Eat at
#20521: REC: Cream Cheese Jam Tarts, and Hollywood Haircut story

Posted by: Joe at 8:14 pm on Sep 18, 2011

In what I hope is becoming an annual tradition, our good friends offered to treat us again this year to the fireworks season finale at the Hollywood Bowl, while in return we provide a picnic dinner. This year I had all sorts of fantasy ideas about dishes I'd never tried. I had read a recipe for escabeche of fish and was thinking of a multi-course tapas affair to go with it.

I realized two weeks ago that I wasn't sure of the date, and was a little embarrassed to call and ask, so I took one more look at my calendar and saw "Hollywood" written in faint pencil for Sept. 29th. Whew! I didn't want to appear ungrateful by not knowing the date.

So I got a little panicky when my friend called on Wednesday and asked if we're all set for Friday. Friday?! I told him I was sure it was two weeks from now and he assured me that the Bowl closes this weekend. So much for not being embarrassed! After I hung up I found Jacques' reading glasses and took another look at the calendar. It said "Haircut."

Anyway, I had dinner guests coming Saturday and planned to take Friday afternoon off to prepare for it at my liesure. I had to cook much faster. The picnic was all old reliables: Tapenade, Chicken Liver Mousse, Spanish Tortilla, Poached Salmon with cucumber sauce and asparagus. Our friends loved it even though they'd tasted it all before. At least one recipe felt like new--my mom's cream cheese tarts which I haven't made in 20 years. They were really good and fairly easy!

CREAM CHEESE TARTS

8 oz. (1 block) cream cheese
8 oz. (2 sticks) butter
2 cups flour
a pinch of salt (if your butter is unsalted)
Apricot or Cherry Jam
Powdered Sugar

Combine the cream cheese, butter, flour and salt until it forms a dough. (My mom used to soften the butter and cheese but sometimes they came out tough. I kept it cold and used a pastry blender and the pastries were lighter than I remember. Next time I might use the paddle attachment of my mixer. However you mix it, don't overwork it.)

Form the dough into 4 balls, wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate at least one hour.

Preheat the over to 400*F. Have two baking sheets ready.

Roll each ball into a circle. Don't worry about rough edges. Cut the circle into four wedges and place a teaspoon of jam in the center of each wedge. Fold up, starting with the rough outside edge, then the two side corners, then the center cut point on top, making a pillow shape. Pinch the corners so the jam won't escape while baking.

Place the tarts on an ungreased baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough and jam to make 16 tarts, 8 to a sheet. Bake until nicely browned, about 20 minutes, switching the sheets from top to bottom halfway through. Cool on a rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

(I used my homemade peach jam but will go back to apricot; the tartness complements the cream cheese dough better. Cherry jam is also tart and very good in these.)

I put last year's picnic in the Menus section and I will add this one to it.