Thursday, May 8, 2008

Tart Bliss

Whooeeee! Coffee Mates, I think I've found my tart bliss. Which is not meant to indicate either the presence or quality of personal behavior patterns -- ahem -- aside from those of a culinary nature. Darn it. (Pausing to stare dreamily into space while recalling "back in the day" moments.)

See, I'm on a mission. My friend Julie is getting hitched and she wants goodies that are easy and tasty and neat for the reception. Mini-cheesecakes were mentioned favorably and I got to exploring the possibilities via the Great Google. And mini-cheesecakes are well represented out there in recipe land because folks like the idea of having bite-sized portions of rich desserts instead of dealing with the full-sized version. Cheesecake, after all, freezes well so you only have to take out whatever number of minis you need at any given time.

Exploring the world of itty bitty cheesecakes led me to the kissin' cousin worlds of tassies and tarts and I began to edge away from the cheesecake versions. I've been tracking the perfect crust, you see, and I've messed with 'em all, from graham cracker or cookie crumbs to pie crust to phyllo and even vanilla wafers dropped in the bottom of the muffin cups. For one reason or another, none of the different versions made me cheer. Most of them were a pain in the derrierre to press against bottom and sides of muffin cups. Terribly time-consuming. I knew I was close with the whipped shortbread cookies from a couple of months ago but they weren't quite IT either.

I struck gold at the great RecipeZaar web site. If you go there and type 215530 in the Search box, you'll be taken to a page with the recipe for Lemon Cookie Tarts. I'd recommend it because when you print it off for yourself, you'll even get the box with nutrition facts on the page. Kewl. Now -- let me tell you why I think this is a Keeper recipe.

As you can see, the dough forms up into perfectly excellent little cups to contain whatever filling you decide to use. The recipe gave me 3 dozen tart shells and I made them 3 different sizes, just to check them out. What you see in this photo are the larger ones, already baked, and the smallest ones, still in round dough-ball form, ready for the oven. The neat thing is, you can make up a bunch of shells ahead of time and freeze them for later. When you're ready to use them, take out what you need, let thaw to room temp and fill with whatever pleases you.

Although Calee instructs us to make a depression in the dough before putting the pan in the oven, I took the advice of one of the commenters and put the tarts in while still in ball form. When the timer goes off at 9 minutes, you pull the pan out of the oven and gently press into the nearly-cooked tarts with whatever you decide to use to make the indentations. A rounded tablespoon measure is recommended. I used a shot glass at the 9-minute mark. The bottom of a Tabasco bottle works too. You can buy tart shapers but, as you can see, they aren't vital.

There's a trick to pressing the dough. As you press down (gently), twist the shaper once to the right, then back to the left. As you twist left, raise it out of the dough cup. That second twist seems to prevent the shell from being pulled out of the pan when you lift your shaper. I also lightly oiled the shaper so maybe that helped.

You put the tarts back into the oven for another 3 minutes or so, letting the edges turn golden brown. Then you let them sit for 5 minutes in the pan when you pull them out. Be sure you do that because they need that little bit of time to set into their shape. That's also a good time to gently repress the indents in each tart if you want to.

The tart at the top of the page is filled with lemon curd, with just the teensiest bit of orange marmalade on top for pizazz. But you can, of course, use just about anything for filling. Any flavor of thick pudding/pie filling. Or no-bake cheesecake. Or fresh fruit with a thick glaze.

You can make these in regular muffin tins but if at all possible, I think you'll prefer the size you get from the mini-muffin pans. The tarts are just a bite or two in size and this dough bakes up like a tender rich shortbread cookie. In spite of its tenderness, it won't crumble in your hand or onto your fancy clothes when you take that first bite.

Besides, doing the mini size won't spoil the decadent pleasure by drenching you in waves of guilt. It's a lot easier to pretend there are no calories in just a couple of bites of anything. This is one of those times when less is really more.


John Bailey said...

Oh, yummity!

The Old Guy said...

Lissen, Sweet Tart, you do any more of these things and I'll be licking my monitor.

Dee said...

John, yummity indeed!

Bill, to facilitate monitor licking, first paint surface with lemon curd.

Bonnie said...

I can't believe no chocolate was tossed inside!

Jo said...

Dee, you and your lemon curd! Heh, heh, love it. I can say that because I made some last night from the recipe you had up here some months ago. Mine looks a paler yellow than yours, though, but the taste is so yummy. I had to have some lemon curd to make the bit of sauce I needed for my chicken fingers. I never heard my hubby say yum so much. Thanks for the recipe. Now I know what to use the rest of the lemon curd for.

Dee said...

Bonnie, rest assured, the chocolate filling comes next. Slurp!

Jo, that ain't all. I did a chicken and cheese sandwich and slathered the bread with lemon curd instead of mayo. It was so good, I made three sandwiches in a row that way! I may never do a chicken sandwich with mayo again.