This entry is part 6 of 6 in the series Progressive Eats
Welcome to another edition of #ProgressiveEats, our virtual version of a progressive dinner party. This month’s theme is Holiday Dessert Extravaganza hosted by Jenni Field of Pastry Chef Online. This is such a talented group and each month I am thrilled with the beautiful and creative recipes everyone comes up with. You’ll love all the recipes this month, perfect for any holiday party or family gathering! Make sure you check out the links below the recipe.
Today I am sharing one of my favorite desserts. Fresh, light, creamy, and a little sweet, but not over the top. It beautifully complements rich entrées and typical heavy holiday meals. This is the kind of dessert that makes people want to lick their plates clean so they don’t miss a morsel.
Pressing the dough into the individual tart pans – working with crumbles of dough to create the crusts
I don’t know where I first ran across the idea for this dessert. It was probably about the time I discovered mascarpone, the luscious Italian form of cream cheese. The creaminess of mascarpone takes the concept of cheesecake to a whole new level. This is technically not a cheesecake because only the crust is baked but it may become your preferred sweetened cheese dessert!
Mascarpone is a triple-cream cheese made from fresh cream. The cows have been fed a special diet high in fresh herbs and flowers giving the cheese a lightness with floral overtones. It is one of the dishes of the Lombardy region of Italy and can be used in the place of cream cheese in nearly every recipe. It has a milder tanginess and is thinner so if you are using this in another recipe, you may want to reduce the amount of liquid slightly to compensate.
Even if you are not gluten-free I hope you will give this nutty crust a try. Crunchy, a bit sweet, a little like shortbread, and rich with butter and nuts, this is a delight for your senses and palate. I am so enamored with it that I use it whenever I can and it is always the base of my cheesecakes. The Artist prefers this to any graham cracker crust he’s ever had.
The filling starts out fairly firm and smooths out to fill the tart shells
We’ve all walked into professional bakeries and marveled at the glorious fruit tarts on display. Did you ever wonder how they got them so shiny on top? It is a very simple trick that also helps preserve the fruit. Just melt seedless red currant or apricot jam (depending on the color desired) and brush it over the top. Your guests will be astounded and mystified – while you sit back and smile, LOL!
I love the contrast of red and white colors often seen during the holidays, and that is what prompted my use of raspberries today. But you can use any type of fruit that you like and that is in season, sweet and fresh. Pineapple, kiwi, strawberries, and blueberries all make good options. The main goal is to cover as much of the mascarpone filling as possible with fruit. This helps keep the cream fresh. If you are using different kinds of fruits, mixing or alternating them is always attractive. Sketch out your design ahead of time so you have a pattern to work from. It makes it much easier and more organized! This design can be as simple or stunning as you want.
If you don’t already have mini tart pans, make sure you get ones with fluted sides and removable bottoms. When you are ready to serve, hold your hand under the center of the pans and ease the sides down. Transfer the tarts to serving plates carefully. Because you pre-baked the crust fully, it holds up perfectly on its own, unlike a pie crust. If making pie crust scares you, try these lovely tarts ~ incredibly easy to make and absolutely delicious.
These can be made any time of the year, but if it is warm in your house, keep the tarts refrigerated so the cheese filling doesn’t melt.
This is one of those desserts that can be presented very simply with just a drizzle of raspberry sauce over the mascarpone filling, all the way to a full-blown extravaganza of fruit. A thin layer of melted chocolate over the top of the mascarpone would be delicious too. Let your imagination go wild!!
Make these tarts for the holidays or any special occasion. They would be fabulous for Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day, the Fourth of July, etc. Change out the fruit to fit the occasion and season. They are delightful, perfect after heavy holiday meals, and something that everyone will love. And they can’t get any easier to make – simply the perfect dessert!
Using almond meal or grinding your own almonds makes a wonderful departure from the ubiquitous graham cracker crusts and it is gluten-free.
Kitchen Skill: Making a Tart Crust
Tart crusts like this one are especially easy to make. Crumble some of the dough into each pan, and starting at the sides, use your fingers to press it into the fluted edges and down onto the bottom of the pan. Press additional crumbled dough over the bottom, making sure it is gently pressed into the dough at the sides. If any dough has risen above the top of the pan, press the excess off with your fingers.
Using a fork, poke holes all over the bottom of the crust to minimize bubbling up as it bakes. This technique is called docking. If you do this kind of dessert often, it is worth buying a dough docker, a series of prongs on a revolving cylinder. It makes docking crusts really easy and quick. But with small tarts like these, a fork works best.
Individual Raspberry Mascarpone Tarts with Almond Crusts
© 1990 Jane Bonacci, The Heritage Cook. All rights reserved.
Yield: about 4 servings
- 1-1/2 cups ground almonds or almond meal
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- Pinch kosher salt
- 4 tbsp (1/2 stick; 1/4 cup) butter, melted
- 1 cup (8 oz) mascarpone cheese
- 1 tsp vanilla paste or pure extract
- 2 to 3 tbsp powdered sugar, to taste
- 1 to 2 tsp very cold heavy cream, only if needed
- 2 cups fresh raspberries, rinsed and patted dry
- 1/3 cup red currant jelly or seedless raspberry jelly
- Powdered sugar
- Fresh mint sprigs