Author Notes: The trick to perfection in this recipe is that there is no trick. It's forgiving, embracing the crackly, golden brown, sunken (on purpose!) tops that emerge from the oven with a faint, delicate vanilla tang; and it's versatile, indiscriminately holding whatever fruit or crazy concoction you ask it to cradle on top, supporting it without judgment as a flavorful vehicle for your desires. And its always a simple, understated showstopper. I promise.
*Note: My mother swears by Philly cream cheese, and in my frugal college days I made them, quickly discarding evidence of generic brand dairy, and she tasted the difference! Witchcraft! So it's your choice on the dairy, but you've been warned. —Jr0717
Makes: 15 individual tarts
cups graham cracker crumbs
8 ounce packages of cream cheese (see Note above)
teaspoon vanilla extract
tablespoons sour cream (or more affectionately, 'a blop')
cups fruit filling of your choice, be it canned (which was the classic go-to for my family) or fresh (my more modern preference)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 2 muffin tins with cupcake liners.
- Melt the butter, and combine with the graham cracker crumbs in a small bowl. Crumbs should be moist, but not saturated or packed. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of crumbs into the bottom of each liner, and pat down with the back of the spoon to create a crust (I like to use a pestle to make sure I get the edges). Chill while making the filling.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese until soft and broken up, and slowly add the remaining ingredients until combined into a smooth, pale, consistent batter.
- Divide the batter evenly amongst the 24 cups (don't fill them more than three-quarters of the way) and bake until slightly golden brown on top. They will look slightly dry and may already have begun to sinking crack a little.
- Allow the tarts to cool completely before topping with your favorite fruit. Cherry is a classic in our house, but feel free to switch it up! Apples! Berries! Whipped cream! (But only if you lick the bowl after making the cream. My mother demands it.)