Strawberry Almond Cream Tart

Chow on 04.22.10
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When my grocery store starts selling cartons of strawberries 10 for $10, you know there's a problem. Normally, when I spy bargain basement pricing on strawberries, I'm expecting sad, lifeless fruit just on the cusp of being declared rotten and dumped.

But this is not the case, and by now I'm sure you've all seen the fat, perky jewels begging to be eaten whole with perhaps a swipe of fresh whipped cream of creme fraiche. Pricing this low can only mean one thing, that there's a glut in the marketplace. While we consumers can rejoice, strawberry farmers are dealing with taking a deep loss on their crop.

I'm all about supporting my home state farmers, so when it's 10 for $10, that's what I buy. Unfortunately, eating them as-is just isn't as satisfying after the 5th carton. So, the Strawberry Almond Cream Tart recipe from Cooking Light's newest cookbook, Cooking Through the Seasons came to the rescue.

These tarts have so much going for them, crunchy crust, sweet creamy filling and bright gobs of fresh strawberries adorned with almond crown. I've made some minor changes to the recipe, substituting real lemon zest for the lemon extract (hey, when you've got the real thing, you might as well use it!) and leaving out the almond extract (I've never liked the taste of fake almonds).

Strawberry Almond Cream Tart
recipe from Cooking Light Cooking Through the Seasons

Instead of making individual tartlettes, you can make one big tart, just use a 9-inch removable bottom tart pan

36 honey graham crackers (about 9 sheets)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
4 teaspoons water
Cooking spray

8 ounces cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (use a rasp grater)

6 cups small fresh strawberries, divided
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted

Six 4-inch round removable-bottom tart pan or one 9-inch pan

Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare crust, place crackers in a food processor; process until crumbly. Add 2 tablespoons sugar, butter, and water; pulse just until moist. Place mixture in 6 mini round removable-bottom tart pan coated with cooking spray, pressing into bottom and up sides of pan to 3/4 inch. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely on a wire rack.

To prepare filling, combine cream cheese, 1/4 cup sugar, and extracts in a medium bowl; stir until smooth. Spread mixture evenly over bottom of tart shell.

To prepare topping, place 2 cups strawberries in food processor; process until pureed. Combine strawberry puree,1/3 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 juice; toss to coat. Arrange berries, bottoms up, in a circular pattern over filling. Spoon half of glaze evenly over berries (reserve remaining glaze for another use). Sprinkle nuts around edge of each tart. Cover and chill 3 hours.