Two strawberry recipes in one week. Two strawberry and balsamic vinegar recipes, actually. What can we say? It was a good summer for strawberries and balsamic. They were eaten in a number of ways, including au natural, and each time, they’re super sweetness left a lasting impression. For one of their best applications, strawberries were served in mini tart shells on two separate occasions. Let’s set the stage. The first time, circles of dough were cut out of leftover puff pastry. The rounds were baked until they puffed, then topped with a mascarpone filling and macerated berries. The tarts were served at a work get together, and they were a hit. That led to the idea of bringing a revised version to a friend’s rooftop housewarming a couple of months later. For the second go around, they were a hit. That’s why there’s no shame in sharing this recipe with you.
After having made this recipe two different ways, it is easy to say which version is preferred. Using a puff pastry crust is great if you enjoy a slightly more savory, buttery and light texture to the crust. The nice thing about using pie dough, though, is the natural sweetness in the dough, along with the crumbly, buttery nature of the crust itself. With this recipe, it feels like you’re eating a mini strawberry pie. You can’t go wrong with that. This is also a very easy one to make ahead of time. The shells can be made a couple of days before a party and stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the freezer if you make many a few weeks before. Whip up the mascarpone filling, marinate the berries and reduce the balsamic as well. All you have to do is assemble the tarts minutes before serving, and you have a dessert completed in five minutes or less. Again, you can’t go wrong with that. Enjoy all the berries you can while you can, and don’t be afraid to experiment with them.
Strawberry and Cinnamon Balsamic Tartlets – 2 dozen
12 ounces balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
6 large strawberries, hulled and quartered**
1 tablespoon sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
8 ounces mascarpone cheese, room temperature
Zest of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 cup powdered sugar
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
2 unfold-and-bake pie crusts, thawed*
1. Pour the balsamic vinegar and cinnamon into a shallow saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes or until the liquid has reduced by half. Remove from heat and set aside to cool completely.
2. While the balsamic cools, toss the strawberries with the sugar and lemon zest. Cover and set aside. Mix the mascarpone, lemon zest, vanilla, powdered sugar and salt until combined. Cover and chill.
3. Lay pie crusts on a lightly floured surface and use a 3″ pastry cutter to cut 12 circles from each sheet of dough. Carefully place each circle of dough into the holes of two mini muffin tins, then bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for approximately 12-14 minutes or until browned. Remove from the oven and cool completely.
4. Once the tart shells have cooled, spoon approximately 1-2 teaspoons of mascarpone into each shell. Top each filled tart shell with a strawberry quarter, being sure to carefully push the berry into the mascarpone to keep it upright.
5. Just before serving, drizzle the balsamic reduction over the tart shells. Serve immediately.
*Trader Joe’s has a frozen pie crust that works perfectly for this recipe. You can always make your own dough.
**You can truly use any fruit with this tartlet recipe. In the photo, you’ll see a few pears. They were caramelized in butter, brown sugar, fresh thyme and vanilla. Delicious!
Click HERE for the printable recipe.