Tuesday, July 22, 2008

nectarine, mascarpone and gingersnap tart

nectarine, mascarpone and gingersnap tart

So far, the summer in New York City has been relentless–hot, sticky, humid or rainy just about every single day, and often a combination of all four, so I wasn’t kidding when I said this heat is getting to me, and has all but sapped my desire to cook. But I didn’t mean “cook” per se–I don’t wish to eat take-out every night–I meant the kind of cooking that requires the oven to be on for more than 10 minutes.

ginger snaps, one snapped

Besides, why would you even need to cook for longer than that in the dead of summer? The farmers’ markets are teeming with the kind of produce that require no or minimal heat to make them tasty, like zucchini and tomatoes and perfect stone fruit that can be easily sliced on top of a tart with an eight minute spicy gingersnap crust and a mascarpone and sweet cheesy custard filling.

pressing the crust
sweet cheesy custard

I had a barely-baked tart like this on my mind since I spied one that the adorable Shutterbean made for Father’s Day with cherries and a graham cracker crust. It seemed so smart for summer–everything that everyone loves about cheesecake, minus the bad proportions (I’ve always preferred a thicker crust and thinner cheesecake than you normally get) and long baking time–i.e. perfectly suited for summer.

nectarine tart

And were you the type of person who could hang onto gorgeous fresh cherries long enough to make dessert out of them–as in, your name is not Deb–that might be the recipe you want to use. However, if you have nectarines or, heck, any stone fruit that might be less of a threat to your snacking resistance, this was a delight. In fact, you probably want to serve yourself first, because your friends are not going to save you any.

nectarine, mascarpone and gingersnap tart

Nectarine and Mascarpone Tart in a Gingernsap Crust
Adapted from Bon Appetit, July 2002

I made one blaring change to this recipe; I left out the candied ginger because for lack of a more eloquent way to put it, I just can’t stand the stuff. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t add it, if it’s your thing, or that the tart lacks if you skip it. I also increased the amount of crust by a bit–the original amount spread so thinly over my tart pan, it made me sad.

I’m also already envisioning alternative versions of this with chocolate wafer cookie crusts and strawberries or even graham crackers and mixed berries, or whatever you have on hand. I don’t think you could make this taste anything less than abundantly delicious.

You’ll want to make this a few hours before you want to serve it, or the night before.

37 gingersnap cookies, coarsely broken (about 9 ounces; about 3 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons of pieces)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 8-ounce container mascarpone cheese
6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon finely chopped crystallized ginger (optional)

4 to 5 small nectarines, halved, pitted, cut into thin slices
1/4 cup peach jam, warmed
2 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger (optional)

For crust: Preheat oven to 350°F. Finely grind gingersnaps in processor. Add butter and blend until crumbs are evenly moistened. Press mixture over bottom and up sides of 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. (I like to use a cold metal measuring cup to get a nice, clear demarcation between the base and sides.) Bake crust until color darkens, pressing sides with back of spoon if beginning to slide, about 8 minutes. Cool completely.

For filling: Beat first 6 ingredients in medium bowl until smooth. Beat in crystallized ginger if you’re using it. Spread filling in prepared crust. Cover loosely and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.

For topping: Overlap nectarine slices atop filling in concentric circles. Brush with jam. Sprinkle with chopped crystallized ginger if you’re using it. (Mint makes an excellent garnish, if you’re skipping the ginger.) Serve, or refrigerate up to 6 hours.


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