Strawberry Heart Tarts from The Frog Commissary Cookbook
One day just prior to the opening of The Commissary, Anne found herself pondering the questions of what new desserts to open the restaurant with and what to do with all the heart-shaped gelatin molds lying about Frog after one Valentine’s Day bout with coeur à la crème. On a whim, she draped pastry dough over the backs of the molds and baked them. The Heart Tart was born! The muses then went to work on the filling; chocolate, pastry cream, and strawberries converged. The Commissary opened serving 12 a day; then came a catering order for 70, and the Heart Tarts were off and running. The process soon had to be streamlined to meet the demand—pastry cream became cream cheese filling, and a machine was purchased to mix huge batches of dough. A dessert truly original to The Commissary, the Heart Tart has claimed a legion of followers who adore its combination of crisp crust, toothsome chocolate lining, rich cream filling, and crowning of glazed jumbo berries. Anne’s husband, Chris, is one of those fans, and in her wedding vows, Anne promised him “unlimited Heart Tarts.”
The tart’s elegant appearance belies its ease of preparation, especially once you have the heart-shaped gelatin molds in hand. The pastry takes just seconds in a food processor, and when baked, the shells can be kept on hand in the freezer (don’t remove from the mold when freezing them), ever ready to dazzle unexpected guests or brighten a midweek dinner. The filling will easily keep a week in the refrigerator, and the chocolate and berries are very simple last-minute additions.
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
3 tablespoons cold water
Cream Cheese Filling
8 ounces softened cream cheese
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier*
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 pints of strawberries
1/3 cup sieved or seedless raspberry jam
1 Make the shells: In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, butter, and shortening. Whiz for several seconds until crumbly. Add the water and whiz until the dough forms a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 1/2 hour. (It can also be held in the refrigerator for up to 4 days but bring it to room temperature before using.)
2 To roll and bake the shells, preheat the oven to 350°. Bring the dough to a workable temperature and divide into 6 equal portions. On a floured surface, roll each portion of dough into a circle large enough to drape over the back of one of the gelatin molds. Trim off any excess and prick the molded dough several times with a fork. Set the 6 molds dough-side-up on a baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes or until pale gold and crisp. Cool the shells completely while still on the molds.
3 Make the filling: In a mixer or food processor, combine all the ingredients until smooth. Refrigerate if not using immediately.
4 Assemble tarts: Fill the tarts as close to serving time as possible. If you are not serving them immediately, do at least keep them well chilled. Remove the shells from their molds and set upright. Melt the chocolate in a small pan over simmering water, then divide it among the 6 shells and spread evenly over the bottom of each. Let the chocolate cool 10 minutes before filling. Divide the cream cheese filling among the 6 shells. Stem the strawberries and toss gently with the jam to coat. Top each tart with 5-8 berries (depending on their size) stem-end-down.
Yield 6 individual heart-shaped tarts
* Grand Marnier is a pricey item to buy just for Heart Tarts. It’s the best, but you may substitute other sweet orange-accented liqueurs such as Cointreau or Triple Sec.