Hey guys! I realise I’m cutting it waaaay too close this year, but I am overflowing with excitement to share with you today this Strawberry Cheesecake Tarts recipe. I think it’s one of my favourites for the year both for its appearance and taste. Plus I really enjoyed doing the holly designs on top! I could’ve done something else but I think for these pretty and dainty cupcakes, the holly add such an elegant touch that nothing else seems more perfect against that white background of cream cheese.
I wonder why the symbols I associate most with Christmas (right now at least) is the holly and the mistletoe. I’ve never seen live mistletoe before. Maybe because when I was younger I found the idea of kissing underneath the mistletoe such an odd and random thing that it created such a deep impression on me.
I did a little research and there are a lot of versions as to why this has turned into a tradition in other countries. I don’t want to go into details but some of it has to do with myths, but there is an overwhelming number of superstitious beliefs attached as well. To make things simpler, I think I’ll just stick to the explanation that kissing under the mistletoe shall bring the couple lasting relationship and deep romance. I don’t know if anyone practices this here in the Philippines since I have never encountered it– I don’t even know if it’s possible to buy any real mistletoe here!– but the romantic side of me thinks that this idea is kind of cute even if I’m not that superstitious. (But after all that mistletoe talk I end up decorating these with holly…)
Anyway, mistletoe and holly aside, I really want to talk about these tarts! These gorgeous, and delicious tarts that are like a deconstructed strawberry cheesecake of sorts. We have our strawberry (in jam form) as a sort of surprise filling underneath the cream cheese instead of over it. I adore the contrast of that beautiful ruby red against the lightly coloured crust and white-as-snow cream cheese. The white cheesecake part also acts as the canvass for you to “paint” on whatever design you please actually. A silver snowflake? A red and green Christmas sock?
But who am I kidding? The best part for me was the taste of these babies! Coming in a close second was the experience of making these!
I’m hesitant to call this a refrigerator “cheesecake” because even though you do refrigerate it to set it, you still have to bake the shells first. But not to worry, the shells are actually incredibly easy to make because the dough is amazingly easy to handle. I haven’t made many (or any??) pies or things with crusts this year but in recent memory, this dough has been the easiest. To make the process even quicker, I actually just used my hands and smushed everything up real good. It didn’t take long for me to create the yellow balls of dough I needed.
After that it’s all a matter of rolling it out, and I did it maybe like a quarter centimetre thin because I find that with mini tarts, the worst thing is having to eat a really thick shells. I hate it anyway. I think that with something so small you have to make the thing easier to pop in your mouth and chew. Putting the dough between two pieces of parchment makes rolling it hassle-free. And what I really love about this dough is that it doesn’t break at all as you work with it. Just look at how lovely and smooth that is:
When I made these, I decided to create a combination of mini tarts using my mini cupcake pan, plus some bigger tarts using my regular cupcake pan. We’re using the bottom part where the cups jut out to help mould our tart shells and give them their shape. I definitely think that the smaller tarts are the way to go with these since depending on the strawberry jam you use, eating a big tart can be a bit of a very sweet experience. On the other hand, the smaller tarts are perfectly-sized enough that you can enjoy the tarts without being overwhelmed by the flavours.
Going back to the dough, you use a fluted cutter to cut it so that your tarts look prettier. Just pick up those rounds and plop them on your upside-down cupcake pans. Try your best to cover the cupcake pans all the way without breaking your dough apart. I found that it was easy to smooth out those rough and accidentally torn parts so I don’t think it will be an issue.
Give the dough a little time to chill as you preheat your oven. Mine was 20 minutes chill-time, then I just popped them all in the oven for 12 minutes or so, and once their out of there they turn into these sturdy, buttery shells. I got so excited then but I had to wait for them to cool completely before I could move on. The wait would have been agonizing if I hadn’t kept myself busy!
A little note on filling these beauties, I wouldn’t recommend filling them with jam halfway through, because I promise the tarts will be TOO sweet. Believe me. What we want is a balance here. So definitely fill it just a quarter of the way full (about a scant teaspoon for the tartlets and half a tablespoon for the bigger tarts). Also, use your favourite jam. It doesn’t have to be strawberry though the contrast is nice and the red is more apt for Christmas. You can use pretty much what you like though!
The most important component for me is the cream cheese filling because it brings everything together with that sassy tangy flavour. There might be a chance that you make more tarts than the amount of filling, and if that becomes the case just halve the recipe for the filling below. (I actually doubled the recipe from the original one because I made waaaay more shells than the filling was meant for.)
Finally we get to design the tarts! This was a little harder than I thought it would be, but that’s not to say it was hard. It’s just that I really did make a lot of tarts! The trick is to dip your toothpick with A LOT of the coloured cream cheese to make sure some of it sticks on to the cream cheese canvass as you paint on your design.You get quicker as you go since you kind of get used to it!
It’s just soooooo pretty. Seriously one of the prettiest Christmas tarts ever, don’t you think? 🙂
Apart from the colour, the contrast of sweet strawberry jam against the tangy lemon-infused cream cheese concoction is a wonderful thing. Add to that the presence of the buttery crust and you’ve got yourself something worthy to add to a Christmas feast.
Strawberry Cheesecake Holiday Tartlets
Makes about 24 to 26 mini tarts
For the tart shells
- 400 grams all-purpose flour
- 125 grams confectioners’ sugar
- 200 grams unsalted butter
- 1 large egg
- pinch of salt
For the filling
- 200 grams sour cream
- 400 grams cream cheese, room temperature
- 200 grams sweetened condensed milk
- 4 Tablespoons lemon juice
- strawberry jam
- red and green food colouring
Make the tart shells
- 1. In a medium mixing bowl, mix together all shell ingredients with your hands until it forms a ball.
- 2. Divide the dough in two, then shape each portion into a slightly flattened ball.
- 3. Working with one ball of dough at a time, roll dough out between two sheets of baking paper to a maximum thickness of half a centimetre.
- 4. Take out a clean mini cupcake pan and flip over. (We will be using the bottom of the cupcake pan to shape the tart shells.) Using a beveled cookie cutter a little bigger than the cups your mini cupcake pan, cut out circles of dough and drape them over each bottom of the cups. Press the dough to cover the entire cup and to form a smooth surface.
- 5. Chill whilst preheating oven to 350º F (180 ºC) for about 20 to 30 minutes.
- 6. Bake the shells for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden and firm. Remove from oven and let cool on the pan for about 10 minutes before carefully popping off and cooling completely on a wire rack.
Once shells are cool, make the filling
- 7. In a medium bowl, mix sweetened condensed milk, sour cream, and cream cheese, until completely combined. Add lemon juice and mix well.
- 8. In two small bowls, place a tablespoon each of the cream cheese mixture. Tint one of the bowls with red food colouring, and the other with green food colouring.
To assemble the tartlets
- 9. Place 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of strawberry jam in every cookie bowl. (Do not fill up to half way or the tartlets will be too sweet!) Fill the rest of the shells with the cream cheese mixture.
- 10 Using a toothpick, dip into the red cream cheese mix and dot the surface of the tarts with three circles. Using another toothpick, dip into the green mixture and make a green line, then make some diagonal strokes for the leaves of the mistletoe.
- 11. Keep in the fridge until set, about 4 hours (though overnight is better). The tarts taste better the next day.
How could something like this not get you into Christmas mood overdrive? Just looking at the pictures gets me all fuzzy inside every time!