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Cheesecake tarts are a type of dessert tart that replaces the traditional custard-based filling found in many tarts with a sweet cream cheese filling. A full sized cheesecake tart measures around 11 inches (about 27.94 centimeters) in diameter. Miniature cheesecake tarts — also called tartlets — vary in size but are small enough to act as single portion servings. Regardless of the size made, most bakers garnish this specialty cheesecake with fruit, chocolate, or other toppings instead of leaving the baked good plain.
A tart starts with a pastry base. Most traditional tarts have a shortbread crust, but cheesecake tarts may either have a shortbread or graham cracker crust. Bakers make a shortbread crust by mixing a fat, such as shortening or butter, with flour and ice water until a workable dough forms. Graham cracker crusts are made by mixing graham cracker crumbs and melted butter together and packing this mixture into the pan.
The shortbread dough or graham cracker crust is pressed into a traditional tart pan. Bakers making miniature cheesecake tarts usually press the dough into muffin cups or ramekins. Additionally, the home baker may take a shortcut by using frozen puff pastry shells or miniature phyllo dough shells for the crust instead of making one from scratch. These shortcut pastry shells retain their form and are simply placed on a baking sheet before filling and baking.
After the crust comes the cheesecake filling. Most cheesecake tarts are a form of baked cheesecake and include cream cheese, sugar, and eggs. Vanilla or almond extract may also be added for additional flavor. These ingredients are blended together and poured into the crust. The baker then cooks the entire tart or batch of tartlets in a preheated oven until the liquid filling sets into a solid.
Non-bake forms of the cheesecake tart skip the egg. Cream cheese, sugar, and additional dairy — often in the form of sour cream or milk — are whipped together and piped into the pastry base. Each tart must be chilled in the refrigerator several hours as the filling sets. In spite of sharing the same name, most non-bake cheesecake tarts are actually miniature tartlets instead of full-sized tarts.
While miniature tarts, in general, are technically called "tartlets," many people actually refer to this miniaturized version when they use the phrase "cheesecake tart." A home baker following a recipe should specifically check the size mentioned in the instructions before beginning to bake the dessert. Otherwise, he or she may not have the necessary pans. Likewise, a customer looking to buy cheesecake tarts from a bakery should inquire about the size before purchasing them.
Cheesecake tarts are usually finished with a topping after they come out of the oven or refrigerator. Fruit toppings, usually made with strawberries, cherries, blueberries, or raspberries, are the most traditional. These toppings may consist of fresh fruit or pieces of fruit in a sugary fruit syrup. Chocolate or caramel drizzle are also commonly used toppings, as are nuts, candy pieces, and powdered sugar.
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