Here, a classic shortbread dough is shaped into a tiny tart shell, then filled with ricotta cheese and macerated strawberries (though practically any fruit would do just as well). But the absolute genius part of this recipe is the ricotta cheese: it’s homemade and infused with mint. The flavor of the mint is delicate, and it pairs beautifully with the strawberries, elevating this dish to an elegant party-worthy dessert. I adapted and slightly health-ified Martha Stewart's shortbread recipe, but any simple, buttery pastry dough will work well. —Meg Salvia
30 mini cheesecakes
For the Ricotta
large mint leaves
fresh lemon juice
For the shortbread crust
white whole wheat flour
strawberries, washed, hulled, and sliced
Slowly bring the milk, heavy cream, and whole mint leaves to a boil in a large pot, stirring occasionally so the milk doesn’t burn or boil over. Remove the mint leaves with a slotted spoon, then add the lemon juice and turn the heat to low. Simmer for 2-5 minutes and stir as the curd separates out from the liquid.
Line a fine mesh strainer with 3 or 4 layers of cheesecloth and place over a large bowl. Once a good amount of curdling has occurred in the milk, pour the mixture of the cheesecloth and bowl to drain. Drain for 30-45 minutes (longer draining times will result in stiffer, less wet ricotta, shortening the draining process leads to more volume but a wetter final product). Set aside or store, covered, in the fridge.
For the shortbread crust
Using an electric mixer or hand beaters on medium speed, cream the butter in a large bowl for about 3 minutes, until fluffy. Add the sugar and continue to beat another 3 minutes. Add the flour and salt and continue to mix until the flour is just incorporated.
Heat the oven to 325-degrees. Grease a mini muffin pan generously with cooking spray or olive oil. Form each mini tart by scooping a scant 1 Tablespoon of the dough and forming it into a ball in your hands. Flatten the ball into a flat oval and use the base of your thumb to make a curved indentation. Gently tuck each round into the mini muffin tin molds — no need to force them in: simply layer them over each opening and let gravity do most of the work. Bake for about 25 minutes, until the shortbread is golden but not overly brown. Remove each cup from the tin gently (I found sticking a tooth pick around the edges released the tarts from the pan and gave me some leverage for gently lifting them up without damaging the crust).
Make the macerated strawberries: Combine the strawberry slices and sugar in a bowl and allow to sit for 30 minutes at room temperature.
Put it all together: Scoop a generous teaspoon of ricotta into each of the mini shortbread tarts. Top with the macerated strawberries, letting some of the juices run into the ricotta and tart base.