Monday, May 11, 2009

So what if I don't have the right pan?

After numerous attempts at making this dish, I have finally done it. I went through sliced fingers, soupy fillings and trial and error led me to this moment - perfection. Okay... so I was supposed to use a tart pan with removable bottom, and I used this ceramic pie plate instead. Still tasted great! And through all the trials and tribulations of assembling what can only be referred to as the worlds most high maintenance dough (Crisco does NOT behave the same way as butter when you're rolling out the dough!), it was well worth it when it was still flaky, buttery and all together scrumptious from the first to the last bite.

For the dough, you have to think of the 3-2-1 ratio. That's three parts flour, two parts fat, one part ice water. And that's it! After that, you can add things to sweeten it up (I added a little powdered sugar, since this was a sweet dish), fresh herbs if you're making something savory, or even cheese. Do make sure your butter/fat is cold, the water is freezing, and your hands are always cold and powdered down with flour (lightly). If you have warm hands, that finicky dough will stick right to them and start melting the butter in the dough, making it near impossible to roll out or transfer from one place to another. Oh, and it's a good idea to cut a small circle of parchment paper, drop a few pennies on the paper, and place on top of the dough once it's been pressed into the pan. Freeze for five minutes, than put the entire thing (pennies and all) into the hot oven. The freezing will set it and prevent the dough from overcooking, while the pennies will act as a weight to prevent the dough from puffing up (the paper is to keep the penny flavor OUT of your tart shell... duh).

Once you're shell is done (about 15 minutes or so), pop it out of the oven, set it on a wire rack in the pan, and let it cool completely. Try not to eat the edges like I did, or you'll end up with a rough looking crusty, craggly edge. I know it's tempting, but just wait.

Cream together 6oz of cream cheese, some powdered sugar and heavy cream, about the 3/4 cup of each (DO NOT USE HALF & HALF - this does NOT work!!!). Throw in some vanilla and cream it up until it looks like you're making stiff-peaked whipped cream (but better!). Spread that mess into the bottom of the tart shell, halve up some strawberries and place on top. THEN FREEZE. This is important because it sets the cream cheese and you want it to be as firm as possible. Let that mess freeze for at least the length of the movie you got from Netflix earlier today. Or to last through The Office marathon you planned on, since your Netflix didn't come (like the e-mail said it would).

This was one of the easiest and the more difficult desserts I've made. I think it's largely due to my new gun-shy attitude toward slicing strawberries (the scar is healing quite nicely), and my "brilliant" idea to use part Crisco and part butter in the dough. I will say that, without those experiences, this would never have come to be.

Eat, drink and keep reading,

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