As we get closer to those warm, sun-drenched days of late spring and early summer, there's nothing I, Lauren, crave more than fresh fruit and lighter meals. One of my all-time favorite desserts is to eat fresh strawberries with vanilla mascarpone--in fact, our wedding cake six years ago was a modern-day take on strawberry shortcake, with layers of "naked" pound cake, mascarpone, and strawberries.
I really love that combination. So for today's recipe, I thought I'd turn my favorite sweet flavors into super simple, individual tarts that you'll be wanting to make all summer. The recipe yields two servings, but you can easily double or triple it for sharing with friends!
Macerating strawberries is really easy. Most people just use a bit of sugar and water, but I added orange juice and zest for a subtle citrus kick, and some seeds from a vanilla bean to pick up the flavor of the vanilla mascarpone.
Remember the spring tarts? I used the same frozen puff pastry for these tarts--that puff pastry is so versatile! In this case, I just added extra strips around the edge of each square to make higher borders for keeping the mascarpone, berries and brandy syrup inside.
1 large handful strawberries, tops removed and sliced in half
1 tablespoon sugar
1 fresh vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1 sheet of store-bought puff pastry, defrosted
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
1/2 of a small container of mascarpone
2 teaspoons powdered sugar
1 cup water
4 tablespoons brandy
1 cup sugar
1. To make the brandy syrup, place the water, brandy and sugar in a small saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 15 minutes or until the mixture thickens. Set aside and allow to cool.
2. To macerate the strawberries, place sliced strawberries in a bowl. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of sugar, juice and zest of an orange, and half the seeds from a vanilla bean pod. Mix it all together gently.
3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut two squares from one sheet of pastry dough. Place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Cut 1/2-inch wide strips from the remaining pastry dough and place the strips around the pastry squares to form borders. Brush the tops of the borders with the egg, then bake for 15 minutes or until puffed and golden. Don't forget to pierce the middle of each square with a fork before baking, so they don't get quite as puffy inside as mine!
4. To make the filling, place the mascarpone, powdered sugar, and remaining half of the vanilla seeds in a bowl. Combine thoroughly with a fork. Set aside.
5. To serve, spoon the vanilla mascarpone into the tarts and top with the macerated strawberries. Finish with a little extra orange zest, and serve with the brandy syrup. Makes 2.
-images and post by lauren craig