Few ingredients inspire me as much as fresh fruit and berries. When I see beautiful seasonal produce in its prime, I’m simultaneously pulled to immediately enjoy it in its natural state and also to create a beautiful recipe that truly does it justice.

Fresh local strawberries are in season so briefly it feels like the blink of an eye, and these ruby red gems bear little to no resemblance the grocery store variety. Their deep sweetness deserves to be showcased in a special dessert, and for me that means something simple that won’t mask their flavor, texture, or beauty. I truly adore strawberry shortcake, but with special berries I want something a step up from that sort of rustic charm – a bit more refined, a bit more polished.

When I found a stash of gorgeous berries at my favorite local market, I knew I wanted to put them in mini tarts similar to a dessert I enjoyed recently at a fantastic restaurant. Although it might look fancy, this recipe is simpler than it may appear. Once the tart shells are made, the berry filling and whipped mascarpone topping come together in minutes. This is basically strawberries and cream, elevated, and it’s a fabulous thing.

Another thing I love about this recipe is that there is so much room to incorporate other flavors if you so choose. I kept this classic and simple, but you could experiment with steeping the cream with fresh basil, culinary lavender, or Earl Grey tea (be sure to re-chill the cream before making the whipped topping.) You could also add lemon zest to the tart dough and an extra touch of lemon juice to the filling for a citrus spin. Whichever option you choose, you have a lovely dessert worthy of featuring those rare beauties.

Ingredients

For the tart dough:

  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tbsp. (28 grams) heavy cream
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1¾ cups plus 2 tbsp. (225 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
  • 1 cup (113 grams) confectioners’ sugar
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • 12 tbsp. (170 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 large egg beaten with 1 tsp. water, for egg wash

For the filling:

  • 2½ cups (420 grams) sliced fresh strawberries
  • 2-4 tbsp. (25-50 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

For the topping:

  • ½ cup (113 grams) heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp. (7 grams) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (optional)
  • ½ cup (113 grams) mascarpone cheese

Directions

  • 01

    To make the tart dough, whisk together the egg yolk, cream and vanilla in a small bowl; set aside. Place the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Process briefly to combine. Scatter the butter pieces over the flour mixture; process to cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about fifteen 1-second pulses. With the machine running, add the egg mixture and process until the dough just comes together, about 12 seconds. Turn the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and press into an 8-inch disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 48 hours.

  • 02

    Remove the dough from the refrigerator. (If refrigerated for more than an hour, let stand at room temperature until malleable.) Unwrap the dough and divide into four equal portions. Working with one piece at a time, roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to 1/8-inch thickness and at least a 6-inch round. The round must be large enough to line your tart pans, but thickness is the important factor here. You do not want the dough to be too thick or it will overwhelm the balance in your tarts. The round may be larger than 6-inch diameter and that is fine. Transfer the dough to a 4-inch round tart pan. Mold the dough to the sides of the tart pan and remove the excess off the top. Repeat with the remaining portions of dough. As each pan is lined, place on a flat sheet pan and transfer to the freezer to chill for 30 minutes.

  • 03

    Meanwhile, adjust an oven rack to the middle position. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Set the chilled tart shells in their pans on a baking sheet, and press a square of foil into each to line the bottom and cover the edges. Fill each with pie weights (dried beans or rice also work.) Bake for 30 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through the baking time. Remove from the oven and carefully remove the foil and weights from each tart shell. Lightly brush the top edges and inside of each shell with the egg wash. Continue to bake until deep golden brown, 5-8 minutes longer. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

  • 04

    To make the filling, combine the berries, sugar and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Let stand about 20 minutes to macerate.

  • 05

    To make the topping, combine the cream, confectioners’ sugar, and seeds scraped from the vanilla bean (if using) in a bowl. Whip on medium-high speed with the whisk attachment of an electric mixer or immersion blender until medium-stiff peaks form. Using a silicone spatula, gently fold in the mascarpone until the mixture is smooth. Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with your choice of decorative tip. (Or skip piping and just spoon on top – they will still be lovely and delicious!)

  • 06

    When you are ready to serve the tarts, spoon about 1/3 to ½ cup of the filling into each tart shell. Pipe or spoon some of the whipped topping onto each, either leaving the filling exposed at the edges for presentation or completely covered for a fun surprise. Garnish with additional berries if desired. Serve immediately.

Source