At an intersection just down from my neighborhood, there is a white canopy-style tent set up on the side of the road. The tent is the home of a fruit and vegetable stand, and, while it probably should be a temporary thing (city ordinances and all that), the fruit stand and the guy running it are always there. Pretty much every day. He usually sells Plant City strawberries, and occasionally the sign will read “beefstake tomatoes.” I never buy the tomatoes, mostly because I’m perpetually annoyed that he can’t spell beefsteak. I do buy the strawberries, however.
Plant City is in Hillsborough County, about 25 miles east of Tampa. Plant City is most known for strawberries, and there is a big festival each year – the Florida Strawberry Festival – honoring and celebrating that fact. And those strawberries are good. Really, really good.
So, since we’re overrun with fresh strawberries, I decided to put some to use. And, since I try to at least consider eating healthy (whether or not it actually ends up happening), I pulled a recipe from one of my favorite food magazines – Cooking Light. It was also a great chance to try out my new tart pan.
The crust is a graham cracker crust, and I followed the recipe instructions exactly. However, when I poured it into the tart pan and pressed the graham cracker mixture into place, there were some bare spots in the pan. It was easy to fix. I made another batch of the crust and just used what I needed to fill in the holes.
I also used the light cream cheese called for in the recipe. You could use regular cream cheese, but honestly? I don’t think you need to. It was plenty rich and creamy without the extra fat from regular cream cheese.
The strawberry puree glaze was wonderful, and the recipe actually makes about twice as much as is needed for the tart. I saved half of the glaze with the intention of using it over ice cream, or perhaps stirred in some steel cut oats.
The strawberry-almond cream tart was so delicious that it’s easy to forget that it’s relatively healthy. It took us a handful of days, but the four of us managed to polish it off without too much difficulty.
Strawberry-Almond Cream Tart
This recipe makes a thin crust. Feel free to double the crust ingredients to modify the thickness of the crust to your liking.
36 honey graham crackers (about 9 sheets)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
4 teaspoons water
8 oz light cream cheese, softened (or feel free to use regular if that's your preference)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
6 cups fresh strawberries, divided
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
To prepare crust, process crackers in a food processor until crumbly. Add the sugar, butter, and water; pulse until just moist. Place mixture in a 9-inch round removable-bottom tart pan coated with cooking spray. Press mixture into bottom and up the sides to about 3/4 inch. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until slightly browned. Let cool completely on a wire rack.
To prepare filling, combine cream cheese, 1/4 cup sugar, and vanilla and almond extracts in a bowl; stir until smooth. Spread mixture evenly over the bottom of the cooled tart shell.
To prepare topping, place 2 cups strawberries in food processor; process until pureed. Combine strawberry puree, 2/3 cup sugar, and cornstarch in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring with a whisk. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low; cook 1 minute. Remove glaze from heat and cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.
Combine 4 cups strawberries and lemon juice; toss to coat. Arrange berries, bottoms up, in a circular pattern over filling. Spoon half of the glaze over the berries (reserve the remaining glaze for another use). Sprinkle the sliced almonds around the edge of the tart. Cover and chill for 3 hours.
Adapted from Cooking Light magazine