Who remembers the first time they heard about mascarpone cheese?
Some of you are all, “Um, yeah…it was, like, 11 words ago.” I hear ya, I hear ya. My first time learning about this soft cheese was after eating tiramisu in Baltimore’s Little Italy. After watching me struggle to figure out what it was that I was tasting; the waiter came over to educate me. I kind of RCA-dogged him and said, “Huh! Mascarpone. Huh…” and that was my intro to this mild, cousin of cream-cheese.
Now, besides being the star of tiramisu; mascarpone is equally important to a host of other recipes. You want a creamy risotto to rival any Michelin-starred restaurant? Stir in a cup of this stuff, and your James Beard nomination will surely soon follow. Adding mascarpone to parfaits makes them more delicate, cheesecakes will take on a new flavor profile and toast is made bougie. It’s underrated versatility makes mascarpone such a unique ingredient, that I keep at least a pound of the stuff in the fridge at all times. After all, who knows when one will need to whip up a tiramisu for late-night snacking? What? You don’t do that?
The fantastic thing about this particular tart is how simple it is to make. I like to fill most of my tarts with custards, so, admittedly, they can be a bit detailed in their preparation. Custards require tempering and cooling and setting up- all a bit labor-intensive. Worth it, yes, but this is quick-fix tart. With the exception of making and baking the tart shell, it can assembled and ready to eat in 15 minutes. I mean, if you’re not a traumatized former-pastry student who still thinks Chef Bandula is going to fail you for your horrible presentation, it will be.
Even the tart shell is a snap to prepare. So easy, in fact, I made an info-graphic to instruct you (and we all know how horrible I am at graphic arts). Look at it:
I did good, right?!?!
It couldn’t be simpler: combine the dry ingredients in your mixing bowl, then cut in the fats using a pastry cutter or your trusty fingers until the mixture is crumbly. Lastly, you add the cream and fold just until it comes together. Shape it into a disc, wrap it in plastic wrap, and allow to sit in the fridge for a half hour or so. The longer it has a chance to rest, the better it will bake. You want to allow the flour to have an opportunity to absorb the water from the butter, cream cheese and cream. This chilly siesta also allows the gluten strands that were worked during the mixing process to relax. This, in turn, helps avoid (if not altogether eliminate) the dreaded shrinkage many home bakers encounter. But, Dude, I’m really proud of my info-graphic.
After your “amazingly-easy-to-prepare-because-of-Marta’s-fantastic-info-graphic-tart-dough” has rested, you need to roll it out on a lightly floured surface into a 14″ circle. Fit it into a 12″ or 10″ tart pan- one with a removable bottom like this one is money. Prick the bottom with holes (too prevent puffing). Then, line the inside with a parchment circle big enough to cover the surface of the dough and pour in some ceramic pie weights. These bad boys will keep your crust from any puffing and will give you a nice, flat interior. Bake the shell in a 350°F oven for 10 minutes, carefully remove the weights and parchment and bake for another 8 minutes to brown it up a lil’, and check it…
…see? Flatter than my chest in middle school…wait…wha-what?!!?
Now, the cool thing about mascarpone is that you don’t have to bring it to room temperature like cream cheese. It’s smooth and creamy straight out of the tub. Because of that, I highly recommend this recipe for those days when you’ve been “volun-told” to bring a potluck dessert to whatever facist organization your loved one has forced you into. Here I’ve flavored the cream with a bit of orange zest (here’s my favorite microplane), vanilla bean paste, powder sugar, and, as always, salt to bring out the sweetness and balance the flavors.
With recipes like this, I encourage you to try using different flavors as you become more comfortable and knowledgeable with their complimentary counterparts. I’ll help you with this along the way. For now, try a cream flavored with lime zest and coconut- topped with tropical fruits. Lemon zest with almond extract and grilled peaches would be another amazing variation. Just pop in from time to time with some ideas and you and I can brainstorm and collab. That would be dope.
Whereas mascarpone is a delicate cheese it’s not delicate enough, at least in this dessert, to be the sole ingredient for this filling. One way to make a dense filling light and airy, is to fold some whipped cream into it. Here, I’ve whipped heavy cream to stiff peak (the cream should stand up like mountain peaks when you remove the whisk or beaters from it). Folding it into the mixed mascarpone makes a quick, faux-custard that relieves you of all dessert-induced stress. You’re welcome. I love you too.
Now all that’s left to do is fill the baked and cooled tart shell with the mascarpone cream…
…and top with the berries.
Now, my Twinks or my Soldier would, all three, lob the berries onto the surface of the cream from across the kitchen. They couldn’t care less about presentation or appearance- well, maybe my daughter would. She does, after all, want to be a “Professional Organizer” when she grows up. I, however, do care about presentation and I needed to take pictures for you, so I did a fancy lil’ sun-sunthin. Placement of berries immaterial, finishing this tart off with a generous dollop of sweetened whipped cream and more berries for garnish will complete this sweet work of art.
Why is the aforementioned “sweetened” in bold? Well, because this is the face you make when you greedily stuff your face with the unsweetened whipped cream you folded into the mascarpone earlier:
Not pretty, I know. Sweetened whipped cream, friends. And don’t forget to pin this recipe for later!
If you like this recipe you’ll definitely love these:
Tres Leches Paletas
Lemon Semolina Cakettes
Berry Tart with Vanilla-Mascarpone Cream
- 1 cup all purpose flour sifted, plus more for rolling out dough
- 1 cup finely ground almond flour or an additional cup of all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 stick unsalted butter diced
- 1/2 pkg 4 oz cream cheese, cold, diced
- 2 tbsp heavy whipping cream
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 8 oz mascarpone cheese
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
- 1 tsp orange zest
- pinch of kosher salt
- 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar divided
- 1/2 pint blueberries rinsed and stems removed
- 1 pint raspberries rinsed1 pint blackberries, rinsed
- 1 1/2 pints strawberries rinse, hulled, and thinly sliced
Fruit Glaze (optional):
- 1/2 cup fruit jam strawberry or raspberry
- 2 tbsp water
- Prepare the tart dough by combining the flours and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the butter and cream cheese and cut into the dry ingredients using a pastry blender or your hands. The mixture should resemble course meal. Add the heavy whipping cream and mix just until the dough comes together. Form into a disc and wrap in plastic film. Refrigerate for at least a half-hour.
- Preheat your oven to 350°F. Cut a piece of parchment paper into a circle, using the bottom of your tart pan as a template- set aside. When the dough has rested for a minimum of 30 min. Remove from the plastic wrap and, on a lightly floured surface, roll out into a 14" circle. Line your tart pan with the circle of dough and press into the pan firmly to ensure it is lined well. Using a fork, prick holes into the bottom of the dough. Place the circle of parchment paper, lightly, onto the surface of the dough and fill the pan with ceramic pie weights (or dried beans). Try to keep the weights on the paper.
- Bake for 10 mins. After ten minutes, remove the tart pan carefully from the oven (REMEMBER the bottom is removable so be careful not to poke up through the center when removing it from the oven!). Remove the ceramic weights and paper by carefully gathering up the edges of the paper to the center and removing from the pan. Pour the weights back into their container and discard the paper.
- Return the pan to the oven and bake for an additional 8-10 min or until golden brown. Remove from the oven, carefully, and allow to cool for ten minutes. After ten minutes, remove the tart pan's ring, and allow the tart shell to cool completely on the tart pan's bottom.
- While the shell is cooling, make the cream filling by, first, whipping the heavy cream to stiff peaks. Reserve a 1/2 cup of whipped cream for garnishing later.
- In a separate bowl, stir the mascarpone cheese until smooth. Add the vanilla paste, orange zest, salt, and 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp of sugar. Stir until completely smooth. Using a spoon or a rubber spatula, gently fold in the larger quantity of whipped cream until the mixture is smooth. Fill the tart shell with the cream.
- Garnish the top of the tart with the berries in a decorative pattern (if desired). To prevent the berries from drying out, brush with the fruit glaze. Simply combine the jam and water in a microwave-safe bowl and heat for 45 seconds. Stir until smooth and brush a thin layer onto the fruits' surfaces.
- Fold the remaining sugar into the whipped cream you reserved earlier and spoon onto the top of the assembled tart. Refrigerate until you are ready to enjoy!
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