A basic homemade graham cracker crust lined the base of our tart pan, consisting simply of graham crackers (cinnamon!), granulated sugar, a dash of salt and enough butter to make the mixture feel like wet sand. You know, it will clump together if you press it in your fingertips, but is not so wet that it ends up being greasy and sticky. A food processor makes quick work of this, but a trusty rolling pin, a zip-loc bag and a bowl would work just fine - smash the crackers inside of the bag, then stir everything together in the bowl. Even if you do have a food processor, the latter might be good option to get out any pent-up aggression! Since the assembled tart won't be baked, once pressed into the pan, the crust goes for a stint in the oven to force those crumbs into a firm, golden crust.
You can't see it yet, but underneath those beautiful strawberries is a slick layer of cream cheese, lightly sweetened with granulated sugar and amped up with vanilla and nutty almond extract. For the best spreadability, be sure your cream cheese is at room temperature, rendering it quite soft - this way you won't risk tugging at the crust underneath as you smear it over. As soon as we arranged the whole, hulled berries neatly on top, we brushed a thick strawberry glaze on top for shine and well, for more strawberry bang! This is done by heating pureed strawberries with a touch of sugar and potato starch (cornstarch would be fine) until it comes just to a boil, activating the thickening power of the starch to tighten the puree. This gives it enough body to cling to the berries, yet still flow to cover the open spaces of the tart. Because we didn't want any distractions to the puree, we did press it through a sieve for an ultra silky texture - this is an extra step, but one that is up to you.
Just when you think we're done, we have one more touch that brings it all together - around the edge of the tart, thinly sliced almonds, which were first toasted, were sprinkled around tying the almond from the crust into the top with a bit of crunch. While it was tempting to slice right in, the cream cheese is so soft at this point it would end up being fairly messy. Chilling it in the refrigerator for a few hours does the trick so you are able to retrieve clean slices. Impressive enough as is with those plump berries circling in the center, if you wanted to be especially fancy, you could slice up all of those strawberries and working from the outside in, layer them in a tight fan for a flashy finish.
Best on day one, this was still very good on day two - the only issue comes from the crust softening underneath the moist cream cheese layer. I especially liked the cinnamon crackers in the crust, but you could of course use honey or if you can get your hands on them, chocolate grahams! This is one of those recipes that will instantly come to mind when I'm looking for the perfect summer dessert that is fresh, unique and doesn't require a ton of work to pull it off.
Strawberry-Almond Cream Tart