Louisiana strawberries, oh, so sweet! Were you lucky enough to attend the 44th Annual Strawberry Festival last weekend in Ponchatoula, Louisiana, the strawberry capital of the world? If not, put it on your calendar for next year,the second weekend in April. Make sure you save room for the deep fried strawberry beignets or for the speed strawberry eating contest…how fast can you eat a pint? If you did get to go, you probably still have some strawberries hanging out, even after eating that first pint on the way home. It is hard not to buy a whole flat (12 pints) for the great price it is offered, but it is a lot of strawberries-about 11 lbs! Even for a strawberry lover like myself, that’s a lot of strawberries. Eat some, freeze some,share some.
One way I like to share the love is to make these quick and tasty tarts. It combines the two best ingredients: Strawberries and Chocolate!
Tasty Chocolate Mascarpone Strawberry Tarts: Let’s Get Started: Have a favorite pie crust? Then use it. Want to take a quick shortcut? Buy frozen tart shells. They are a good inexpensive time saver. You can even use mini phyllo shells. Bake according to package directions and set aside.
If you do not have a double boiler, just make one. Use a heat-resistant glass or metal dish set over a saucepan with at least an inch of water in saucepan. Make sure the top dish is secure and covers the whole saucepan. Steam facials are nice, but not in the kitchen! You can use any kind of chocolate…have any leftover Easter candy? If not, a 4 oz bar of chocolate. Today I am using milk chocolate. (Baking bars work well from the baking aisle.) I don’t know about you, but anytime I have a large bar of chocolate in my hand, I love to peel back the wrapper slowly…and recreate the scene from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory! You know the one when Charlie discovers he has the golden ticket!
No Golden Ticket for me but I love that scene!
In your double boiler over medium heat, (water simmering) add the chocolate. Break the bar into large pieces and add half bar at a time into the dish. To the chocolate, add 4 oz brewed room temperature coffee. Using a whisk or rubber spatula, slowly melt the chocolate. Keep whisking or stirring until smooth, about 5 minutes.
To each of the prepared tart shells, add 1/4 tsp of favorite liqueur (or 1/8 tsp if using mini shells). Give it a little swirl around the tart and let it sit to soak into the crust. One of my favorites is Frangelico, a hazelnut liqueur. If you would like to omit the alcohol, just use more of the brewed coffee or a dash of favorite extract, like vanilla.
Once the melted chocolate is cool, add 8 oz Mascarpone cheese. Mascarpone, that delicious creamy Italian cheese. That very versatile cheese, it can be both sweet and savory. It helps make a delicious crabmeat cannelloni and yet is known for making Tiramisu so delectable. I especially like mascarpone spread on bagels. It has no preservatives, so once opened, it does go bad quickly. So keep in mind it must be consumed within a few days, but that has never posted a problem for me! Using a whisk or rubber spatula, whip in the Mascarpone cheese a little at a time. If the mixture is too thick, add in a little coffee or liqueur, beginning with 1 tsp. Blend until smooth.
That’s it! Top with fresh strawberries and decorate: Dust with powdered sugar, drizzle with chocolate, or sprinkle with cocoa powder. Put into refrigerator to chill. Remove a few minutes before enjoying.
This makes enough for 8 tarts or 2 dozen mini shells. If you have a little leftover or need to scrap the bowl clean, shortbread cookies do the trick nicely. Pairs great with a cup of coffee! You could also do a tray of cookies with the chocolate spread!
Put your TO COOK IS TO CREATE thinking cap on: Think about what chocolate and flavors you like. What flavored coffee? What combinations would be good? My hubby’s fav is dark chocolate and raspberry liqueur. What’s your favorite candy bar? What does it have in it? What about adding some cooled toasted almonds and coconut to the chocolate-think Almond Joy! I like adding coffee because it reminds me of classic Tiramisu, but what else could you use? Flavored creamers? They work, just add after the chocolate is melted and removed from heat. What other fruit or berries? Blueberries and white chocolate are a good combination. Get creative and personalize this dessert.
FOOD FUN: Did you know that botanists do not classify strawberry as a true berry. For true berries have seeds inside and strawberries have their seeds on the outside. It is the only fruit with seeds on the outside, an average of 200 tiny seeds per strawberry! Give your child or grandchild a magnifying glass and ask them to count the seeds and see what they count. It should keep them busy for a minute at least! If you took out the berry part, what would you call the strawberry? Have a “Name the Straw Fruit?” contest! It will really make your mind work, I kept wanting to put berry in it.