The air in the garden has been damp and heavy with the musk from early summer thunderstorms and sun-warmed earth. On more than one occasion, we’ve had a downpour followed by a spat of intense sunshine, which encouraged white wisps of warm steam to rise from our freshly darkened soil. Along with this warm musk, the intensely sweet scent of the season’s first strawberries has filled the air, creating a distilled perfume of Oregon’s early summer. It’s this heady fragrance that encouraged me to fill my basket with the juiciest selection from the garden, and put them to use in a bright and fresh strawberry tart.
The sweet juicy flavor of my summer strawberries pairs perfectly with the slightly tart and very creamy characteristics of cream cheese, so I married the two in this strawberry tart recipe, along with a simple baked tart shell. The shell is the only part of the tart that is baked—I like keeping the cream cheese filling raw to keep it moist and fluffy, and the strawberries uncooked to preserve the cheer of their sun-kissed and summery taste. Sometimes being a good cook means knowing when to leave ingredients alone and let them shine all on their own. (Plus, I love shortening the time my oven is on in the summer.)
This tart is a breeze to throw together. Just mix some dry ingredients in a bowl, mix in some butter and water, roll it and pat it into a pan and bake. It cooks just long enough for you to do some dishes, listen to a short podcast, and peel and eat and orange with your hands while you wait. Then, take the tart crust out and let it cool. You can pop it in the fridge to make it cool down even speedier. Mix together the cream cheese filling, slice up some strawberries, throw them in the tart, and voila! You’re done. Plus, the juicy saturated pops of crimson covering the tart make it look extra-fancy and beautiful, even if all it took was slicing up some strawberries and throwing them on what’s essentially a pile of sweetened cream cheese. A victory for the un-ambitious cook within us all.
Every bite of this strawberry tart left me wanting another and another, which led me to putting down three slices after I finished photographing it. Its creamy-yet-bright flavor is the perfect combination of everything you want in a summer dessert, plus a deliciously flakey crumb in the crust. Oh! And you can serve it chilled or at room temp. (Although I prefer it chilled to help combat the oppressive heat of a humid early summer.) You can also feel free to throw on a few extra berries of other varieties if you have them on hand. (I tossed on some red currants from the garden to add a little more tartness to the tart. Their sour taste makes the sides of my mouth get all tight and pursed, and I kind of love it).
That’s pretty much it. Just make it, enjoy it, and soak up all the summer strawberries you can. It’d be a shame not to.
Strawberry Tart with Cream Cheese
This strawberry tart is as easy to make as it is lovely to look upon. It combines the bright sweetness of fresh summer strawberries with a silky coconut and cream cheese filling, all atop a buttery flakey tart shell.
- 2 cups flour
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon flake kosher sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 5 ounces butter cold and hard
- 10 to 14 tablespoons ice water
Strawberry and Cream Cheese Filling
- 8 ounces cream cheese room temperature
- 1/4 cup canned full fat coconut milk room temperature
- 2 to 3 tablespoons honey depending on your sweetness preference
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 12 ounces fresh strawberries thinly sliced
- In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, salt, and cinnamon until blended. Cut the butter into pea sized pieces over the bowl, stopping to stir every few minutes to coat the butter pieces in the flour mixture.
- Use your fingertips to pinch the butter pieces in the flour until the mixture resembles the texture of damp sand. Add the water and stir to combine, then knead the dough with your hands until it comes together, about 10 to 30 seconds. If the dough sticks together when you grab it and squeeze it in your hand, it's fine. If it falls apart, add another tablespoon or two of water.
- Transfer the dough to a clean surface, pat it into a circle, cover it, and place it in the freezer for 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Roll out the dough into a roughly 12-inch circle and transfer it to a greased 9-inch tart pan, trimming off any excess edges. Use a fork to poke holes all over it and place it in the freezer for 15 minutes.
- Cover the crust with foil, pressing it into the corners to make sure it comes in contact with all of the surface of the tart. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, remove the foil, and then bake for another 10 to 15 minutes or until the edges of the tart are lightly golden. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool to room temperature.
Strawberry Cream Cheese Filling
Beat the cream cheese, coconut milk, honey, and vanilla extract in the bowl of a stand mixer at medium speed until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Empty the filling into the cooled tart shell, cover, and refrigerate for 3 hours. Top with the fresh sliced strawberries and serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate and serve chilled later on. Will keep covered in the refrigerator for about 3 days.