The Supermarket Staple Alex Guarnaschelli Uses For Tangy Tarts

You don't need gourmet ingredients to create a gourmet meal and the supermarket staple Alex Guarnaschelli uses to make tangy tarts is a case in point. Guarnaschelli told Bon Appétit that when she is making this sweet dessert, she uses an 8-ounce package of Philadelphia Brick Cream Cheese to make the dough, preferring it to butter because the "result tastes creamy, rich, and slightly tangy."

"The Kitchen" host's take on this iconic ingredient has both tasty merit and a fan base of bakers who concur. Cream cheese is a smart choice when making any kind of pie or tart crust and some use it combined with butter, largely because of its composition of milk and heavy cream. In fact, cream cheese is required to contain at least 33% milk fats and less than 55% moisture, which means it can add flavor and fat by taking the place of a wet ingredient like water.

Not only does the additional fat lead to a more tender crust, but the slightly sour taste the cream cheese adds can both complement and balance a tart's sweet and fruity filling.

It can help with dough cracking

How does a block of Philadelphia cream cheese make a crust tender? The real magic of this dairy is how it influences a crust's texture. Cream cheese and the flour work together to prohibit too much gluten from forming, which would otherwise make for a mouthful of dry pie crust. But there is a little sacrifice that comes with a cream cheese tart crust: It will not be as flaky as a crust made solely with butter. However, the delicate nature and added flavor of cream cheese makes up for this in spades. 

Cream cheese also has another benefit when making the crust for your tarts and pies: This ingredient can make it easier to roll out your dough without it cracking. Additionally, if you are making handheld or miniature tarts, the protein in cream cheese is going to help your crust develop and turn a golden brown color much quicker than a pie dough that is just made with butter.