Makes 6 mini tarts
2 ½ C mini pretzels, finely crushed (yield 1 ¼ cups)
¼ C light brown sugar, packed
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
4oz. cream cheese, softened
2 T light brown sugar, packed
1 t vanilla extract
1 ½ C strawberries, hulled and quartered, divided
½ C light brown sugar, packed
4 t cornstarch
¼ C water
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Coat 6 wells of a large muffin pan with non-stick spray.
Prepare the crust: process the pretzels in a food processor until very finely crushed, add the sugar and pulse to mix, then add the melted butter and pulse until well mixed and resembling wet sand. Divide the mixture among the prepared wells and press very firmly into the bottom and up the sides of each well. (Make sure the crust is well packed on all sides as this will keep the shells from breaking once baked). Bake the crusts until the cups are set and browned, 10-12 minutes. Set aside to cool in the muffin pan.
Prepare the Filling: cream together the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla, mixing well with a rubber spatula. Set aside (but do not refrigerate yet).
Prepare the Topping: put ¾ cup of strawberries in a bowl and mash them with a fork (or crush with a potato masher), enough to yield ½ cup. In a medium saucepan, mix together the sugar and cornstarch then add the water and crushed strawberries. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat to medium and stir constantly until it thickens, 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let cool completely, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the remaining ¾ cup sliced strawberries. If the remaining strawberries are large, cut them into smaller pieces.
Assemble the tarts: carefully wedge the tip of a paring knife between the top of each crust and the inside of the well, gently sliding each crust out of the well of the muffin pan; transfer to a platter. Spoon and spread some of the cream cheese filling in the bottom, then carefully spoon the strawberry topping on top. Refrigerate uncovered until thoroughly chilled and set, at least 3 hours. Garnish with mint if desired.