IT’S MAY ALREADY! How does time race by sooo quickly? And on May 2nd, Louisville’s Churchill Downs will host the Kentucky Derby for the 141st time. Just think — in a mere two minutes this Saturday afternoon, millions of dollars will be won, and millions will be lost. Countless millions of people will be glued to NBC to watch this spectacular race featuring 20 elite three-year old Thoroughbred horses. I absolutely LOVE watching those beautiful creatures move with such speed and grace! I also love watching the day’s grandeur … stunning hats, designer clothing, racing’s aristocracy sipping champagne cocktails and mint juleps while dining on classic Kentucky cuisine …
A little research on my part revealed that dishes featuring strawberries claim a solid spot on Derby Day menus. My dear friends Vince and Vicki brought a fantastic Strawberry & Cream Cheese dessert to a dinner party I hosted several years ago. I immediately begged Vince to fork over his recipe, and I’ve served it regularly ever since. This really is a perfect dessert for any Kentucky Derby party; it can be whipped up in around 30 minutes, and will be devoured by guests in far less time than that!
Strawberry & Cream Cheese Tart
- One Puff Pastry Sheet, thawed but still cold
- 1 egg whisked with a teaspoon of water
- 8 ounces of Cream Cheese at room temperature *
- 4 ounces (1/2 cup) sour cream *
- 4 ounces (1/2 cup) granulated sugar + 1 tablespoon for the glaze
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- A 16-ounce flat of fresh strawberries, cleaned with stems removed
- 2 teaspoons water
* Do not use low fat or fat free cream cheese or sour cream for this recipe. Anything other than regular cheese or cream will cause the custard to be thin and a bit runny.
Preheat your oven to 400F degrees.
Roll the puff pastry out onto a cooking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Cut a 1″ strip from all four sides. Use the strips to build up the sides of the pastry. Brush the egg wash over the pastry, taking special care to seal the borders to the bottom of the pastry. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the pastry from the oven and set it in the refrigerator to cool, about 15 minutes.
While the puff pastry is baking: Add the cream cheese, sour cream, 1/2 cup of sugar and vanilla in a medium-sized bowl. Using a hand mixer at medium speed, blend the custard mixture until it is completely smooth, about 5 minutes.
While the puff pastry is cooling, slice the strawberries. (I use an egg slicer for this – it works like a charm!)
When the pastry has cooled, transfer it to your serving platter. Using a rubber spatula, evenly spread the cream cheese custard over the bottom of the pastry.
Arrange the sliced strawberries over the cream cheese. Place the tart in the refrigerator to help set the custard for at least 15 minutes.
While the tart is cooling: In a small bowl, mix 1 tablespoon with 2 teaspoons of water and a dash of cinnamon. Stir to blend the ingredients, then place in the microwave for 8-10 seconds to melt the sugar. Using a pastry brush, glaze the top of the strawberries. Tart complete — simply slice, serve and SAVOR!
Be sure to pour a glass (or two) of champagne for your guests — and yourself — to toast the 141st running of the Run for the Roses!
Cook’s Notes: Any berry fruit can be used for the tart. Mix and match is always fun! I also frequently use Pillsbury Pie Crusts to transform this tart into a “Strawberry Pizza”.