Sunday, November 1, 2009

Simplicity: Cream cheese tart

Cheesecake is a comforting, if heavy, sort of dessert. But it's more versatile than that. With a little creative thinking, it can have sweet or savory possibilities with the addition of Grand Marnier and chocolate or chives and herbs de Provence. The difficult is that cheesecake also is very involved. It requires a special pan. And lots of cream cheese, butter, and eggs. It's a profound undertaking, which is no small thing. You might be tempted to actually eat the whole thing, facing potentially unlimited calorie intake until the entire delicious thing has gone the way of the dinosaurs.

But you don't have to resort to a full cheesecake in order to get that cheesecake flavor and feel. This is essentially a cream cheese pie. It's lighter and simpler than full-fledged cheesecake but every bit as versatile.

Cream Cheese Tart
1 8-ounce package cream cheese or Neufchatel
1 stick butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
Vanilla and almond extract to taste
Zest of one lemon (optional)

1 pie or tart crust, using your favorite recipe (but even a store-bought one works fine)

This is about as easy as you get. Beat together the cream cheese, butter, and sugar until combined well, about one or two minutes in a stand mixture. Add the egg, vanilla, and almond and mix together. You won't want to beat this mixture more than 30-45 seconds. Add to your crust and bake 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees. It'll puff slightly and get a few brown spots. This is a fluffy, delightful, and much easier substitute for cheesecake. And it makes a great, guilty-pleasure breakfast the next day.

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