may not be a pretty picture). Today, however, is the day when you want something red, white and blue and that is what I created for our birthday guy.
Although, I have ready-made tart shells in the freezer (and I trust you do too if you were following me?), I was in the mood to create another tart base, where I used cream cheese in the preparation of the dough. Cream cheese makes the tart shell tenderer, yet even more flakey then the other Pate Brisee we just made.
TART DOUGH WITH CREAM CHEESE
- 2 cups (260g or 9 ounce) flour (I used 1:1 ratio of cake and all-purpose flour)
- 1-cup (8 ounce or 227g) sweet butter cut into 1-inch cubes
- ½ teaspoon salt
- One package farmer cheese (you can use this cheese or Philadelphia cream cheese, but not fat-free; 8 ounce or 227 g)
- Cold water as needed
- 1-2 teaspoon white vinegar or apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons apricot jam
- 2 tablespoons water (or a liqueur of your choice)
Choice of Fruits; brush the remaining sealer on the fruits
This time I used the Food Processing method, because I wanted to do a “fast job�? and I did not want to labor in the kitchen on July 4th. As I told you before, you do lose some flakiness with this method of preparation, but I think it is acceptable for a day when you want to be with your family and friends more, than spending the day in the kitchen.
- Process the cream- or farmer cheese with the flour mix in the Food Processor, using the metal blade, until the cream cheese is well blended with the flour.
- Pour the content of the Food Processor bowl into another bowl and place it in the freezer for 20 minutes.
- Place the cold butter (preferably frozen pieces) in the food processor and process the butter by itself for about 4-5 pulses; while the processor is still running add the salt and vinegar and mix well.
- Take out the bowl from the freezer, pour its content into the food processor and pulse the mixture 8-10 times. Add the cold water by one-tablespoon increments to help the dough formation. All the ingredients need to come together to create the dough.
- Shape the dough into two disks. Wrap it with a plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 2 hours or overnight.
THE DAY OF FINAL PREPARATION
- Take out the dough from the freezer, and in about 1 hour, you can roll the dough into a circle that is larger in diameter then the tart pan you will be using (i.e. if you are using a 9-inch pan, roll the dough into a circle with 12 inch diameter. You will see how easy it is to work with this dough because of the cream cheese (the dough is not tearing, it is less sticky and it feels easy to roll).
- Pre-heat the oven the 450F; Prepare a shelve in the lower third section of the oven.
- Roll the dough around the rolling-pin, and then unroll it into the buttered tart pan.
- Make sure to press the dough all around the sides, the bottom and the corners. Try to leave the edge about 1 inch larger than the pan, so that you can create a reinforced side for the tart shell, by folding the edges back into the pan.
- Pick the bottom of the dough with fork a few places.
- Prepare the dough for blind baking (cover the dough with a foil paper and fill the pan with either store-bought pie balls, or with beans or rice, to prevent the dough from puffing up. Reduce the oven temperature to 400F and blind bake the dough for 20 minutes.
- Remove the little balls, or whatever you used for keeping the dough from rising up, and bake the dough uncovered for another 10 minutes to get a nice, light-reddish-brown color.
- Let the shell cool in the pan.
Prepare a sealer
- Take 2 tablespoons apricot jam with 2 tablespoons of water (you can use a liqueur or wine instead of the water, if you wish) and let it boil for 1 minute, then strain it.
- Let the “sealer�? cool, then paint the pre-baked shell all around with it, including the sides, by using a pastry brush
- Let the sealer dry for 15 minutes, and the shell is ready to be filled.
Alternatively you could drop the sealing method if you use ground-nuts (i.e. almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, etc.,) on the bottom of the shell to absorb the liquid from the fruits.
I covered the bottom of the shell with a thin layer of whipped cream to have some while color picking out between the fruits. As you can see from the photograph, I arranged blueberries, raspberries and apricot in the shell decoratively.
I hope I inspired you to create the same; it does not have to be any occasion to create this great looking, refreshing summer tart.
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