Gluten-Free Tuesday: Chocolate Almond Strawberry Cheesecake Tart


[Photographs: Elizabeth Barbone]


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Chocolate and strawberries are one of my favorite dessert combinations, which I usually enjoy in the form of chocolate-covered strawberries. So when a reader asked me to convert her mother's recipe for chocolate strawberry cheesecake tart, I lept at the chance. (And wondered why I'd never made a chocolate berry tart before!)

Although I hesitate to call this a quick dessert, it does come together rather quickly for a fruit tart. You make the chocolate-almond tart dough in a food processor in just minutes. And like the savory tart recipe we made recently, the dough gets pressed into the pan before chilling unlike traditional tart doughs that are chilled for several hours before being rolled out and put into a pan.

Preparing the New York cheesecake-like filling is the only step that requires a little time and special attention. Like a good cheesecake, the filling should be smooth and creamy, not lumpy and dry. To achieve a smooth cheesecake filling you need three things:

  1. Room temperature cream cheese. Cold cream cheese leaves little lumps in the filling that don't bake out. Soft, room temperature cream cheese, however, blends easily with sugar and eggs to create a smooth, satiny batter.
  2. Gentle mixing. If you cream together room temperature cream cheese and sugar on high speed, air bubbles get beaten into the filling. This trapped air pops during baking and leaves little pockets in the finished tart. To avoid this, mix the cream cheese and sugar on medium-low speed. At first, the mixture should resemble a thick paste—not a fluffy icing. (If you do overmix and trap air in the batter, tap the bowl of filling on the counter several times. The air bubbles will rise to the top of the batter and pop.)
  3. A "clean" bowl. As you mix, the cheesecake batter gets lighter. And since cream cheese loves to cling to the paddle attachment and the bowl, it's important to stop the mixer and scrape them down frequently during mixing. If you don't, the dense, unmixed, "stuck" cream cheese can break away from the bowl or paddle and create lumps in the light batter. By stopping the mixer and scraping everything down with a rubber spatula, this won't happen.