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Monday, May 17, 2010

Vanilla Cookie Crust

+ Poor Man's Lemon Tart:

Remember when I told you to buy an anemic little pre-made crust for that Bacon Quiche a few months ago? No? Bless you. I still regret leading you astray so early on in our relationship but I was trying to hook the bacon-addicts. Please forgive me for attempting to exploit America's greatest culinary weakness in the interest of accelerating this little splodge of a blog. But, sweet tart and pie crusts are a different matter entirely.

What could be simpler than crushed cookie crumbs and melted butter? Not even those temperamental store bought crusts that need to thaw and be gingerly unrolled before you patch up tears and snags to finally get the stuff into the pan. Also, these cookie crusts are extremely versatile. Gram crackers, ginger snaps, oatmeal, even chocolate cookies are suitable choices. In the name of simplicity I am using vanilla wafer cookies, the round kind you find hiding in banana pudding, but ginger or lemon snaps might be a nice alternative.

Basic Vanilla Cookie Crust:
  • For a 9" pie dish or tart pan - (1) 12 ounce box vanilla wafer cookies, 6 tablespoons melted butter.
  • Preparation: Pulse the cookies in a food processor until finely ground. Alternatively, put the cookies in a plastic freezer bag wrapped in a towel and crush with a rolling pin. Melt butter in a microwavable bowl and stir into cookie crumbs with a fork. Press into the pie dish or tart pan. Using the bottom of a juice glass is helpful to press it into the sides of pan. Bake in a preheated 350 oven for 10-15 minutes or until slightly brown.

Now the fun part, deciding what to fill this little gem up with. There are hundreds of venues to explore with regards to tart fillings (fruit, chocolate, ice cream even grains like grits or rice). But, let's begin with a very simple and inexpensive lemon tart adapted from marthastewart.com In place of the "expensive" ricotta, normally $3 for a small carton, I used pureed cottage cheese. It has the same tartness without the price tag. That is not to say splurging on a little ricotta isn't the perfect accoutrement to a bowl of spaghetti with meat sauce. But, in this case cottage cheese is the perfect supplement. I am inclined to add a 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract to the filling but this is purely optional. Incredibly fresh with the tart flecks of lemon zest this dessert is a simple, impressive tart that doesn't leave you feeling stuffed or weighed down. Note: you will need a food processor and a microplane/zester for this recipe. A tart pan with a removable bottom is ideal but a glass/aluminum pie plate could be substituted.

Shopping List:
vanilla wafer cookies
2 or 3 lemons
8 ounces cream cheese
1/2 dozen eggs
16 ounces cottage cheese (small curd, low fat is fine)

(1) 9" cookie crumb crust (see above for prep)

2 cups of cottage cheese, small curd
4 ounces cream cheese
2 eggs
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
2 tablespoons lemon zest
3 tablespoons lemon juice
plus extra lemon for curls (optional)

1. Prepare the crust as listed above. Press into a 9" pie plate or tart pan. Bake until just golden brown.
2. Blend the cottage cheese, cream cheese, eggs, vanilla, sugar and the zest and juice of the lemons in the a food processor.
3. Pour the cheese mixture into the hot tart crust and bake for 30-35 minutes. The filling will be set and beginning to brown slightly in spots.
4. Cool completely before serving. Dust with powdered sugar (optional) and a few extra curls of zest or a wedge of fresh lemon. Refrigerate leftovers.

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