Apricot Cheesecake Tart

I have yet to taste a cheesecake I wouldn’t like. The creamy sweet cheese filling simply works no matter what you pair it with. White cheesecake with hint of vanilla is a classic. Chocolate? Everything is better with chocolate, and cheesecake is no exception. How about fruit? Pretty much any fruit is delicious on a bed of fluffy cheese – you can go for strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, apples in the fall or cranberries in winter, and your cheesecake will be a winner every time.

The dessert I’m offering to you today is not your typical cheesecake though. It’s more like its distant relative – first of all, there is only a small amount of cream cheese in the filling compared to cheesecake as we know it, and second, I’ve decided to forgo the graham cracker/cookie crumb base and poured the filling into a flaky tart shell. The additional cream cheese you’d normally see in the filling is actually hiding in the crust, and makes it very rich and tender. (Bonus: this crust is also very easy to roll out, as long as you give it time to properly chill in the fridge.) This cheesecake tart is my last tribute to my beloved apricots this year. Apricots are always the first fruit to announce the coming of the summer season, and also the first one to go. I’ve been wanting to try this recipe for weeks, and when I finally decided  to give it a go this weekend, I had a really hard time finding them. It seemed last week they were everywhere, and now, only couple of days later, they just disappeared from the face of the Earth. It took a lot of driving around and many smiles at guys in produce departments – but as you can see, in the end I brought home what seemed to be the last two pounds of apricots in the Pacific Northwest, and put them to a good use 🙂

This tart is not a high-end dessert by any means; it’s simple and somewhat homey looking, but that doesn’t take away from its appeal at all. I think it’s very cheerful and the orange apricots waggishly poking out of white cheese filling kind of look like eggs sunny side up 🙂 And the taste is superb:  the subtle tartness of the apricots balances out the sweetness of the filling, and the jelly glaze gives it shine and accentuates the fruity apricot flavor. A perfect way to say farewell to apricots in my book. Put your best smile on and run to your nearest greengrocer or farmers market – if you’re lucky, you might still be able to find some apricots, and if you won’t eat them all on your way home as I usually do, I promise this tart is the second best way to use them!

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Apricot Cheesecake Tart

(adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Pie and Pastry Bible)

Cream Cheese Tart Shell:
  • ½ cup (113 g, 4 oz.) unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
  • a little over 1 1/3 cups (185 g, 6.5 oz.) unbleached all-purpose flour (for gluten-free tart see Note)
  • pinch salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 85 g (3 oz.) cream cheese, chilled and cubed
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream, cold
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
Cream Cheese Filling:
  • 1 egg, separated, + 1 egg white
  • 57 g (2 oz.) cream cheese, softened
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons white sugar (to taste)
  • pinch cinnamon
  • pinch nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup (175 g,  6 oz.) heavy cream

+ 1 egg white, for brushing the tart shell
approx. 1 kg (2 lbs.) fresh apricots, stoned and halved
1 cup apricot preserves, divided
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon Grand Marnier (or other orange liqueur), divided

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Method:
  1. To make the pastry shell, place the flour mixed with salt and baking powder into the bowl of your food processor. Add the cubed cream cheese and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add butter and pulse again until the butter is the size of peas. Lastly, add vinegar and cold cream, and mix just until the dough comes together in a ball. Wrap the dough and chill for at least 30 minutes before proceeding.
  2. Roll the dough between two sheets of parchment paper until it’s a little bigger than your 10 inch (25 cm) tart pan with removable bottom. Chill the rolled out dough for about 15 minutes, so it’s easier to transfer to the pan. Lightly butter the pan and ease the dough into it, pressing it firmly against the sides. Dock the dough with a fork and put the tart pan in the freezer while you preheat the oven to 425 °F (218 °C).
  3. When the oven is preheated, place the tart pan onto a baking sheet, and place a sheet of parchment paper on the surface of the dough. Fill the parchment with dry beans/rice, and prebake the tart shell for about 15 – 20 minutes. Remove the parchment paper with the beans/rice/pie weights, prick the dough again, and bake for 5 – 10 minutes longer, until pale golden brown. (If the edges brown too quickly, cover them with aluminum foil). While still hot, brush the tart shell with an egg white. Let the tart shell cool slightly while you prep the filling and fruit.
  4. To make the cheesecake filling, process the cream cheese, sugar, and spices in the food processor until smooth. Add egg yolks, egg white, cream, and 1 teaspoon of Grand Marnier and pulse to combine. (There still might be pieces of cream cheese in the mixture.) Set the filling aside.
  5. Preheat the oven to 375 °F (190 °C).
  6. In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup of apricot preserves with 1 tablespoon of Grand Marnier until hot. Strain the preserves into a small bowl.
  7. To assemble the tart: Brush about 2 tablespoons of apricot preserves on the bottom of partially cooled tart shell. Pour about half of the filling into the tart. Arrange apricot halves on top of the filling, and carefully pour the rest of the filling around them, taking care not to pour the filling on top of the fruit.
  8. Bake the tart for 30 – 35 minutes, or until the filling is puffy and slightly browned. (Cover the edges with aluminum foil to prevent burning.)
  9. Let the tart cool slightly. Reheat the rest of the apricot jelly and spoon it evenly on the top of the tart, both apricots and filling. Chill the tart for at least 1 hour before unmolding and serving.
Note:

I subbed Bob’s Red Mill Pie Crust flour mix with good results, but I imagine you could use any gluten-free flour mix and the tart will turn out well.

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