April 13, 2012

That Easter Day With Joy Was Bright...With Fruit Pizza

Fruit tarts come in so many shapes and sizes: mini-tarts in fluted French cups, gelatin-based tarts with thick, yeasty crusts. There are tarts with top crusts, tarts with caramelized toppings, tarts that are sour and tarts that are sweet. This tart that I share today is really a pizza, with a thin, sugar-cookie crust, a layer of sweet, white cream, and patterns of fruit arranged decoratively on top. This pizza can be made in all seasons with fresh fruit, but I prefer spring and summer, when berries and peaches reach their peaks.

One of the things I like most about this fruit pizza is that the fruit on top is so much fun to organize. Fresh fruit is just so pretty. I have made this large tart with combinations of strawberries, blueberries, kiwis, peaches, and raspberries. I love this fruit pizza because I love the colors of the fruit on top, and I love the way that they can be so nicely arrayed and presented. This recipe is truly a presentation piece, but one that absolutely does not compromise taste for the sake of beauty.

If you can, use a stand mixer for the creamy layer. Since cream cheese or Neufch√Ętel tends to clump at any sign of coldness, it takes a certain amount of womanpower to manually whip it into submission. So I have found that the stand mixer makes this layer into the creamy, dreamy version it is meant to be.

Use a pan of any shape for this pizza. I prefer the traditional round pizza pan; its large shape makes the crust thin and delicate and also provides more surface area for fruit. I also prefer this pizza cut into wedges rather than "St. Louis-style" squares, but squares do accommodate a larger party. It may take a while to form the sugar cookie crust into such a large pan, and the trick is to make the dough as consistently thin as possible. But since this is not a milk-based dough, it should stand up to kneading and prodding more so than biscuit dough or pancake batter. So don't be afraid of the thin crust.

I promise that anyone who makes this pizza will not only fall in love with it but will also make it throughout the rest of the spring and all through grilling-season summer. Just wait until peaches get here!

Fruit Pizza

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, chilled and cut into cubes
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix together flour and sugar until very fine. Cut in butter with pastry cutter, whisk attachment, or even your fingers (be sure to keep them cold though). The mixture at this point should resemble soft sand. 

Add egg and vanilla and process until mixture forms a smooth dough. There should be no sandy bits left.

 Butter a pizza pan and push cookie crust to the sides to make a very thin crust. Prick surface with a fork and bake at 400 F for about 10 minutes.

In a saucepan, heat 1/2 cup fruit preserves until melted. I like the flavor of peach and for this tart I used this really tasty apricot, peach, and passion fruit preserves. I have also used strawberry and orange. Basically anything with chunks of bright fruit will do.

 With a pastry brush, spread warm crust with preserves and let cool completely.

Tart filling
8 ounces Neufchatel or cream cheese, room temperature
1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon sour cream
2 (or more) tablespoons peach schnapps
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)

Process cream cheese, sugar, creams, schnapps, and vanilla until very smooth. Spread carefully over cooled crust, making sure not to mix preserves in with cream mixture. I usually try to freeze or refrigerate my crust before this step so the spatula doesn't pick up any stray gumminess from the preserves.

Top with lots of fresh fruit! Then bring to a party.

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