The Fourth of July is one of those holidays that I hold close to my heart. It may not have the magic of Christmas or the table spread of Thanksgiving, but it has its own charm. Laughter, love, hot plates of grilled food, the boom of a good firecracker, and the glow of a flickering bonfire—these are things that define the holiday for me. During the long days of summer, taking a break, even for a day, to start up the grill or enjoy the warm sun with friends and family feels like a blessing.
This year I can't wait to lay beneath the stars and watch the fireworks explode brilliantly above.
For celebrations and get-togethers, I like to challenge myself to come up with a new dessert to serve my loved ones. In the case of the Fourth of July, when potlucks and picnics are plentiful, the dessert should be portable and require no special dishes so they can be quickly snatched from the table and enjoyed on the run. While I debated between popsicles and pies, ultimately the decision made itself when I spied the red and blue berries at the market.
Though these do need to be kept chilled, these festive cheesecakes fit the holiday just right. The cheesecakes can be whipped up in less than an hour, making them an easy dessert to prepare (and an even easier dessert to devour).
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Berry Cheesecake Tarts are a fantastic way to celebrate summer. A soft sugar cookie crust is filled with a heaping helping of vanilla cheesecake filling. The filling is whipped, which gives the tarts a light quality. Topped with fresh raspberries and blueberries, the tarts play between sweet and tart, never swaying too far in one direction. These tarts make for a lovely end to a vibrant summer meal.
Berry Cheesecake Tarts
Yields 8 tartlets (or 1 large tart)
6 tablespoons (85 grams) butter, room temperature
1/2 cup (60 grams) powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
In a large mixing bowl,beat the butter until smooth and creamy. Add the powdered sugar and mix until light. Add in the salt, vanilla extract, and egg and mix again. Add the flour and continue mixing until the dough forms a ball.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough until it is 1/8-inch thick. Cut out rounds of dough to fit the tartlet pans (alternatively, if you are making a large, single tart, roll out the dough and cut a large circle to fit the tart pan). Press the dough carefully into the pans and mend any breaks or tears with excess dough. Stab the bottom several times with a fork so the dough will not rise in the oven. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before baking.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).
Bake the tart shells for 15-18 minutes, or until they are lightly colored and the shell feels dry to the touch.
No-Bake Vanilla Cheesecake Filling
1 cup (240 ml) heavy whipping cream
8 ounces (227 grams) cream cheese, room temperature
6 tablespoons (75 grams) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract)
1 pint (16 ounces) fresh blueberries
1/2 pint (8 ounces) fresh raspberries
In a large mixing bowl, beat the heavy whipping cream until soft peaks form. Transfer to another bowl and set aside.
In the same mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Fold in the whipped cream.
In cooled tart shells, pipe or spread the cheesecake filling, dividing the filling evenly between the shells. Cover the filling with fresh berries. Refrigerate until ready to serve. The tarts keep for several days.