Blackberry Ricotta Tarts, a wee bit of summer in the dead of winter!

This past weekend I NEEDED summer. The weather was vacillating between rain and sleet, my boys couldn’t even go ice skating because the rink was just a pool of slush. The Midwestern sky, that I can usually count on for an endless blue sunny backdrop to winter, was gray. It was all too much to take, especially after the Vikings gave up the big game. When I saw the flat of blackberries at the store, I had to have them. It was a gift from a land far, far away that is in their growing months. I am usually dedicated to eating seasonally and as local as possible, but once in a while we Minnesotans have to cheat. It worked, my family and I were much happier after eating these tarts. The fresh berries were lovely with the rich creamy ricotta custard that has the slightest hint of nutmeg. Be sure to use a whole milk ricotta to get the silky texture.

This morning we woke up to snow, which is at least beautiful, albeit a reminder that our summer is still far away. I suppose it just means we have a longer baking season than most!

Blackberry Ricotta Tarts:

Tart Dough for 8-10 tartlettes:

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature

1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 yolks

Ricotta filling:

2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese

1/2 cup mascarpone cheese or cream cheese at room temperature

2 teaspoons pure vanilla

3/4 cup sugar

2 yolks

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

40 fresh or frozen blackberries for the filling

Fresh blackberries for top of tart

To make the tart dough:

In a stand mixer fitted with the Beater Blade, beat the butter with the confectioners sugar on medium-low speed until light and fluffy. Add the yolks one at a time and mix after each until incorporated. If not using a beater blade paddle then make sure you scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the flour and salt and mix on low until well incorporated and smooth.

Form the dough into a log and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Cut the dough into 8 equal pieces if using high sided Removable Bottom Mini Tart Pan.

Allow the dough to warm for a few minutes before rolling so it won’t crack. Not so long that it is soft, but it shouldn’t be brittle either.

Roll the dough out so that it goes about 1″ beyond the size of the tart pan.

Fit the dough into the pan. Don’t worry if the dough cracks.

Press the dough into the pan, making sure that it is evenly thick on the sides.

Use a paring knife or the rolling pin to scrape off the excess from the top of the pan. Once all of the tart pans are filled with the dough, freeze them while you preheat the oven.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line the frozen tart shells with tin foil and then fill with Pie Weights. I use a combination of beans, metal and ceramic weights.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the edge is golden. Remove the foil.

Prepare the Ricotta filling:

In a food processor mix together the ricotta, mascarpone or cream cheese until smooth. Add vanilla, sugar and nutmeg, combine. Add the yolks and combine. Set aside or refrigerate.

Fill the tart shells about 3/4 of the way full. Place about 4 of the fresh or frozen berries into the filling.

Bake the tarts for about 20-25 minutes or until slightly puffed and set to the touch. The timing may depend on how chilled your filling is. Cool the tarts until room temperature, then remove from the tart pans.

Top the tarts with the fresh berries. Serve unadorned or with whipped cream.