As Spring comes to a close and we turn things over to summer on June 20, now is the time to enjoy the bountiful fresh fruit options spring provides. Luckily, here in Central Florida, you can find white tents and loaded pickup trucks all over the sides of the roadways selling fresh, in season produce and other oddities (such as gator jerky) on a typical drive home year round. This time of year, the main produce being sold at these mini markets of sorts are strawberries. Since I live rather close to Plant City (Florida), the winter Strawberry capital of the world and host of the annual festival dedicated to strawberries, it is not hard to come by an abundance of strawberries at affordable prices. With an abundance of fresh, irresistible strawberries, finding new ways to use them is not only fun but tasty.
Strawberries (and cherries) have always been my go to topping for cheesecake. As much as I love fruit glazed cheesecakes, I do have a problem with the cheesecake to fruit ratio often found in many recipes. The ratio ALWAYS leans heavily in the side of the cheesecake with minimal fresh fruit topping. I decided this needed to be changed. Why not make a cheesecake-esque dessert that focuses more on the fruit topping over the cheesecake filling.
The following recipe is the result of such a desire I have had since childhood. With this recipe, for once, the strawberries are the star of the show. Instead of being a simple topping, the strawberries are nestled in a thinner layer of creamy cheesecake filling and graham cracker crust, allowing them to shine. Perhaps even better than the taste itself, is the fact that this dessert will not set you back a ton of calories. In fact the tart is very low in cholesterol and high in vitamin C. It is perfect to serve at spring and summer parties and your guests will never suspect it is not as indulgent as it appears.
While on the topic of parties, this is also a great dessert that can be made in advance. You can easily make the crust and filling ahead of time (up to 2 days) and then assemble the dessert the day of the party. This will help free up some time to make all of the other items you may be serving that do not have the ability to be prepared in advance.
- This tart will easily serve 10 people. If you need it to serve more you can easily double (or triple) the recipe and divide the crust, filling, and topping evenly amongst two (or more) tart pans.
- You may have some extra strawberries if your cartons managed to miraculously not have any squishy or moldy strawberries at the bottom.
- Although I chose to use a 9 inch round tart pan, you may also use an 8 x 12 inch rectangular tart pan or 9 inch pie plate.
Strawberry Almond Cream Tart
- 36 Honey Graham Crackers (9 sheets)
- 2 tbsp. Granulated Sugar
- 2 tbsp. Unsalted Butter; melted
- 4 tsp. Water
- 5 oz. 1/3-less-fat Cream Cheese; softened (about 2/3 cup)
- ¼ cup Granulated Sugar
- ½ tsp. Vanilla Extract
- ¼ tsp. Almond Extract
- 2 cartons Fresh Strawberries; hulled & divided
- 1/3 cup Granulated Sugar
- ½ tbsp. Cornstarch
- ½ tbsp. Lemon Juice
- 2 tbsp. Sliced Almonds; toasted
- Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly coat a 9 inch round removable-bottom tart pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
- Place the graham crackers in a food processor and pulse to fine crumbs. Add the sugar, butter, and water. Pulse until the mixture is moistened. Place the crumb mixture in the prepared tart pan and press into the bottom and up the sides of the pan.Bake for 10 minutes or until crust is lightly browned. Cool completely on a wire rack.
- Once crust has cooled completely, prepare the filling. In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and almond extract. Stir until mixture is smooth. Use an offset spatula or the back of a spoon to spread the mixture evenly over the crust.
- To prepare the topping, place 1 cup of strawberries in a food processor and pulse until the mixture is pureed. In a small saucepan over medium heat combine strawberry puree, sugar, and cornstarch. Stir with a whisk until smooth. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low and cook for 1 minute. Remove the glaze from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.
- Combine remaining strawberries (approximately 3 cups) and lemon juice; toss to coat. Arrange the strawberries, bottoms up, in a circular pattern over the filling. Spoon the glaze evenly over the berries. Sprinkle almonds around the edge. Cover and chill tart for at least 3 hours.
Weight Watchers: 11 Smart Points, 6 Points Plus, or 5 Traditional Points
RECIPE ADAPTED FROM: JEAN KRESSY
PHOTOGRAPHY & STAGING: PETER MENDOROS