Thursday, August 15, 2013

Strawberry Curd and Cream Cheese Pistachio Tart

I loved setting the table for special dinners when I was little.  Especially when I was allowed to set out the fancy china plates and bowls that we hardly ever used, the antique silverware and the pink depression-era glasses.  I'd arrange everything just so around the table and admire how it all looked against a vintage tablecloth with coordinating cloth napkins.  Cloth napkins were reserved for holidays in our house.

My mom loved the pink china, but I always preferred the blue.  And although I don't have any china dishes myself now, I have my pretty hodgepodge of things that I love and use every day.

Almost every Thanksgiving and Christmas that I can remember, we made a big glass pan of Strawberry Pretzel Salad, which had layers of salty pretzel crust, cream cheese, cool whip and strawberry jello.  I have no idea why it was called a "salad" when it was anything but that, but it was one of my favorite things ever.

And because it was called a salad, it gave us the excuse to eat it with dinner, and still get dessert after.  So I'd arrange little china plates next to our dinner plates with carefully cut squares of that jello salad, looking forward to each sweet and salty bite, in between bites of turkey and mashed potatoes.

One winter when I was living in China, I missed being home for Christmas, and thought I would try to make that dish from memory.  I'm sure I didn't have all the ingredients I needed, but I did my best, except that I forgot that the jello layer should go on top and not in the middle.  After pouring hot, liquidy jello over my pretzel crust, it got so soggy that it was pretty inedible.  It made me miss home even more.

It's been years now since I've made or tasted that dish, but it was on my mind the other day as I was thinking of ways to use that bag of pistachios I brought home.

So I baked my favorite shortbread tart crust, this time with crushed pistachios which made the crust so wonderfully nutty and salty.

I also made homemade strawberry curd, before another strawberry summer slipped away into fall.  And once the curd was cooled, I filled the tart with layers of strawberry curd and cream cheese.  If you don't make the strawberry curd, you could also top the cream cheese with fresh strawberries, which would be just as delicious.

It was so reminiscent of the strawberry pretzel salad, but a little more grown up.  Just like me.

One Year Ago:   Lemon Coconut Cream Cupcakes
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Strawberry Curd and Cream Cheese Pistachio Tart

strawberry curd:
  • 1 1/4 cups sliced strawberries
  • 1/2 cup, plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter
pistachio shortbread crust:

  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup shelled pistachios, roasted and salted
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 10 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter
  • 1 egg yolk
cream cheese filling:
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream, cold

Strawberry Curd:
(Note: make the curd a day in advance.)  In a saucepan, combine the strawberries, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, and the lemon juice.  Simmer over medium low heat until very juicy; pour into a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.  Pour mixture back into the saucepan, through a fine mesh strainer to remove the seeds.  Simmer over medium low heat for a few more minutes until reduced to ½ cup.  Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Fill a saucepan with about 2 inches of water and bring to a simmer over medium heat.

In a heat-proof metal mixing bowl (one that can sit on top of the saucepan without touching the water) whisk together the egg yolks, 2/3 cup sugar and corn starch; whisk in the warm strawberry juice.  (Note: I normally would not use corn starch in a curd recipe, but only did for this recipe since I planned to use it in a tart, and wanted to be sure it was thick enough.  If making the curd just to spread on toast, I would omit the corn starch.)

Place the bowl over the saucepan.  Stirring constantly with a silicone whisk or spatula, cook the mixture until thick enough to coat a spoon.  (Note that this process can take anywhere from 7-15 minutes, depending on how fast the water is simmering, how close the bowl is to the water, etc.  The mixture will not appear as thick and jellied as store-bought citrus curd, but will have the consistency of warm pudding.  It will also thicken more when it cools.)

Remove the bowl from the heat, stir in the vanilla and add the slices of butter, one at a time, whisking well after each slice until the butter disappears.  Pour into a glass jar and refrigerate until well chilled.

In a food processor, combine the flour, brown sugar, pistachios and salt.  Process until the nuts are finely ground.  With the processor running, add the butter, a tablespoon at a time, just until moistened.  Add the yolk and pulse a few times to incorporate.  The mixture should resemble moist cornmeal.

Spray a 9-inch round tart pan with a removeable bottom with non-stick spray.  Pile the dough crumbs into the pan, and spread out to the edge.  Firmly press down against the bottom and up the sides of the pan.  Freeze for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375.  Spray a piece of foil with non-stick spray and place the foil, greased side down, against the frozen crust, fitting it closely to the crust.  Fill the foil with pie weights or dried beans.  Bake at 375 for 25 minutes.

Carefully remove the foil and set aside.  Reduce the oven temperature to 350 and bake crust, uncovered, for an additional 10-15 minutes, until golden brown.

Set pan in the refrigerator to cool completely.

Cream Cheese Filling:
In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese, and powdered sugar until smooth.  Beat in the cream until smooth and fluffy and thick.

To fill the tart, spread one cup of the strawberry curd over the crust, then spread the cream cheese filling over the curd.  Dot the cream cheese with the strawberry curd and swirl.

Yields 8-10 servings

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen