Strawberry-Cream Cheese Tart with Graham Cracker and Almond Crust
Makes one 9-inch tart, serving 8 to 10
The year I first made this recipe, the strawberries were phenomenal, even in late winter from out-of-state sources. I usually serve them macerated with liqueur, as in the recipe in the similar and related recipes links. But, for a special occasion, I decided to try something different. Do not be fooled by the length of the recipe. This tart is so easy and, if you use reduced fat cream cheese, considerably healthier than most since I also replaced almonds for some of the crackers and use very little butter in the crust. As noted, you can also use a sugar substitute. See the notes below for using different size pans and alternate choices when strawberries are not in season.
- 1 cup crushed graham crackers (about 6 sheets, crushed in the processor)
- 1/2 cup whole almonds, toasted
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar (or 1:1 sugar substitute, such as Splenda)
- 2 tablespoons butter, preferably unsalted, melted
- 4 teaspoons water
- 2/3 cup reduced-fat cream cheese (about 6.5 ounces), room temperature
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar (or 1:1 sugar substitute)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- 6 cups fresh strawberries, divided (see notes below)
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar (or 1:1 sugar substitute)
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- Fresh mint leaves (optional garnish)
For the crust, preheat oven to 350° F. Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 9-inch round tart pan with cooking spray. Place the almonds in the processor and pulse several times to break them apart. Then add the graham cracker crumbs and process until the mixture is fairly fine. Add the butter and water and pulse again, just until the mixture is moist. Place the crumb mixture into the tart pan and press into the bottom and to about 3/4-inch up the sides. Bake until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Cool completely on a cooling rack.
For the cream cheese filling, combine the cream cheese, sugar and both extracts in a medium bowl. Stir until smooth. Spread mixture into the bottom of the cooled crust.
Clean and hull the strawberries. Set aside 4 cups of the smallest and prettiest for the top of the tart. Place the remaining 2 cups in the food processor and process until pureed. Place the puree, sugar, and cornstarch in a small saucepan; whisk well to combine. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low and cook for one minute. Pour the mixture into a bowl large enough to hold the remaining strawberries and let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Stir in the lemon juice, then add the remaining 4 cups of strawberries and toss to coat with the glaze. Remove the strawberries from the glaze, one-by-one, and arrange, bottoms up, in a circular pattern on top of the cream cheese filling. Spoon half of the glaze over the strawberries, reserving the remainder for another use. (See notes below for suggestions.) Cover and chill for at least 3 hours, or up to 6 hours. Before serving, place individual mint leaves between the strawberries for a pretty garnish.
Notes: You can use any berries you want, so long as they are very fresh and sweet. Blueberries or raspberries are great. Use the appropriate jam for the glaze. If using strawberries, it is best to use small berries since they are kept whole. However, if they are large, cut off the tops after the berries are hulled and reserve them for the puree in the glaze. That way the bottoms are small enough to be used on the filling. I always buy extra berries just in case some are not as ripe or pretty. I add the extras to the leftover glaze and serve later in the week as is or on top of ice cream, pound cake or for shortcake. As for the tart pan, a removable bottom is always nice for a pretty presentation, but not necessary. You can also use a 9-inch springform pan or a 10-inch pie plate. Leftover tart, stored in the refrigerator, is still very good for several days, although the crust will absorb moisture and lose its crispy texture.